Baltic Challenge League continues this weekend with four matches to be held in Estonia and Latvia, though the matches in Riga and Dobele are in fact HC Vityaz Minsk’s home games. With Final Four coming closer, every match may have an important impact on the league table.
Tenax hopes to secure the place for Final Four
With both Lithuanian teams of the BCL not playing this weekend, it’s time for the others to close the gap behind league leaders Dragunas Klaipeda. Latvian champion Tenax Dobele is currently the closest, four points behind and one match less played. Ideally, Tenax could secure the place for the Final Four this weekend, when they visit Viljandi HC on Saturday and play HC Vityaz on Sunday in Dobele.
“It has been very tight season so far with many surprises, so it’s still wide open, who will qualify to the finals,” commented Tenax manager Ivars Zarinš. “We beat both teams in the first round, but with narrow margin, so it will tough. We cannot use one of our leaders Ansis Bilkstis, as he is busy with his studies and we still have to wait and see with several minor injuries – all this makes it even more difficult.”
Tenax beat Viljandi at home in December 28-24 and Vityaz 31-29, similar results this time around would secure them a place in the Final Four. “We hope very much to qualify, as we also would like to host the Final Four event in Dobele in the end of March,” confirmed Zarinš. “But we need to take one game at the time, as everything can happen in sports. So all our concentration at first is directed towards the match in Viljandi on Saturday!”
Latvian champion has had few more days of rest than their Estonian opponents, as they collected their 16th win from 16 games in the domestic league on Sunday, beating strong HK Ogre/Miandum 35-29 (Andis Ermanis and Nils Kreicbergs 10 goals). Viljandi had no problems on Wednesday, defeating Audentes SK at home 36-21 (Karl Toom 9).
Ambitious Vityaz is not giving up
The only team without a win so far in this year’s Baltic League, is Belarussian side HC Vityaz Minsk. But they have put up good fights in several games, losing only by two goals to Tenax and by one to Granitas-Gaja-Karys Kaunas. “We are definitely travelling to collect points. In fact, we have not even dropped the idea of qualifying to the Final Four,” confirmed club director Aliaksandr Apeikin the ambitions of his team.
“If we win all our remaining matches, everything is possible. So this trip to Latvia will be very important for our team and we have been preparing since early January. True, we are lacking a bit of match practice, but at the same time all players are very hungry for games and this may be a positive factor,” added Apeikin.
“Of course we will miss our key player Aliaksandr Padshyvalau, who had a knee surgery, but we hope it will give a chance for others to shine. One of the last season’s BHL top scorers, Mikita Yermashevich is back from injury, while Artsiom Kulak and Andrei Yurynok can also take the role of a leader,” is Apeikin confident that Vityaz has enough top class players.
Vityaz has not played a competitive handball match for 1,5 months, while their Latvian opponents of this weekend have been in constant domestic league action. Besides leaders Tenax, Celtnieks/LSPA Riga is currently second in Latvian championships, having beaten HK Vainode last Sunday 25-16 (3 players scored 5 goals). Vityaz will resume games in the Belarus league in one week’s time.
Saturday’s matches in Baltic Challenge League:
15:00 Viljandi HC – Tenax Dobele (in Viljandi)
15:30 HC Vityaz Minsk – Celtnieks/LSPA Riga (in Riga)
Sunday’s matches in Baltic Challenge League:
17:00 HC Vityaz Minsk – Tenax Dobele (in Dobele)
17:00 Viljandi HC – Celtnieks/LSPA Riga (in Viljandi)
Please note that Viljandi HC – Celtnieks/LSPA Riga match will be live at http://sport.postimees.ee/