Clear victory, clear defeat for Slovenians
German side HSV Hamburg was the only away winner on Saturday’s matches of Match Day 1 in VELUX EHF Champions League. Aside Veszprém, Zagreb and Velenje took the victories on home ground, with the Slovenians really clashing St. Petersburg.
Reale Ademar León (ESP) - HSV Hamburg 26:28 (13:14)
Ademar stood strong, but the rejuvenated team was not able to break the Germans. Finally nine goals of Hans Lindberg decided the opener of both teams though he was not the top scorer as León’s Carlos Ruesga hit the net eleven times
After an equal start, Hamburg forged ahead by four straight goals to 10:6, but Leon caught up again until the break. And León had their strongest period at the start of the second half, getting the lead at 18:17. But then the Germans stroke back, scored a series of 7:1 and led 24:19 in minute 51, backed by goalkeeper Enid Tahirović who saved three penalty shots.
Cheered by their fans, León showed big resistance until the final stage, and was close to turn the game again after three straight goals to 24:25, before Vori and Lijewski sealed the deal for Hamburg.
“Leon were a high hurdle to climb, as we caused too many mistakes – now we are highly happy about this opening victory,” HSV coach Martin Schwalb said. His Ademar counter part Manolo Cadenas praised the defence of the Germans. “We were close to a big sensation. And I am satisfied with my team, which unfortunately missed too many chances,” he said.
MKB Veszprém KC (HUN) - RK Celje Pivovarna Laško (SLO) 32:22 (16:11)
Easy start for the Hungarian champions, punishing the Slovenians really hard: The young Celje team were on equal level only in the starting phase. Then Veszprém improved especially thanks to their Spanish newcomers Chema Rodriguez (top scorer with five goals) and Oneto, while László Nagy scored his first ever international goals for his new team.
Celje’s last stand was when reducing to 18:19, before the Hungarian back court players shot more efficient and decided the match very easily. “It is always important to win the opening match in the Champions League,” Veszprém coach Antonio Carlos Ortega said. “The last 15 minutes we played really well, Rodriguez and our goalkeeper Alilović were exceptional,” he added.
On the other hand, Celje coach Vladan Matić explained the distance of the defeat: “We have inexperienced players, some of them played their first ever Champions League match in their life. A total of 17 technical mistakes is too much.”
Gorenje Velenje (SLO) – St. Petersburg HC (RUS) 35:22 (16:10)
The sting of the wasps was too sharp for the Russians: Slovenian champions Velenje started the Group Phase in a brilliant manner, outdistancing St. Petersburg clearly. They only had problems until the 6:7, but then took full control, leading with a six goal difference already at the break.
Thanks to top scorer Marko Bezjak (nine goals in total, six from six attempts in the first half) and a strong defence, Velenje took two important points against a team supposed to be a main opponent for reaching the Last 16.
When the Russian lost their rhythm completely after the break, Velenje forged ahead to 28:16 in minute 44 and finished with a distance of dominant 13 goals.
RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) - Pick Szeged (HUN) 30:27 (15:8)
After three and half years Zagreb returned to their former arena at Ledenjač, their spectators created a great atmosphere there and Szeged did not get a point at the Croatian champions. On the other side a big number of Croats came to see the newly built team of Slavko Goluža and cheered them to the maximum.
Backed by goalkeeper Ivić and six goals in the first half of Lovro Šprem, Zagreb started brilliant by a 5:1 series, which they extended to 11:6 in minute 20. At the break the distance was already seven goals, before Szeged started their catch-up chase.
At 22:18 everything was open again, Pick was very strong in a man-advantage especially, but in the end could not endanger the victory of the Croatian record champions. Top scorers were Šprem (Zagreb) and Ratko Prodanović (Szeged) with each six goals.
TEXT: Björn Pazen