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25.03.2016, 09:39
Will history repeat itself for Kielce?
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LAST 16 PREVIEW: HC Meshkov Brest played their best season in the VELUX EHF Champions League so far. Still, KS Vive Tauron Kielce are alert and ready for the decisive match.
 

Will history repeat itself for Kielce?

With names such as Zorman, Lijewski, Aguinagalde or Strlek in the ranks it is hard to imagine KS Vive Tauron Kielce dropping out on the Last 16 stage of the competition. However, if you look deeper on their performances over the past four years, you will notice that the Polish champion were finishing exactly in turns on third place and Last 16. And last season they got bronze.

"Naah, I’m not superstitious," says Slawomir Szmal. "But of course we are going to play this game like it was the final match of the Champions League," the goalkeeper ensures.

KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) vs HC Meshkov Brest (BLR)
Saturday 26 March, 16.00 hrs (CET) live on ehfTV

Here comes a glimmer of hope for HC Meshkov Brest, who have never reached the quarter-final, but are showing consistantly good shape this season. As handball has not only once nor twice shown that a four goal advantage is nothing in this game, the 32:28 home result does not strike them off ahead of the rematch in Kielce.

After the first leg in Brest, the Polish champion are in a comfortable situation on their home court. However, the boys of Sergey Bebeshko are not giving up, they still want to come to Kielce for something more than just a sightseeing tour.

"We are not coming to lose the match, we’re coming to do our job. We will prepare ourselves the best way we can," says Dzmitry Nikulenkau, center back of the Belarusian team.

There is room for improvement for both teams ahead of Saturday's challenge as during the first match in Belarus their performances were not outstanding. The players from Kielce did not start the game properly and left too much space for the host's shooters, especially for Rastko Stojkovic, who was shuffling the defenders wherever he wanted.

"Yeah, okay, maybe he wasn’t shuffling whatever he wanted, but he was definitely running around the six metre line and he did a great job for his teammates – this is what handball is all about, not only about scoring the goals," explains Mateusz Jachlewski.

HC Meshkov Brest delivered good handball in the first 30 minutes, but they fell apart under a strain of Michal Jurecki and Karol Bielecki shots in the end.

Nikulenkau explains smiling: "We wanted to stop Julen Aguinagalde and that worked, but at the same time these two [Jurecki and Bielecki] took the responsibility, so what could we do?"

Looking at the results Kielce reached against some opponents this year, winning by seven or eight goals, the score of Brest only proves the good form of Meshkov. The Belarusian side had some success in the VELUX EHF Champions League 2015/16, such as longest winning run (5 matches) and largest victory (34:22 over HC Vojvodina).

"I am satisfied with our attitude this season, but totally dissatisfied with the game against Kielce. We didn’t take our chances. That game didn’t have to finish with such a score," admits Nikulenkau.

Talant Dujshebaev's team did not impress as much as they partly did in the group phase, but it seems that their disastrous 34:24 defeat against HC Vardar in October taught them a lesson as since than Kielce have not lose a single game.

"We also remember the duel against Montpellier from last season when we had an advantage from the away match and it was really hard to keep it together in Kielce. Therefore, we treat it now like only the first half of the battle is finished, the next one is still ahead of us," summarises Kielce's coach Dujshebaev.


TEXT: Magda Pluszewska / es
 
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