POST MATCH BLOG: Work, work and more work
What better way to start Match of the Week than with a trip to the Palacio Vistalegre for a meeting of last season’s finalists Kiel, the visitors and Atlético Madrid, the hosts. It was mouth-watering with all the history that surrounds these two great clubs.
Due to my early arrival in Madrid, I was able to catch the training sessions of both teams and chat to the coaches and players during and after their respective trainings.
Many things were discussed with both teams that shall remain private, but the overwhelming sense I got from my casual chats was that no one was particularly confident about winning this game. There was a sense that, Round 1 of the Group Phase was a little too early to judge either team, due to the amount of changes in personnel that had occurred on both sides.
The game itself did not match up to previous encounters between these two great rivals and although there were flashes of genius on both sides, the game for me never really flowed. It was obvious that with all the new players on both sides, that each team was finding its way.
For those who watched Kiel had an easy victory, or so it seemed, by 32-27. But there was a point in the game when Madrid pulled level, but due to a few easy mistakes and a few fast counter attacks Kiel stole a march on Madrid and stayed in the lead until the end.
For me there were many interesting things inside and outside the game that showed the psychology of the moment. Both coaches started with as many of the “old school” players that were available; perhaps not trusting, entirely, to the new talents, or perhaps just feeling the opponent out. Whatever the decision, I have never seen Alfred or Talant so composed on the sideline for an entire game and perhaps they knew that this encounter would not judge their entire season nor would it condemn them in the VELUX EHF Champions League.
Of the new players that took part for Madrid, Barachet was deployed as a defender in place of Lazarov and did reasonably well. I thought Angel did well when called upon. But my eyes were drawn regularly during the game to Gojun. It was obvious from the start that Kiel had identified the change over between attack and defence for Madrid as a potential weak point and they went at it from the start. For a team like Atlético, who were so used to the marshalling of their defence by Dinart, Gojun experienced some growing pains in the changeover.
What was interesting for me while the game progressed was how much he beat himself up over his mistakes in defence, in the changeover, but all the while the calming influence of Jonas Källman was there beside him on the bench to explain, to support and to see him through. And, in fairness, there were times when both of them worked very well together, perhaps a note for the future. Gojun will learn quickly, there is no doubt in my mind.
Balić was his usual self, great to watch, moments of magic, but in the end even he couldn’t stop the Kiel tide. A big mention also has to go to Magnus Dahl on his debut for Atletico in CL.
On the Kiel side, Vujin, so often a top scorer in the competition looked, to put it mildly, scared stiff. Sure, he scored some goals, but with the boots of Andersson to fill, it may weigh heavily on his shoulders for a while. Ekberg, whom I believe will turn out to be one of the buys of the season, was an onlooker throughout the game and it was only when Sprenger played on the right wing, that that area of the court looked dangerous. Sigurdsson never left the bench, but that was in the main due to a great game by Klein, who, as we know, loves the CL and looks to be relishing the competition for places.
A special mention has to go to the “Blond Bombshell” Wiencek, who was magnificent in defence against Canellas and Jurkiewicz and showed Toft Hansen that you can be tough without ending up with a red card. Toft Hansen’s “over exuberance”, shall we say, led me to Mads Hansen, one of the referees, as “Mister 2Minutes”. We laughed about it after the game but we agreed Rene deserved his suspensions. On the other hand he looked very strong in the attack.
These teams are both in transition. That is not to say that they are not still two of the best teams in Europe, but it will be some time before we see them at their top level. So many changes, so many players away on Olympic duty and the need for all players to “bed in” to new training methods and coaching philosophies are at the root of the performances.
As Talant said at the press conference, we need to work, work and work some more. Who could disagree.
TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator