Flensburg, Valladolid and Rhein Neckar Löwen qualified for the Last 16, first defeat for Ciudad Real.
Two German-Spanish thrillers
Eleven of the 16 participants for the knock-out stage of the VELUX EHF Champions League are known since Sunday evening. In group A both German teams – THW Kiel and Rhein Neckar Löwen – booked their tickets for the last 16 – after the thrilling draw of Löwen against Barcelona. In group B Veszprem, Montpellier, Hamburg and Kolding had been qualified before – and Montpellier took an important victory at HSV on Sunday.
In group C Valladolid had to thank Chekhovski Medvedi: As the Russians won in Aalborg the Spaniards are already qualified like Chekhov. And in group D Ciudad Real lost their first match in this season in Flensburg. Both teams and Zagreb are through to the next stage.
Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER) – FC Barcelona-Borges (ESP) 38:38 (22:17)
What a drama in the SAP Arena: Thanks to this draw Löwen have reached the Last 16 and remain second in this group one point below THW Kiel but still two points ahead of Barcelona. The Catalans need one more point from the last two matches to go through the gate to the Last 16.
“The draw was well deserved, even as he were close to win. Sometimes it is not enough to lead with eight goals against Barcelona. The most important thing is that we have won the direct encounter against Barca,” Löwen goalkeeper Henning Fritz said after a real thriller attended by 13.500 spectators.
After the 1:3 Löwen improved and played like in trance the next 15 minutes. They shocked the Catalans by extending the lead to 11:6 and 17:9. Barca coach Xavi Pascual tried everything to stop the Löwen express and changed his team steadily. But at the break the distance was still five goals for the Germans – but it did not take long as everything was open again, as Barca reduced to 24:22 and Löwen coach Gudmundsson took his early time-out in minute 36.
But now the Catalans were unstoppable Thanks to the saves of goalkeeper Danijel Saric they equalized at the 29:29 for the first time and took the lead at 31:30. But Löwen found their pace again as top scorer Uwe Gensheimer (15 goals!) took the responsibility and scored the 34:32. 80 seconds before the end Barcelona was in front again (38:37), before Gensheimer hit the back of the net by a penalty goal – 38:38. 19 seconds before the end Pascual took his time-out, released his goalkeeper – but nearly failed as Roggisch intercepted, but was fouled on his way to the empty goal. Now Gudmundsson released his goalkeeper six seconds before the end – but a pass was caught by Victor Tomas. The wing player threw the ball into the empty goal, but it crossed the line after the final whistle.
HSV Hamburg (GER) – HB Montpellier (FRA) 27:28 (11:13)
Montpellier remain the only hunter of MKB Veszprem fighting for the number one in this group. The French champion took revenge for the defeat against Hamburg on home ground. With now 12 points they stopped HSV and paved the way for a real group final in Round 10 when hosting Veszprem (14 points). Hamburg (9) now have to fight with Kolding (10) for the third place.
The match was close and tough for the whole 60 minutes, top scorers were Mladen Bojinovic with nine goals for Montpellier and Marcin Lijewski with six goals for Hamburg. Montpellier surprised HSV in the initial stage by an early 6:1. Then Hamburg woke up, reduced to 6:8 and 11:13 after 30 minutes.
The host started better and took the lead for the first time at 14:13 – and from that time on the match was on absolute eye level. The result was equal until the end after the 19:19 and 24:24 Michael Guigou brought the 28:27 lead scoring by the tenth penalty shot for the French team in the last minute. HSV did not have enough time to level the game anymore. Despite 16 Bitter saves Hamburg lost not only the match but the direct encounter for the second place.
Statements after the match:
Martin Schwalb, coach Hamburg: “We did not have our best day, especially in the starting period we were very weak. After the break we were on eye level but as Montpellier scored some lucky goals we could not turn the match completely. Aside we missed too many 100 percent chances. So the defeat is a logical result.”
Patrice Canayer, coach Montpellier: “We had the first match in our minds which was a special motivation. So we put all our energy into this match and I think we deserved those two points.”
AaB Handball (DEN) – Chekhovski Medvedi (RUS) 30:38 (15:19)
Chekhovski Medvedi enlarged their base for winning group C with this easy victory in Denmark. With now 13 points they rank two points ahead of Valladolid. The Spaniards took the advantage of the Russian victory at Aab as they are now also qualified for the Last 16.
Chekhovski Medvedi was much stronger and had more individual class than the Aalborg team. As the first half was quite close AaB could not stop the Russian bears after the break.
With three points below the fourth place Aalborg still can hope for the knock-out stage but then have to win the crucial game in Minsk next weekend.
Top scorer in this unequal encounter were Lennartsson with eight goals for AaB and Filipov with seven goals for Chekhovski Medvedi.
SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) – Renovalia Ciudad Real (ESP) 25:23 (11:10)
After eight Rounds none of the 24 teams is still unbeaten – the last series to be stopped was Renovalia Ciudad Real. In another Spanish-German thriller SG Flensburg-Handewitt sensationally beat the three times winner of the VELUX EHF Champions League and qualified for the Last 16.
Thanks to this victory group D is full of tension until the very end, as Ciudad Real (13)is currently only one point ahead ofFlensburg and Zagreb (each 12).
The spectators cheered wildly when Flensburg started brilliant and led 9:4. But the Spaniards who again had problems with their playing rhythm fought back and equalized right before the break. One had thought that the game would change completely was wrong: Flensburg still took the control thanks to the in total nine goals of wing player Anders Eggert and – much more – to the incredible saves of goalkeeper Dan Beutler. The Swede won the goalkeeper’s duel against Sterbik and Hombrados clearly and was the key fact for the victory in the end.
In the second half Boesen and Hansen brought Flensburg another quite comfortable cushion when leading 18:14.And after 46 minutes the hall went crazy as the intermediate result was 22:17. But like in the first match in Ciudad Real (won by the Spaniards) the guest team improved and decreased the distance to 22:23. Especially Luc Abalo was the main scorer in this period. 30 seconds before the end Flensburg took their time-out at the score of 24:23 – and as Lasse Svan Hansen scored the 25:23 the match was decided.
“Incredible, absolutely incredible – the game, the audience, everything,” Dan Beutler said about this historic Flensburg victory against Ciudad Real, which also means that all four German teams have reached the Last 16.
TEXT: Björn Pazen
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