ROUND REVIEW: The Ambitious Frenchmen comprehensively beat the Macedonians in first group match, while Szeged struggled to a narrow win
Montpellier in fine form with 19-goal win
Now that Montpellier Agglomeration HB cannot be in the VELUX EHF Champions League, as they are more or less used to, they seem determined to make the most out of the EHF Cup.
The French top team emphasised clearly that they mean business in the competition, as they opened their group phase campaign with a huge 41:22 home win against HC Zomimak-M from FYR Macedonia who could not do anything against the effective French top team in their first match in Group B.
In Group C, Pick Szeged had to fight harder than expected at the end to land two points through a narrow 28:27 win at home against HBC Nantes. Szeged had a clear lead most of the match, but still they were close to losing the lead at the end.
HCM Constanta were never close to losing their lead at home against HC Sporta Hlohovec. The Slovakians never got close in the Group D match in Romania which Constanta won as clearly as 31:22. The other match in the group Sunday was more equal, but still Füchse Berlin left no doubt at the end and won 30:27 at home against Chambery Handball Savoie.
Montpellier seemed to be determined to decide the match from the start, and that was actually what they did.
In front of 2,800 spectators in a sold-out Palais des Sports René Bougnol, the French team scored the first six goals of the game and after 20 minutes, Dragan Gajic had already made himself top scorer in the game.
Eight goals from nine attempts were enough to make the Slovenian right winger the highest scoring player over the entire 60 minutes.
The easy start did not make Montpellier relax. On the contrary, the lead was extended throughout the rest of the first half, and when the two teams went to the locker rooms, the visitors may very well have wanted the whole affair to be over, as they were down by 13 at that point.
If they had hoped for mercy from the hosts, they were disappointed. Montpellier kept extending their already impressive lead throughout the second half and were up by no less than 21 goals several times before finally settling for 19.
“Our players took control of the match from the start. We were sufficiently consequent in the defence and I am happy with our consistency throughout the game.
“We played with a lot of focus and determination, and the young players grabbed their chance,” Montpellier coach Patrice Canayer said.
For the first 50 minutes, nothing indicated that this match was ever going to have an exciting finish.
Pick Szeged had been leading by between five and seven goals more or less throughout the game until then, but a red card for line player Vladimir Vranjes with 10 minutes left seemed to shake the home team.
Nantes, who were missing Spanish left back Alberto Entrerrios but who never gave in, saw the chance to get a point a two out of the affair after all – and they were close to succeeding, when the managed to reduce the distance to just one goal at 28:27 with less than a minute left.
This was as far as the visitors got, though and Szeged with their 2,800 spectators in the Varosi Sportsarnok could finally celebrate the win which has appeared so certain for the vast majority of the game.
Szeged opened by taking a 3:0 lead which was later extended to 8:3, 13:6 and 14:7 before being at five goals at half-time.
Throughout the second half, the Hungarian home side were leading by five or six goals until the nail-biting last minute.
“We started well in the first half. Maybe after the dismissal of Vranjes we should have been more concentrated.
“The two points and the good start are very important to us,” said Szeged coach Juan Carlos Pastor, while his colleague Thierry Anti from Nantes saw the match this way.
“After the first bad minutes we started to run after Szeged. We used different tactical ways and we made a lot of substitutions. Unfortunately Entrerrios could not come with us to Szeged, so young players had to play more than usual. On the other hand, I am satisfied because of the second half,” admitted Anti.
On Saturday, TATRAN Presov gave Slovakian handball a great start to the group phase with their 37:30 win against IFK Kristianstad in Group C.
Sunday, however, proved to be less productive, as Sporta Hlohovec were not able to copy their countrymen’s fine performance, as they lost as clearly as 31:22 away to HCM Constanta.
The home team got the far better start, but a time-out, called by Hlohovec coach Martin Liptak at the score 4:0 after four and a half minute brought the visitors back on track, and after 16 minutes and 11 seconds they managed to catch up with the hosts at 9:9.
However, Constanta proved to be too strong for their opponents this Sunday morning in Romania, and partly helped by being two players up more for a minute they got ahead by six goals towards the end of the first half.
After a five goal lead for Constanta at half-time, nothing could stop them in the last 30 minutes, where a strong defence in front of a brilliant Mihai Popescu in goal was combined with a fluent and efficient attacking play.
Not even an aggressive 4:2 defence from Hlohovec for parts of the second half could prevent Constanta from doubling their half time lead to 10 before finally winning by nine.
Füchse Berlin (GER) vs Chambery Handball Savoie (FRA) 30:27 (14:13)
A fortnight ago Alix Nyokas became European champion with the French national team.
This Sunday he made a fine appearance with his club team, as he scored eight goals for Chambery in the Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin.
This was not enough for him and his teammates to get any points in the hall which will also be the venue of the EHF Cup Finals in May.
Led by another key player from the recent EHF EURO 2014, Fredrik Petersen, Füchse managed to take a three-goal win in a match which was more or less close all the way.
Swedish international Petersen scored eight goals just like Nyokas in a game where Füchse were leading almost throughout, but all the time without being able to make a really decisive gap.
5,746 spectators saw Füchse leading for most parts, besides the odd one-goal deficit in the first half, but at half-time the hosts still only had a one goal lead to speak in their favour.
It was not until they managed to increase the difference to five goals towards the end, could they breathe relatively easily as they began their quest to a home finals with maximum points.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor
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