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24.05.2015, 15:10
Ljubo’s Flensation
«Go back »Print Version


FINAL4 LOOKS BACK: The series on the previous editions of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 ends with 2014, when the Ljubomir Vranjes led SG Flensburg-Handewitt to arguably the most spectacular triumph in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Men's CL
»Final Four
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Ljubo’s Flensation

“Flensation” was the brand new word on everybody’s lips and on SG Flensburg-Handewitt’s celebratory T-shirts after the spectacular weekend in June 2014. “We arrived as the underdogs and we returned as the heroes,” says coach Ljubomir Vranjes.

The event began with one of the most thrilling handball matches played in the LANXESS arena. In 2013, the 20,000 spectators had attended the first extra-time at a VELUX EHF FINAL4 event when Hamburg beat Barcelona in the final, but 2014 topped that.

It appeared in the second semi-final as if FC Barcelona were cruising towards victory, leading 32:26 with only eight minutes on the clock

Led by their incredible goalkeeper Sören Rasmussen, the strikes of Holger Glandorf and a bunch of young guns who had entered the court for the final stages, Flensburg went on a 6:0 scoring run to make it 32:32 and force extra-time.

“I apologise for what happened then, it was my mistake,” Barca coach Xavi Pascual took the guilt.

“I still have a constant grin on my face, when I think about this weekend and especially this semi. Those are memories nobody can take away from me for the rest of my life. I can be happy with what we earned until the day when I die. Those pictures really sent shivers down my spine,” says Vranjes.

Ten more minutes saw Barcelona take the lead and Flensburg equalise again, 36:36. The first penalty shoot-out in the event’s history was needed to separate the teams.

Anyone who thought that Vranjes would nominate his experienced players, was wrong. After Mattias Andersson had saved one penalty, young Swede Hampus Wanne arrived at the line, coolly lobbing the ball over Danijel Saric to secure a 41:39 win.

Barcelona were shocked and out, Flensburg were in the final and the players went crazy on the court.

“We were as dead as dead can be, but somehow were reanimated,” Vranjes explains – and is proud that he planned everything in advance: “I like to prepare for all potential outcomes. So I had my list for the penalty shoot-out in my head. I like to count on young guns. If they would have failed, everybody would have said I am stupid, but they did not fail.”

All was set for the first ever all-German final at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 – Flensburg against Kiel, the duel of the northern rivals, the re-match of the 2007 finals, when Kiel took their first trophy in this competition. “When we were sitting at the breakfast table that Sunday morning I had a positive feeling,” the Flensburg coach looks back.

Kiel had beaten FINAL4 debutants MKB Veszprem in the first semi-final 29:26 and were the clear favourites against a Flensburg team, which everybody expected to be fully exhausted after the marathon match the evening before. After Barcelona had taken third place 26:25 against Veszprem, you could see, hear and feel the tension when the first whistle blew for the final.

Kiel flew out of the blocks to take a 9:3 lead and Flensburg seemed completely flat. “I felt insecure, something went wrong, but fortunately we managed to stop it,” says Vranjes.

Suddenly things changed. Goalkeeper Mattias Andersson, who had been in Kiel’s 2007 Champions League winners’ squad, shut up shop and pulled off a string of impressive saves. Flensburg had their fate in their hands again by the half-time break with the deficit of only two goals.

At 20:19 SG took their first lead and proceeded to extend the margin to 25:21, but Kiel stood strong and 80 seconds before the end, it was 29:28. Magic Mattias sealed the deal with his 23rd save of the match: “To win a title you need an extraordinary goalkeeper and we had one,” Vranjes says with a smile.

For the third straight time a German team had won the VELUX EHF FINAL4 – it was the third different team after Kiel (2012) and Hamburg (2013). The defending champions had missed the event after a Last 16 elimination by Vardar Skopje, the team, Flensburg beat in the quarter-finals. “It nearly took me two weeks to realize what we had managed,” Vranjes says today.

Less than 24 hours after the “flensational” win Flensburg continued their party in the city centre with more than 5,000 fans and 1,000 litres of beer.

“We were considered as the underdogs in Cologne and we considered ourselves as the big underdogs – so nothing was planned, no party, no celebration. But these spontaneous events are the best events,” says SG manager Dierk Schmäschke.

Unfortunately for the final losers from Kiel, both teams sat in the same plane home (like they had on their way to Cologne) – and Kiel players had to watch the ongoing celebration of their rivals with the trophy.

Eight months later, Flensburg and Kiel faced again in the VELUX EHF Champions League – and THW took revenge in a clear manner by eliminating the defending champions in the Last 16. “Kiel were the deserved winners, we had to accept these defeats, as defeats belong to sport,” says a humble Vranjes.

Now Kiel are the only German team at the 2015 edition of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 – and Vranjes crosses his fingers for the neighbours: “For German handball it would be fantastic, if a German club won the trophy again. Kiel and Barcelona are slightly in the favourite role for reaching the final, Veszprem have improved and Kielce will arrive in the same role at Cologne as we did one year ago.”

And Flensburg? “We had to many injury problems this season to make it to Cologne,” says Vranjes, but: “Next season with some fresh blood in the team, we will try everything to return to the LANXESS arena.”


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
 
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