The 2008 Edition of the Europa Cup for European Champion Clubs is being held in Carcavelos, near Lisbon (POR) from 10-12 January.
The first two matches were in Pool A. The tournament opened with Mitcham (ENG) against Szentendre (HUN) with the English team looking to gain revenge for their defeat in last year’s competition. The first half was quite close with Mitcham holding a narrow 2-goal lead at half time (7-5). In the opening minutes of the second half the game was level again but with the Hungarians standing off a little too often and allowing the Mitcham girls to shoot freely from inside 5 m and either score or have a team mate convert the rebound, the English team gradually opened a 4 goal buffer and dominated the last quarter of the match to win 16 – 12.
Picture – English champions Mitcham (in yellow) defend against Belgian champions Boeckenberg
Boeckenberg (BEL), playing in the modern version of the Europa Cup for the first time (having last competed over 30 years ago in the 12-a-side outdoor version of the event), were the next in action against the hosts NC Benfica (POR). The opening quarter of the game was very close with the teams sharing the lead and the opponents equalising but eventually the more experienced Belgians opened out a match winning lead to go in winning 12-6 at half time. In the second half this lead was extended to 9 goals leaving the final score 19-10.
The next match was the first of two matches in pool B and saw the reigning champions Dos’46 (NED) take on SK Prievidza (SVK). The Dutch champions hardly got out of first gear and dominated the match throughout. At half time they led 13-4 and really turned the screw in the second half to emerge 33-7 winners.
The other game in the pool saw two former bronze winners – Ceske Budejovice (CZE) and Adler Rauxel (GER) – pitted against each other. In the first half the Czechs proved to be slightly the stronger during the second quarter of the match, opening out a 4-goal lead whilst the Germans remained scoreless for 17 minutes and went in at half time leading 8-4. However, German teams, in no matter what sport, are renowned not to give in easily and bit by bit they turned the match round to go ahead with 7 minutes left, only to be pegged back. Adler then took the lead again with 3 minutes left and had to resist strong pressure from the Czechs but hung on for a 13-12 victory.
The fifth match of the day saw a return to group A with Boeckenberg taking on Mitcham. Unlike many of the contests between an ‘A’ country club and a club from a lower ranked country, Mitcham played with a strong team and tried to match the Belgians with their physical style of play. Unfortunately, the Belgians had a little too much experience, took up better positions in both attack and defence and shot more accurately than the English team. The result was that after a bruising, and in some individual cases a confrontational, first half Boeckenberg led 10-3. Although the second half was not as intense as in the first period, both teams kept up a good tempo. Boeckenberg continued to be better at turnovers, by means of interceptions and rebounding, and with a greater accuracy in their shots finished up 18-5 winners.
Following the official opening ceremony the final game of the day saw hosts NC Benfica play the Hungarians from Szentendre. The Portuguese were on top until shortly before the end of the half when they relaxed rather too much and allowed the Hungarians to close the gap to 1 goal. However, two goals in the final 90 seconds restored Benfica’s lead to 3 goals at half time (9-6). In the second half Szentendre slowly fought back to level the game with 15 minutes left. Twice more Benfica took the lead and with less than a minute were holding on but they gave the ball away and Szentendre equalised with 26 seconds left. The Hungarians even had chances to win in the final seconds but in the end, at 15-15, golden goal extra time had to be played. Szentendre won the toss to start the golden goal period but their shot on goal missed, Benfica gathered the rebound and then scored the deciding goal with their only attack.
Standings at the end of day 1
Boeckenberg 6 pts
Mitcham 3 pts
NC Benfica 2 pts
Szentendre 1 pt
Dos’46 3 pts
Adler Rauxel 3 pts
Ceske Budejovice 0 pts
Prievidza 0 pts
– but the sailors praise the new boats