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26.09.2015, 21:26
Kielce sink Montpellier as Barcelona edge Kristianstad
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GROUP B REVIEW: KS Vive Tauron Kielce and FC Barcelona Lasssa enjoyed contrasting wins over their respective Group B rivals in Round 2.
 

Kielce sink Montpellier as Barcelona edge Kristianstad

What a cracking doubleheader Group B produced on Saturday, with Kielce once again overpowering Montpellier in a repeat of last season’s Round of 16 clash while defending champions Barcelona were given the fright of their lives by newcommers Kristianstad.

Kielce lived up to the billing of being favourites against the French side but Barcelona had to work harder much harder than they might have expected to beat unfancied opposition whose brave performance highlighted the day’s action.

GROUP B
KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) vs Montpellier HB (FRA) 30:23 (12:11)

A vintage second half performance gave KS Vive Tauron Kielce a resounding 30:23 win over Montpellier HB as the Polish champions continued to be a nemesis for their French rivals.

Following last season’s victory over Montpellier in the Last 16, Kielce again sank the French runners-up as evergreen veteran Karol Bielecki rolled back the years and lit up the spectacular encounter with a game-high seven goals.  

Tenacious defending in the opening 15 minutes allowed the home side, roared on by their fervent fans, to race into a 7:2 lead on the back of some superb saves by their Croatian goalkeeper Marin Sego.

However, resilient Montpellier – who beat Kielce at the same venue 33:31 in the return leg of their Last 16 clash after a 29:25 home defeat – bounced back thanks to a valiant effort by Slovenian right back Jure Dolenec.

Krzysztof Lijewski was Kielce’s driving force in the first half, scoring five goals for the Polish outfit, while Dolenec netted four at the other end in a tit-for-tat battle as Montpellier also fought back from a 9:5 deficit to stay afloat after the opening 30 minutes.

Leading 17:15 early in the second period, Kielce made the decisive step with a 4:1 streak which put the game beyond Montpellier’s reach.

Cutting through the French side’s defence like a knife through butter, Bielecki unleashed one thunderbolt after another as the home side’s lead soared to 26:19 in the closing stages.

Led by the tireless Dolenec, the visitors struck three unanswered goals with a man down after one of their players was handed a two-minute suspension, but Michal Jurecki and Spanish pivot Julen Aguinagalde stamped out any hopes of a fightback with expertly taken goals.

Bielecki put the icing on the cake with a venomous long-range effort to cap a superb individual performance as Kielce celebrated their first win of the season in Europe’s top flight.

Croatian winger Ivan Cupic added four goals for the hosts, while Dolenec netted six for Montpellier. The visitors were undone by a poor performance from Borut Mackovsek, confined to just one goal after netting nine in last week’s home defeat by Vardar, as well as by the misfiring Baptiste Bonnefond who scored five from 14 attempts and committed a series of costly turnovers.

FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs IFK Kristianstad (SWE) 34:32 (17:16)

What an epic clash defending champions Barcelona and VELUX EHF Champions League novices Kristianstad served to handball fans around Europe who were fortunate to watch this magnificent contest.

Most pundits would not have given the visitors from Sweden a prayer of avoiding a rout against the winners of a record eight titles in the continent’s premier club competition, but they captured the hearts of all neutral fans with a spirited performance which nearly resulted in what would surely have been one of the greatest shocks in club handball.

Buoyed by their impressive 33:26 win over Denmark’s KIF Kolding Kobenhavn in the opening round, Kristianstad locked horns with their illustrious and more heralded rivals devoid of any pressure.

They matched Barcelona in every department from start to finish as the game ebbed and flowed, garnished by a quick transition of the ball at both ends and superbly executed fast breaks.

Barcelona held a slender lead throughout the contest but the valiant visitors, led by magnificent right wing Kristian Björnsen, refused to roll over and kept fighting back all the way, engineering a nerve-wracking finish for the holders.

One must have thought Barca would pull away after getting into their stride to take a 10:6 lead midway through the first half, but the Swedish outfit were quick to breathe down their necks again as they bounced back to slash the deficit to just one goal at half-time.

The home side again carved out a four-goal lead shortly after the break (20:16) and for the third time in the closing stages of the rip-roaring contest (31:27), only for Kristianstad to snap right back at their heels and slash the advantage to a single goal (32:31) after their Iranian star Iman Jamali netted his sixth.

Barcelona held their nerve in a dramatic finale as right wing Victor Tomas scored the game’s final goal and Björnson’s effort at the other end rebounded off the post.

The champions ground out a precious win after the opening round’s 22:21 defeat at Rhein-Neckar Löwen thanks to a deep roster in which 11 players got on the score-sheet, led by Tunisian Wael Jallouz who netted six goals.

Kiril Lazarov and Filip Jicha added five each while Tomas chipped in with four, cancelling out a breathtaking display by man-of-the-match Björnson who led Kristianstad with 11 goals from 14 shots.

Jamali and Fredric Pettersson scored six each for the Swedish title holders, who have instilled a breath of fresh air into the top flight and if their opening two performances are anything to go by, they will certainly be a handful for all their Group B rivals.    


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br
 
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