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06.09.2015, 22:15
Elverum qualify for Champions League group phase
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REVIEW: The Norwegian title holders overpowered their Austrian rivals to reach the money-spinning business end of Europe’s premier club handball competition
 

Elverum qualify for Champions League group phase

Elverum Handball Herrer ended a long five-year barren spell for Norwegian clubs by reaching the VELUX EHF Champions League group phase after winning the qualification tournament in grand style.

Having tamed Dutch rivals OCI-Lions in Saturday’s semi-final, Elverum overpowered Austrian outfit Alpla HC Hard in the final on Sunday thanks to majestic performances by centre back Steffen Stormo Stegavik and left wing Andre Lindboe. RK Metalurg, Skjern Handbold, Kadetten Schaffhausen, Motor Zaporozhye and HCM Baia Mare await them in Group D of the European top flight.

The Lions finished third after a well deserved win over tournament hosts RK Borac m:tel in the day’s curtain raiser, as both teams joined Alpla in the EHF Cup preliminary rounds.

VELUX EHF Champions League Qualification Tournament
Final:
Elverum Handball Herrer (NOR) vs Alpla HC Hard (AUT) 28:25 (15:11)

Elverum made Norway proud after capping a memorable weekend in Banja Luka with a decisive victory against battling Alpla HC Hard in the qualifying tournament’s final, which fully lived up to expectations.

Buoyed by Saturday’s dramatic extra-time win over Borac, Alpla made the brighter start and took an early 4:2 lead after Roland Schlinger scored three quick goals for the Austrian team.

But the Norwegian side’s playmaker Steffen Stormo Stegavik quickly outshone his counterpart, rifling in one goal after another to put Elverum in the driving seat and give them a 9:6 advantage midway through the first half.

He scored five of his team’s opening six goals and when Andre Lindboe joined the party, Elverum scored four without reply in the closing stages of the opening period to give themselves a comfortable cushion at the interval.

It was literally a two-man show in the Borik Hall, as Stegavik and Lindboe scored 13 of their team’s 15 goals in the first half, the former leading the way with eight.

As Alpla pressed hard after the break, Lindboe took over and scored his eighth to keep the Norwegian outfit 18:15 ahead in the 35th minute.

Clearly missing some fuel in the tank after Saturday’s strength-sapping encounter with Borac, Alpla looked deflated in the next few minutes and allowed Elverum to pull away to 21:16.

Alpla were not to be trampled, however, and they hauled themselves back into the contest with a 3:0 run which forced Elverum to call a time-out midway through the second half.

With Stegavik and Lindboe tightly marked and stifled out in the last quarter of the game, the support cast stepped up to keep Elverum ahead as Alpla launched a fierce fightback.

Lindboe scored Elverum’s final goal to put the icing on the cake for the determined Norwegian side, who can now look forward to mixing it with Europe’s best in the forthcoming months. 

 

 

 

Alpla’s consolation is a berth in the EHF Cup third qualifying round and the Austrian club can head home with their heads high after leaving at all on the court against a pair of more heralded opponents.

Third place match:
OCI-LIONS (NED) vs  RK Borac m:tel (BIH) 33:29 (16:14)

The Dutch title holders found a way to bounce back from Saturday’s semi-final defeat by Elverum, while Borac failed to shake off the disappointment of losing to Alpla HC Hard in extra time.

The Lions dictated the pace from start to finish and deservedly won the third place match which means they enter the EHF Cup in the third qualifying round, while fourth-placed Borac will head to the second qualifying round of the same competition and will face the winner of Round 1 match between HB Dudelange (LUX) and Haslum (NOR).

Having led by two goals at halftime, the Lions engineered a 33:26 advantage in the closing stages before a late rally by Borac gave the home fans at least something to cheer about on a weekend they will have seen as a missed opportunity to get on the biggest stage.

Right wing Serge Heijnen led the visitors with seven goals from nine shots, left wing Lino Janssen added five while Ivo Steins and Joao Ramos netted four each.
Centre back Stefan Jankovic stood out for Borac with a game-high eight goals but Srdjan Trivundza, who shone with a staggering 13 against Alpla in a rip-roaring contest, looked deflated with only two goals from six attempts.

The home side also paid the price for missing four of their seven penalty shots while the clinical Lions were two out of two from the seven-metre line.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br
 
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