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23.02.2015, 12:30
Cadenas‘ bonaventura continues
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BLOG: Depleted Plock and Flensburg teams serve up what Tom O’Brannagain describes as the best Match of the Week so far
 

Cadenas‘ bonaventura continues

I'm drained. What a game. What a match. What a tussle.

It is without doubt the best Match of the Week so far. That's not to say we haven't seen some great games but this was special. Plock is not one of the biggest names in the handball firmament, they would attest to that themselves, but they are slowly waking up the handball world to the difficulty of playing there.

Narrow defeats against Kiel last season and Kolding this, shows that wins against Barcelona and, now Flensburg are no fluke. Add in the win against Veszprem and they are slowly building an air of invincibility at the Orlen arena. 

No team in the next round will fancy their chances there. The stars are in alignment with a coach they adore, a squad that can cope with injuries and a public that supports their team regardless. 

Before we get carried away, Flensburg arrived with an injury list that looked like an episode of General Hospital. Such was their squad frailties that Maik Machulla, their assistant coach was drafted in to play at centre back. He didn't disappoint. In fact, we really have to start believing in Vranjes' ability to coach, that he could make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

I don't want to take up column inches with names, but suffice it to say almost his entire first line was gone. He managed to somehow keep a team on the court that gave equal time and rest to his players and stay in a game that on paper should have been beyond him. But his players rose to the occasion.

Eggert did his part playing in the centre (a bit like Cupic for Kielce). Maybe there's a new coaching manual I haven't heard of. Zachariasson had his best game to date and Nenadic hit another purple patch against Plock. Even Elahmar, dying of flu the day before, showed flashes of brilliance including a goal from right wing that defied the laws of physics. 

Plock for their part, also missing some important players had enough to see themselves over the line. Jurkiewicz again led from the front. Tioumentsev was a live wire popping up in all the right places. And young Daszek is a find. His penalties unerring, he had a brilliant game. 

SG almost again came from six down. Déjà vu really. The introduction of Andersson after 15 or so minutes giving them some much needed stability. In fact with the injury worries they had, the start for Möller would have raised some eyebrows. Perhaps Ljubo wanted to throw the other team a curve ball, but it backfired. He was ineffectual and was withdrawn. 

Drawing just after half-time, they let the momentum slip at the start of the second half. And Plock took full advantage, but Flensburg retained some power and with two minutes remaining, they trailed by two.

It is, for me the most dangerous score with time left. In possession of the ball, we would have greedily wanted them to score to bring this game to the final seconds. The Plock fans, who were awesome throughout wouldn't agree with me. Their fingernails were chewed to the bone. 

Flensburg missed, Plock scored. A three-goal lead. Safety. They won by two. The only blight being the red card for the "Zipper" a cloud on an otherwise sunny day in Plock. 

The history books will not point to a depleted Flensburg. They will show that the Oilers are a coming team who have beaten the current champions and Barcelona in the same season. 

Tactically, they didn't beat Flensburg, but they outgunned them, with a fierceness and speed and character that Flensburg in the end couldn't live with. 

This team is Manolo's team. They love him. They play in his image. 

The "bonaventura" continues. 

Cadenas‘ bonaventura continues

Tom will be giving his reaction to the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 draw and answering your questions on the @ehfcl Twitter account on Tuesday at 13:30 CET.


TEXT: Tom O'Brannagain, ehfTV commentator
 
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