Due to travel restrictions Latvian teams in the Baltic Handball League had so far only played against each other. In the weekend, undefeated leader ZRHK Tenax Dobele played twice away against Estonian clubs, but lost on both occasions – to HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper and Viljandi HC.
Despite the two defeats Tenax still continues on top of the BHL standings with ten points. Serviti Põlva has the same amount and one game in hand, but Latvians are ahead due to better goal difference. VHC Šviesa Vilnius is currently third with nine points and Celtnieks Riga one point behind, having only played five games.
Kehra’s coach: we just had to win!
On Saturday it was an exceptionally tight match in Kehra. The hosts missed right back Artem Bush, but experienced Janar Mägi filled the position with very good shooting. At the beginning Tenax found pivot Egils Politers with clever passes, but lost him to injury in the 22nd minute.
Maris Veršakovs put Tenax 7:5 ahead, but Kehra responded with five goals, including three from recently signed Russian right wing Danil Gumianov. The lead disappeared with Tenax using aggressive 5-1 defence and at half-time the Latvian champions were 14:13 in front. After the break Tenax extended the lead to 17:14, but Kehra showed excellent fighting spirit with the support of their marvellous crowd.
David Mamporia’s shot brought 18:18 in the 41st minute and five minutes later Vladyslav Naumenko put Kehra into a 21:20 lead. They never let go and Mamporia’s missile-like shot to top corner with 40 seconds left secured Kehra’s 27:26 victory. Gumianov scored six goals for the winners and Veršakovs eight for visitors.
“We just had to win! After some poor performances in domestic league I told the players they have to leave everything on the field. And they did with great supporters behind us. It is emotionally so different, when you hear the drums and the noise supporting you,” commented Kehra’s head coach Mart Raudsepp.
Young guns shot Viljandi to victory
The day later, Tenax was without injured Politers and playmaker Nils Mikelsons, who earned himself a suspension for post-match incident. Viljandi HC had only won twice in five matches so far, but started defensively very well in addition to attacking patiently. The hosts had some good luck as well, as Tenax’s shots often hit the woodwork and Latvians missed an empty goal several times.
After 16-year-old Hendrik Koks had converted his third penalty throw in the 16th minute, Viljandi had a 7:3 lead and 17-year-old Aleksander Pertelson extended it to 14:9 by half-time. Tenax could not bring a change into the match with Rasmus Ots making some good saves early in the second half and Mikk Varik finishing a fast break for 17:10.
Tenax did come back briefly, keeping Viljandi goalless for six minutes and after Veršakovs’ shot the score was 19:15. Estonians had a reply and it proved decisive – seven unanswered goals, including three in a row into empty net. Viljandi’s lead was suddenly 26:15 and they had broken the back of BHL leaders.
The final score was 28:21 with Koks scoring six and Veršakovs becoming the best scorer for a second day with eight goals. “I cannot complain, we played really well. Yes, Tenax had some players missing and a second game in two days, but I think we played tactically the best game of the season so far,” said happy Marko Koks, Viljandi’s head coach.
On photo: Young guns of Viljandi HC – 16-year-old Hendrik Koks (left) and one year older Aleksander Pertelson scored ten goals between them against league leader ZRHK Tenax Dobele. (Photo: Helin Potter).