Perfect dress rehearsal for Göppingen
This week is shaping up to be a perfect one for German EHF Cup participants Frisch Auf Göppingen.
On Monday the defending champions of the “old EHF Cup” announced the transfer of their “home grown star” Michael Kraus for next season and caused a major surprise in German Bundesliga by beating defending German and VELUX EHF Champions League champion THW Kiel by 33:29 on Wednesday.
Spanish side Naturhouse La Rioja stand in their way on Saturday, 23 March in the final and deciding match for the first position in Group A of the EHF Cup Group Phase.
Göppingen continued their series of success against THW Kiel, and Velimir Petkovic’s team now have seven consecutive victories in the league and EHF Cup in their account.
The last time Frisch Auf were beaten was in the first game at La Rioja (23:25). To finish on top of the group and secure qualification for the quarter-finals, Göppingen need a victory at home, if they draw or lose, they finish second in the group below their Spanish opponent.
But Frisch Auf are boosted by their first victory against Kiel in nine years.
“We are extremely satisfied,” said manager Gerd Hofele after the match.
Göppingen had built a strong base against THW with an early 7:2 and 13:5 lead in the opening period and held on to the lead thanks to strong defence, which included the goalkeeping of Primoz Prost (21 saves in total).
“When you are down by five or more goals you cannot catch up such a deficit at Göppingen,” THW coach Alfred Gislason praised the opponent.
For him and THW it was the second straight defeat, something they have not had in two years, after the 35:37 loss in their first leg match of the Last 16 in the VELUX EHF Champions League at Chekhovskie Medvedi. The re-match against the Russian champions is on Sunday, 24 March.
“We have gained two unexpected points after we had lost even more unexpected points in the first half of the season.
“The confidence was the key. We must not underestimate Kiel, but also should not overestimate them.
“They are the defending champions in the Champions League, we are the champions in the EHF Cup – so we should not have been in the underdog’s role,” explained Göppingen coach Petkovic who will be confident of leading his team to the EHF Cup Quarter-finals with this current run of form.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor