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15.02.2014, 20:00
Barcelona and Veszprem group winners; Celje among the Last 16
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Catalans outclass PSG by ten goals and take their eighth victory, as do Veszprem. Slovenian side win thriller against Zaporozhye.

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's CL
»Group Phase
»
 

Barcelona and Veszprem group winners; Celje among the Last 16

FC Barcelona and MKB-MVM Veszprém took their eighth victory in the ninth group match of the VELUX EHF Champions League in emphatic style: The Catalans secured the victory in Group C by an unexpectedly clear 38:28 win against PSG, while the Hungarian side beat Zagreb easily to finish on top. Additionally Celje clinched their berth for the Last 16 as the 13th team, while Porto took their first away point.

Group A:

MKB-MVM Veszprem (HUN) vs. HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) 34:27 (19:11)

(Reverse fixture: 33:22)

A draw would have been enough, but one knows MKB-MVM Veszprém, they would never be satisfied to dish-up their fans a draw. Zagreb – which should have been backed by the crucial win over Zaporozhye one week ago – were on eye level only in the first ten minutes, then the strong Veszprém defence, including Croatian goalkeeper Mirko Alilovic, took matters into their own hands. In minute 24 the gap was eight goals for the first time – and remained the same until the end of the first half.

When the Hungarian side lacked concentration due to the clear lead, the Croats came closer to 18:23. But despite their fighting spirit and moral they could not endanger the Veszprem victory, as their coach Carlos Ortega pulled the “emergency break” at 25:20 with a time-out to wake his players up again. It took only nine more minutes, before his team was back on track, leading 33:24 to decide the match and secure the group victory.

Zagreb’s hopes fully focus on their last group match next weekend against St. Petersburg. They do not have their fate in their hands – but have to cross their fingers for the Hungarian side to beat Zaporozhye.

Top scorers were Momir Ilic by eight goals for Veszprém and Zlatko Horvat by five strikes for Zagreb.

Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs. HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) 30:27 (19:15)

(Reverse fixture: 32:29)

What a thriller in Celje! Despite a great chase, Zaporozhye left the court empty-handed, while the Slovenian side danced on the court, celebrating their qualification for the knock-out stage after this crucial duel.

With nine points on their account, Celje even secured the third position in the final ranking. After their second straight crucial defeat, Zaporozhye remain on seven points and will have a long-distance duel with Zagreb (six points) for the remaining Last 16 spot in this group. But the Croats have the apparently easier task to fulfil against St. Petersburg, while the Ukrainians host Veszprem.

After an equal start, Celje forged ahead to 12:7 after five straight goals, causing a time-out of Motor coach Sergej Bebeshko. As the host could rely on a strong defence and goalkeeping, Zaporozhye lacked means and ideas in attack and were down by four goals at the break.

And when Celje, led by brilliant right wing Gasper Marguc, even marched ahead to 25:19 the deal seemed to be sealed. But Zaporozhye did not give up. Backed by the saves of goalkeeper Richard Stochl and causing Celje turnovers, they bridged the gap to 28:26 four minutes before the end. But the Slovenian runners-up were merely temporarily shaken mainly thanks to the 21 saves of goalkeeper Matevs Skok and when Marguc scored his ninth and last goal for 29:26, the match was decided.

St. Petersburg HC (RUS) vs Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) 23:32 (10:18)
(Reverse fixture: 17:31)

No chance for St. Petersburg coach Dmitry Torgovanov against his former club – and the result does not even reflect the run-down of the match, which ended closer than the first game in Germany. After their draw against Celje one week ago, the Russian runners-ups did not have any hint of a chance against the German side, which could save powers for upcoming tasks during the second half.

The deal was sealed as early as four minutes into the second half, when Patrick Groetzli found the net to make it 20:10. Löwen partly fell into lethargy, but were woken up by their coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson after St. Petersburg had come closer to 17:23. In the end Icelandic international Stefan Sigurmannsson was best scorer for Löwen with seven goals.

The competiton's top scorer Uwe Gensheimer did not take the court, as his teammates fulfilled the task easily, including a strong goalkeeping performance from Goran Stojanovic.

“We did a professional job and spread the burden on many shoulders. I am satisfied,” said Gudmundsson after the match. “Those two points were a perfect present,” added assistant coach Tomas Svensson, who celebrated his 46th birthday on Saturday.

 

Group B:

Dunkerque HB Grand Littoral (FRA) vs. FC Porto Vitalis (POR) 25:25 (13:14)

(Reverse fixture: 21:22)

Though the significance was low, as both opponents were already eliminated from the knock-out stage, Dunkerque and Porto played with passion and heart.

While the Portuguese team celebrated their first away point this season together with their travelling fans in Dunkerque, the hosts celebrated a great comeback, as they had been down by 21:25 five minutes before the end. But an equaliser 24 seconds before the final buzzer secured a draw, which is not enough for the French team to avoid sixth position in the final ranking.

Top scorers were Gilberto Duarte (8) and Joao Ferraz (7) for Porto, and the trio Cause, Butto and Mokrani by four goals each for Dunkerque.

Group C:

FC Barcelona (ESP) vs. PSG Handball (FRA) 38:28 (19:9)
(Reverse fixture: 33:29)

The clash of the titans – including 14 EHF EURO 2014 medallists – ended in an unexpectedly clear result with FC Barcelona easily disposing of PSG thanks to brilliant defence and a ice-cold attack and secured top spot in the group with their eight straight victory.

On his 29th birthday, left wing Victor Tomas was the outstanding player for the victorious hosts, scoring ten times, most of them counter-attacks. Those ten goals bring Tomas to the top of the scorers list with 54 goals so far.

Additionally goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik showed a extra-ordinary performance, but had to leave the court with the knee injury in minute 39 after he had saved 13 shots of the poor Paris players. The French champions had 18 turnovers, which were often punished immediately by the Catalans.

After a 1:3 start, Barcelona paved the way to victory with a 8:0 run to 9:3, which could not be stepped, not even by a time out of PSG coach Philippe Gardent. His players were weak in attack and far below par in defence, giving them no chance against a Barcelona team boosted by 6,700 spectators in Palau Blaugrana.

Two goals within 20 seconds by French EHF EURO 2014 champion Nikola Karabatic extended the lead to doubl-figures for the first time after 25 minutes at 16:6, even defensive specialist Viran Morros found the net in the game.

After a sovereign performance and a ten-goal lead at the break, Barca decelerated temporarily, allowing Paris to reduce the margin a little. But from the middle of the second half on the EHF Champions League record winners put the pedal to the metal again and were even away by 13 goals at 35:22 and with scorers coming from everywhere.

With their world class players like Mikkel Hansen, Daniel Narcisse and Marko Kopljar having an off-day, Jeffrey M’tima was the best Paris scorer alongside Antonio Garcia, both with five goals. After a performance like this even the second position in this group is in danger for the team who had won their four previous matches.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
 
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