Partizan develop Group Phase appetite
Serbian champions Partizan Beograd ended a long barren spell in Europe’s premier club competition with a 33:31 win over Spain´s Reale Ademar León, collecting their first points after 10 defeats in as many games last season and this term’s opening two losses to Chekovskie Medvedi and Flensburg.
Those 12 defeats came on the back of a nine-year history of failures in the group stage and a total of 15 defeats, hence Partizan coach Aleksandar Brković was understandably elated after his unfancied team beat far more heralded rivals in a jam-packed Čair hall in Niš.
“We showed resilience and character after everything that happened last week against Flensburg followed by a poor result in the Belgrade derby, when we dropped a point in our 26:26 draw with Red Star,” Brković told Belgrade daily Sportski Žurnal after the rip-roaring contest in southern Serbia.
“The lads are mentally stronger than last year, it is obvious that they now have the ability to keep cool heads in games which go down to the wire and they will need this newly-found trait if we are to enjoy more success. Our appetites have grown and we now want to reach the Last 16, as ludicrous as that may have sounded if I had said it before the season started,” said Brković, who added that qualifying from a tough group remains a tall order for his team.
Partizan now face Hamburger SV away and have only a slim chance of pulling off an upset against the Bundesliga side, who top the group alongside fellow Germans Flensburg with five points from three games. Medvedi have three, Ademar and Partizan have two each while Montpellier are bottom of Group A with just one point from the opening three games.
Middle back Uroš Mitrović (pictured right), one of the key players in Partizan’s victory in front of 3,500 noisy fans who were well-behaved this time, said he was convinced the success would inspire his team mates to bigger things.
“We can’t stop now, we want to collect as many points as we can because we showed that we can stand our ground against Europe’s top teams,” Mitrović underscored.
“We now believe in miracles because every player on the team put his heart and the sleeve and victory came as a result although our defending still leaves something to be desired. We have seven games to go and will look for a chance to spring more upsets in any of them. We are in no position to make idle threats in away games against teams like Hamburg and Flensburg, but we will go down fighting if we are unable to stun them,” he stressed.
Left wing Nemanja Ilić, who played through the pain of a foot injury, left no room for doubt what the victory against Ademar meant to him and his team mates. “It’s a unique and inexplicable feeling, one which we are unfamiliar with because it’s our maiden win in the Champions League and it might take us a few days to realise what we have accomplished.”
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / br