Coach Brković says learning curve will continue
Partizan still punching above their weight
Having suffered 10 defeats in as many VELUX EHF Champions League games last season, Serbian title holders Partizan Beograd headed into this season in Europe’s premier club competition confident of breaking the ice and giving their boisterous supporters something to cheer about.
But even the raucous support by 4,000 frenetic fans could not stop German side SG Flensburg Handewitt from coming away from the cauldron of Čair Arena in Niš with a 37:31 win. Partizan’s next chance of ending their barren run, stretching back nine years and 15 games when they last won a EHF Champions League fixture, will be an equally daunting home game against Spaniards Reale Ademar Leon at the same venue on October 14.
Partizan had moved from the capital to Serbia’s south, having rightly assessed that the Čair Arena would draw even more fans in the handball stronghold of Niš than Belgrade’s Pionir Hall. The club’s instincts were justified as more than 10,000 fans queued up for just 4,000 tickets to see the Flensburg game, where the atmosphere was fantastic although Partizan fans were at times overzealous in their support by throwing firecrackers on to the court.
“We went into the game aiming for a win like we did at Chekovskie Medvedi last week but it just wasn’t enough because we are up against stronger rivals in the Champions League,” Partizan coach Aleksandar Brković told reporters after the match.
“Money can’t buy the vast experience we have gained from playing in the Champions League this season and last, it shows that we have to keep working hard in order to slug it out with Europe’s best teams,” he added.
Flensburg coach Ljubomir Vranes was taken aback by the electrifying atmosphere which his players are unfamiliar with. “I wish we had fans as frenetic as those in Čair and support like this at home. It was a tough game and this young Partizan team has a bright future if the talented crop of players keep developing,” Vranjes was quoted as saying by Belgrade daily Sportski Žurnal.
Medvedi, Flensburg and their Bundesliga rivals HSV Hamburg are tied at the top of a delicately balanced Group A with three points from two games, while Ademar León have two. Montpellier have one point from their opening two games and Partizan are bottom with a pair of defeats.
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević /br