Preview of the second semi-final legs of the Men's Challenge Cup
Esch and Runar chasing deficits
CSU Suceava and SKA Minsk are both defending leads after the first leg of the Men's Challenge Cup semi-finals, but that is just about all, the two semi-final ties have in common.
While Suceava are travelling to Luxembourg to defend a two goal lead after having defeated Handball Esch 23:21 at home, Minsk are playing at home with a three goal lead against Runar after a 32:29 win in Sandefjord last weekend. The Belarusian team therefore seem to be closest to the final before the weekend.
A two goal lead is not much to have with you, when you travel to an away game, and there is no doubt that they are aware of that in Suceava, where they would undoubtedly like to have had a larger lead with them to Luxembourg.
And they had the chance in the first match, being up 12:7 at half time.
The way things are, Esch have a good chance to be the first team from Luxembourg ever in a European Cup final, and there is understandable optimism in the club.
“We can live very well with the result we achieved in Romania, but we are still aware that we will have to win the second match with at least three goals, and that produces a heavy challenge to our team,” head coach by Handball Esch Werner Klöckner told eurohandball.com.
“Suceava's strongest weapon is their fast break, through which the score the majority of their goals. If we can stop those fast breaks and force them to play against our well organised defence, I expect us to have a good chance,” Klöckner added.
After a 32:29 win in Sandefjord in Norway last Saturday, Minsk are obviously favourites to reach the final, as they can even benefit from the home advantage in the return match.
However, their coach, Spartak Mironovich is wise enough to take nothing for granted.
“We are happy about the victory we took in Norway in a very intense and interesting match. Our team took another step towards our goal, but the Norwegian team Runar is very strong, and everything will be decided in the second semi-final match in Minsk,” Mironovich told eurohandball.com.
In Runar, they still believe in the chance too.
“Of course it will be difficult in Minsk, and besides we have had a tough week with matches in the Norwegian play-off Monday and Wednesday.
"But still, if we can make our defence and our goalkeepers work as well from the start, as we did in the second half of our home match, the chance is still there. We have definitely not given up yet,” head coach Marinko Kurtovic told eurohandball.com.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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