The dream of a European League triumph is over. In a highly dramatic encounter, the Borussia Dortmund women’s handball team suffered an extremely close 35-33 (13-17, 30-30) defeat to Nykøbing Falster Handbold after seven-metre throws. A five-goal lead at one point in the second period was not enough to reach the final in a hard-fought clash.

The scenario: 
Borussia, who occupied third spot in the Bundesliga, had claimed an away victory against HSG Bad Wildungen in their previous league match.

Personnel matters:
Captain Alina Grijseels made her return from a broken finger in time for the semi-final but started the match among the substitutes.

The match & analysis: 
It developed into an even game at the beginning, with Dana Bleckmann in particular stamping her authority. By the time she equalised at 3-3 in the seventh minute, she had been BVB’s sole goalscorer. Both teams made a nervous start and gave the ball away on several occasions, but the tempo was high. A two-goal salvo from Frida Rønning put BVB ahead for the first time, although Nykøbing immediately put themselves back on level terms within seconds.

It was 9-8 to the Black & Yellows by the quarter-hour mark and Zoë Sprengers increased the lead to two goals for the first time shortly afterwards. Following a magical pass from Frida Rønning and a fine lob from Lisa Antl (11-8), Nykøbing coach Jakob Larsen called the first time-out.

Next it was goalkeeper Yara ten Holte’s chance to shine. The Dutchwoman stood out with several saves and even caught a throw. However, the Danish outfit made good use of a time penalty against Lisa Antl and initially cut the deficit to two goals again (14-12, 27). BVB continued to dictate the proceedings in the period that followed and led 17-13 at the break.

BVB kicked off the second period with Lena Hausherr’s first goal from the seven-metre line. Yara ten Holte proved tough to beat in this period of the match and the lead settled at four goals. However, Borussia subsequently lost their way and the Danes managed to turn the game around within several minutes, going 23-22 ahead by the 46th minute. It developed into an action-packed thriller in front of 1,100 fans at the Raiffeisen-Sportpark in Graz. Zoë Sprengers held her nerve on two occasions before Alina Grijseels scored from the circle to make it 27-24 with 10 minutes to go.

However, Nykøbing could not be shaken off and the scores were all square with seven minutes remaining (27-27). It was end to end after that. There was one final opportunity for BVB to win the match shortly before the final whistle. But Frida Rønning’s attempt flew over the goal and so it went to extra-time.

In this phase, both teams did not give the other anything and battled for every centimetre. The two teams switched sides after the first five minutes with the score at 30-30. It continued to be intense in the second half of extra-time too. BVB had another big opportunity shortly before the final whistle but the pass from Grijseels to Emma Olsson did not arrive. Yara ten Holte then had to make a spectacular save to thwart a counter-attack and take her team to seven-metre throws.

Ten Holte made another decisive contribution and BVB were ahead after the first three throws. But Dana Bleckmann, Haruno Sasaki and Alina Grijseels unfortunately then missed.

Captain Alina Grijseels: “We played a very good first half and temporarily led by five goals. After that it was a very even match in which it was consistently back and forth. We no longer managed to cover the half-positions as offensively as we had set out to. We should have played more intelligently in the second half. There’s always a bit of luck involved with seven-metre throws too. Everyone who took a throw gave everything. And in the game before that, we cannot reproach ourselves for much either.”

Goalkeeper Yara ten Holte: “There is unbelievable disappointment. There have been tears and it also just hurts to lose on seven-metre throws. We have battled as a team and I was able to help the team with several saves. Everything is possible in handball. We have already experienced in our favour in the European League. Unfortunately, this time it was the opponent who won.”

Outlook: The third-place play-off against Thüringer HC will take place on Sunday. The fellow Bundesliga club clearly lost their semi-final against the other Danish participant in the Final Four, Ikast, by a 31-26 (17-10) scoreline. Throw-off is at 15:30 CET, with DAZN broadcasting the game live.

Women’s handballers: Moth, ten Holte, Kohorst; Grijseels (4), Sprengers (5), Hausherr (5/5), Kusian (2), Ossenkopp (3), Olsson, Rønning (3), Bleckmann (7), Garovic, Antl (3), Sasaki, van Kreij