Even if the Baltic Handball League “weekend” was limited to just two all-Lithuanian matches on Saturday, there was plenty of action packed into 120 minutes of handball. Lead changed hands dozens of times in both matches and in exciting high-tempo games VHC Šviesa Vilnius and Granitas-Karys Kaunas emerged as winners.
Lithuanian league leaders Šviesa travelled to Alytus, knowing the hosts Varsa-Stronglasas held them to a draw in the first encounter back in October in Vilnius. Incredible first half saw just one draw – 10:10 – not being lit on the scoreboard. Gintautas Adamkevičius had put the hosts 11:9 in front, but “normally” it was either one or the other team up by one goal.
Žygimantas Micevičius – who scored six times in the opening half – sent Varsa to a 15:14 half-time lead, but saw a red card after three suspensions in the 41st minute. By 36th minute the home team had a 20:17 lead, but from 23:20 behind Šviesa responded with five goals and eventually took a 30:27 win.
Karolis Antanavičius and Valdas Drabavičius scored six goals for Šviesa, while Micevičius was on target seven times before being sent off. Šviesa moved up to second place with 11 points, just three behind leaders Serviti Põlva, having played two games less.
“It was hugely important match for both teams, counting in two competitions. Obviously we are very happy with the victory, but especially at the start of the match I was not satisfied with our defence,” said Šviesa’s head coach Raimondas Maldžius.
“Of course the red card for their leader Micevičius influenced the game. But Varsa’s opposition was strong even after that and we had to change tactics. It worked and we managed to took control of the game into our hands,” added Maldžius.
In Kaunas, a replay of the Lithuanian Cup final from one week ago took place. Granitas-Karys Kaunas and cup-winner HC Dragunas Klaipeda produced a thrilling match. The visitors had a lightning fast start, taking a 6:1 lead inside six minutes with some excellent saves from goalkeeper Benediktas Pakalniškis.
Soon the teams were level with Martynas Giedraitis making it 9:9 in the 17th minute. Dragunas again pulled away and went to the break in a 17:14 lead. Lukas Gurskis stepped up in Granitas’ goal and by 45th minute the score was 24:24. Granitas finished better and took sweet revenge with a 33:30 victory.
Tadas Bučinskas was deadly from the penalty spot, scoring five of his eight goals with penalty throws. Arminas Stankunas also added eight goals for the winners, while Žanas Gabrielius Virbauskas scored seven for Dragunas.
Elsewhere, it is worth taking a note that BHL leaders Serviti Põlva made history on the same day by advancing to the quarter-finals of the EHF European Cup. No Estonian club had ever advanced to the last eight of an European competition. Serviti beat Russian side SGAU Saratov in the return match at home by 28:23, having drawn the opening leg in Russia.
On photo: Good fighting, quality handball and in general a thrilling match was produced by Varsa-Stronglasas Alytus and VHC Šviesa Vilnius. (Photo: Domantas Aleksynas).