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30.04.2016, 20:36
Defending champions Barcelona eliminated despite home win
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QUARTER-FINAL REVIEW: THW Kiel qualify for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 after a thrilling endgame and thanks to Canellas’s triple strike
 

Defending champions Barcelona eliminated despite home win

The black series continues: No VELUX EHF Champions League winners defend their title one year later at Cologne: Since the implementation of the FINAL4 in 2010, for the fifth time the champions even missed qualification for the pinnacle event.

A 33:30 win in the giant’s duel against THW Kiel was not enough for FC Barcelona after their 24:29 away defeat last Sunday.

But the record champions were highly close to the ticket to Cologne as they had turned an overall nine goal deficit in a minus one.

In the final stages a triple strike of Joan Canellas and the saves of Niklas Landin secured Kiel’s sixth participation at the seventh VELUX EHF FINAL4 at Cologne, where they had won the trophy twice in 2010 and 2012.

VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final, second leg:
FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs THW Kiel (GER) 33:30 (13:14)
Kiel win 59:57 on aggregate

Kiel made history on Saturday night as for the first time in their third attempt they eliminated Barca in a Champions League Quarter-final, and for the second time in general left Barcelona behind in a knock-out stage.

“This was an incredible match. Though one-third of our team was injured we managed to eliminate Barcelona, simply incredible,” said THW coach Alfred Gislason.

“I am as happy as anybody can be. We will enjoy a great night now in Barcelona. After a strong first half, we gave the match out of our hands and were close to failure when we were down by five. But I constantly believed in my team and they paid it back. But still, we are not the favourite at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.”

And match winner Landin, who had failed in the quarter-final two years ago with Rhein Neckar Löwen at Palau Blaugrana, was “extremely happy to have my debut at Cologne after an extremely tough match”.

Valero Rivera was supposed to be the good omen for FC Barcelona as he knows how to beat Kiel. Under his helm, Barca never were eliminated by THW and the Catalan team became Champions League winner five times.

But having the most successful handball coach on earth in the stands was no guarantee for the ticket to Cologne for the hosts, the upcoming club of left wing Valero Rivera junior next season.

Barcelona had enormous problems to score in the beginning. Kiel defended well, and the pressure of the five goal deficit from the first seemed to be a too heavy burden for the defending champions.

Who expected a full speed run against the clock from the first minute on, was disappointed. Kiel were dominant in the initial stages and mainly Serbian right back Marko Vujin was the reason for the small but lasting lead until 6:5.

Even as the Catalan team went ahead, they did not look that fluid despite a secret training session away from their arena.

Kiel stood the pressure though the Barca players constantly forced the spectators to cause more noise. At the break and Kiel’s 14:13 lead, the overall deficit of the record winners of the EHF Champions League was already six goals.

It even became worse for Barcelona. Despite an early time-out of Xavi Pascual after only three minutes of the second half, Kiel forged ahead to 19:15, having the momentum and a nine goal advance on their side. The gate to Cologne was open wider than the all German optimistists could have expected.

But with the support of the 'magic spirit' of Palau Blaugrana, Barcelona speeded up. They were extremely shaken, but they did not fall.

Boosted by the fans, they increased their efficiency in attack and ran over THW for six minutes, scoring six consecutive goals to be back on track and ahead by 20:19.

Aitor Arino’s third counter attack goal, combined with the saves of Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, provided Barca with their first two goal advance at 26:24 - and still 13 minutes time.

And when former THW left back Wael Jallouz completed Barca’s 12:5 series within 13 minutes for 27:24, Palau went crazy and the spell was on Kiel. Gislason’s side had completely lost their precision, rhythm, pace and patience and was a playing ball of the hosts.

Kiel had the fate of their domestic rivals Rhein Neckar Löwen on their mind. Two years ago, even a seven-goal advantage from the first leg had not been enough as Barcelona ran over them - including Landin, who was playing below par until minute 55.

The Barcelona fans were standing on their seats when their team had sensationally levelled the overall five-goal deficit five minutes before the end thanks to the fifth goal of former Kiel wing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (31:26).

But exactly this strike was the wake-up call for Kiel, Joan Canellas and Landin. The Dane saved four straight shots, the Spaniard scored three straight times - and the gallows had been cheated by the three times Champions League winner when the score was 31:29.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew
 
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