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02.10.2014, 21:30
Kiel bounce back with tight win over La Rioja
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MATCH REVIEW: THW Kiel were made to work hard for their first win in VELUX EHF Champions League Group A after Aron Palmarsson pulled the strings for the German side against Spanish rivals La Rioja
 

Kiel bounce back with tight win over La Rioja

The opening game of round two in Group A of the VELUX EHF Champions League treated handball fans around Europe to an enthralling contest in which treble former winners THW Kiel fought back to beat a plucky Naturhouse La Rioja at home.

Having lost their opening fixture at HC PPD Zagreb, Kiel were under pressure to deliver on home court against the Spanish side and they needed a massive team effort to overpower the visitors.

Kiel’s Icelandic sharpshooter Aron Palmarsson won his personal scoring battle with La Rioja winger Juan Antonio Garcia just as the home team overpowered their rivals thanks to a blistering 10-minute spell.
    
Group A
THW Kiel (GER) vs Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) 34:32 (20:16)

THW Kiel bounced back from last weekend’s shock defeat at HC PPD Zagreb with a hard-fought victory over La Rioja after Icelandic left back Aron Palmarsson led the German champions with an inspired performance.

Anyone who might have expected plain sailing for Kiel was in for a surprise as the visitors took the initiative and made a brighter start thanks to some majestic finishing by their veteran left wing Juan Antonio Garcia.

Having held a slender lead for the best part of the opening 20 minutes, La Rioja carved out a 13:10 advantage as the unstoppable Garcia scored from all angles and made the most of several fast breaks.

But Palmarsson, who held the home side afloat, then instigated a frantic comeback as he netted five goals in a 10:3 run which turned the match on its head and gave Kiel the lead for good.

Palmarsson scored nine of his 12 goals in the first half, including a long-range thunderbolt on the buzzer, while Garcia netted all of his seven in the opening period as he was marked tightly after the break.

The game seemed over as a contest when Domagoj Duvnjak gave Kiel a 24:18 lead early in the second half but La Rioja refused to roll over although they never really threatened to force another twist in the tale.

With Garcia subdued, the Spanish outfit had to look for alternative routes in attack and did so reasonably well but any hopes of a comeback were dashed as Palmarsson delivered the final two blows in the dying minutes to give his side an unassailable four-goal lead with time running out.

Steffen Weinhold added five precious goals for the winners and Croatian playmaker Duvnjak added four to cap a flowing team effort which made light of captain Filip Jicha’s absence, with the Czech star sidelined for at least six weeks after last Friday’s ankle surgery.

Although beaten, La Rioja can take a lot of positives from a spirited performance against one of Europe’s strongest teams.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br
 
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