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26.05.2018, 16:20
Lazarov steers Nantes to first final and claims top scorer throne
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SEMI-FINAL REVIEW: The underdogs from HBC Nantes beat PSG 32:28 to make their final dream come true
 

Lazarov steers Nantes to first final and claims top scorer throne

Eight goals each from the new all-time EHF FINAL4 top scorer Kiril Lazarov and Nicolas Tournat, as well as a series of crucial saves from goalkeeper Cyril Dumoulin, paved the way to the final for VELUX EHF FINAL4 debutants HBC Nantes. In their third straight appearance in Cologne, Paris again missed the trophy.

"I am just happy. It is not so easy to win against PSG, as they are a strong team. We needed to give our best today, and it was the case. We played a good first half, our defence was well, but we were a bit tired in the end. But we were ahead all the time. I am very happy and very proud for my team, my club and my town," said Nantes head coach Thierry Anti.

• With a total of 59 goals after the semi-final, Lazarov is new all-time top scorer of the FINAL4
• His Nantes teammate Dominik Klein reaches his seventh Champions League final since 2007
• After Flensburg in 2014 and Vardar in 2017, Nantes are the third FINAL4 debutants to reach the final
• PSG left wing Uwe Gensheimer is equal with Markus Olsson as the top scorer of the 2017/18 season, with 88 goals


SEMI-FINAL
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Paris Saint-Germain Paris (FRA) 32:28 (17:14)

After Paris created an early lead, Nantes took the upper hand thanks to stronger defence and a better goalkeeper. Cyril Dumoulin clearly won the duel between the posts against Thierry Omeyer, who was replaced by Rodrigo Corrales after only 18 minutes.

PSG had extreme problems in attack, as they either failed against Dumoulin or found the HBC wall in their way – at times, they even missed the goal completely. Nantes were more efficient, boosted by great support from their purple-dressed fans, including a brass combo.

6:5 was PSG’s last advantage before the break, then Nantes fired from all cylinders. Kiril Lazarov netted four goals before the break, Nicolas Tournat was brilliant from the line, and Spanish EURO champion David Balaguer was unstoppable from the wing.

After the score of 6:9, PSG coach Noka Serdarusic took his first timeout, but nothing changed – Nantes even pulled ahead to a five-goal advantage at 15:10 for the first time. As right back Nedim Remili improved in the last minutes of the first half, PSG came a bit closer, but were still down 14:17 when they entered the locker rooms.

Anyone who thought that the favoured French champions would start closing in on Nantes after the break was wrong. The underdogs and FINAL4 debutants had a nearly perfect start – and only Corrales prevented Paris from an even clearer deficit than the intermediate 14:20.

Referees Martin Gjeding and Mads Hansen then made use of the video technology system after a foul from Tournat on Remili, deciding to issue only a two-minute suspension rather than a red card.

Netting his fifth goal on a penalty for 21:17, Lazarov drew level with the all-time FINAL4 top scorers Filip Jicha and Momir Ilic, on 56 goals – and only two minutes later, the Macedonian champions took the lead in this ranking with his strike for 22:17. With Dumoulin in the form of his life, PSG were far below their usual scoring rate. Even an improvement from Danish left back Mikkel Hansen and an intermediate reduction of the deficit to 21:23 did not make PSG more stable.

But five minutes before the end, Nantes were shaken, losing their rhythm while PSG scored three unanswered goals to come within one at 28:29. Suddenly Omeyer, who had returned to the goal in the middle of the second half, was back on track. The previously one-sided first all-French Champions League semi-final had turned into a thriller.

With two players less on court after suspensions for Romain Lagarde and Tournat, Nantes struggled. But when Dumoulin saved a penalty off Mikkel Hansen two minutes before the buzzer, it provided HBC with extra power.

"Nantes’ victory was well-deserved. In a tournament with four strong teams, everything must fit to win the match - but today many things did not fit. We caused five technical mistakes in the first half, we had too less pressure in attack, we had problems with Nicolas Tournat. And at the score of 28:29 we missed two 100% chances and then we were punished," Noka Serdarusic, PSG head coach commented.

Olivier Nyokas netted for 31:28, Dumoulin saved again – and the fans went crazy, as Nantes made their dream come true. 30 seconds from time, the HBC payers were already jumping at their bench and the fans had started their party.

Kiril Lazarov was not too much thrilled by the fact that he became the new all-time top scorer of the FINAL4 history. "I don’t care that much about my top scoring record. It is about the team – and I am happy that we took a deserved win. We were playing our best match of the whole season, against the best team of the world, so I am very satisfied, very happy. But as I am one of the most experienced players, I know we need to stop celebrating now and only think about tomorrow. It is difficult to play a final, we have to believe in us."

Photo: EHF / Heimken, Hocevar, Lämmerhirt, Stadler


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg
 
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