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24.11.2018, 21:40
Nantes overcome three-goal deficit to draw in Zagreb
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GROUP B REVIEW: The now traditionally close clash between HBC Nantes and HC PPD Zagreb sees a nail-biting encounter once again, ending with the teams splitting the points
 

Nantes overcome three-goal deficit to draw in Zagreb

The battle for the qualification places in VELUX EHF Champions League Group B will be a tough one, as HC PPD Zagreb and HBC Nantes proved on Saturday night. Despite being down by three twice, the French side came back each time and secured a point – something they were unable to do in Zagreb last season. ‘Le H’ now count eight points in their account while Zagreb have six.

• After losing by three away, Zagreb managed to grab a point at home against Nantes
• Zlatko Horvat is the game’s top scorer with eight goals; for Nantes, Dragan Pechmalbec, Nicolas Claire and Valero Rivera score five each
• Saturday night’s clash was Lino Cervar’s last proper home game in the Champions League, as Zagreb will play in Varazdin against Zaporozhye next we
ek

GROUP B
HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs HBC Nantes (FRA) 27:27 (12:12)

The first game between the two teams was a face-off between two effective defences, and the beginning of Saturday night’s match was more of the same. After 10 minutes played, the score was 2:2 and Zagreb had been trying to find the goal for nine straight minutes without effect. Nantes began to make the most of the gaps in the locals’ defence, finding Dragan Pechmalbec on the line. But as soon as Lino Cervar decided to change his team’s defensive system, Nantes started to struggle.

Scoring just once in over eight minutes, last year’s Champions League finalists saw their opponents break away, with goals from back-court players Ivan Srsen and Gregor Potocnik. Zagreb even had a chance to create a four-goal advantage two minutes before the break, but did not make the most of it. Two missed shots and long-range goal from Nantes keeper Arnaud Siffert just before the buzzer meant the two teams were level at half-time (12:12).

The second half followed the same pattern. The slow rhythm suited the Croatian hosts perfectly, enabling Zagreb to once again claim a three-goal advantage. Zlatko Horvat was unstoppable on the left wing while Srsen was having a great day. With 20 minutes to play, the locals had an option on the two points (18:15). But Nantes centre back Claire decided that his team could not let go so early and, with three consecutive goals, made things all square with 10 minutes left on the clock (21:21).

The last minutes saw the two teams playing seven-against-six, with Zagreb’s Arber Qerimi proving his efficiency passing the ball to his line players. But that was not enough for the two points, as David Balaguer made the score even before Damir Bicanic missed the chance for victory seconds before the end.

"I'd like to congratulate my players on today's performance in both first and second half. I'm honestly sorry we didn't manage to take advantage of the leads we've had in both halves but in the end we have what we have and can be satisfied with this point against Nantes," said Zagreb coach Lino Cervar after the match.


TEXT: Kevin Domas / cg
 
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