Nantes prepare for EHF Cup clash with impressive win
EHF Cup Finals hosts, HBC Nantes, defeated a star-studded Paris Saint Germain team on Thursday evening in the French league. After beating them in extra-time in the League Cup, it is the second time that Nantes have won against PSG this season.
In a fiery contest at the Palais des Sports de Beaulieu, where the EHF Cup Finals will take place in May, the result was too close to call for most of the match.
Paris, helped by his Danish left back Mikkel Hansen with 7 goals in total, had the better start, earning a three goals advantage after 15 minutes.
However, Nantes were quick to recover, and thanks to their Spanish contingent, well represented by Jorge Maqueda and Valero Rivera, they took the lead right before half-time.
In the second half, Paris did not see the light of day. Always faltering against the hard defence and against Nantes’ keeper, Arnaud Siffert, who put on an amazing performance with 16 saves at nearly 50% efficiency, they stretched into a four goal lead.
A last-minute rush allowed PSG to narrow the gap, ending up two goals behind with the final score of 26:24 to Nantes.
Apart from Hansen and Croatian left-hander Marko Kopljar, Paris' team was very disappointing.
On the contrary, Nantes showed a real heart and some fighting spirit, not lowering their heads when they were a little bit behind on the score board, and they kept cool heads at the crucial stages.
"I am so, so proud of my players" Nantes coach Thierry Anti told local newspaper Ouest-France.
"We've won with our heads and with our hearts. We had some trouble in the first half, but we stuck to our plan, we changed our defence and put everything into it.
“I want to thank the crowd, who have been nothing but magnificent."
Anti was quick to turn to Sunday’s game against Bacau in the EHF Cup and focus on the task ahead.
"We hope the arena will be as boiling on Sunday, so we can qualify for the Finals. Count on me to refocus the squad for the next game, don't worry about that," concluded Anti.
PSG coach Philippe Gardent was also quick to give credit to the opponent.
"Nantes are not given enough credit. They probably have the second best team in the country.
"And now, nobody will bother us about being invincible anymore," said Gardent.
HBC Nantes continue their quest to reach a home EHF Cup Finals on Sunday, March 17 with a home game against Romanian side Stiinta Municipal Dedeman Bacau.
Photo credit: Gaelle Louis / handnews.fr
TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor