MATCHDAY REVIEW: French and Portuguese sides on the verge of qualification to the EHF Cup Quarter-finals
Big win gives Nantes group lead
A win by no less than 31:23 at home against Pick Szeged brought HBC Nantes on top of Group C in the Men's EHF Cup.
Both Nantes and Szeged have eight points after five rounds, but the French teams has the better head to hear record. Still, neither team can be sure of qualifying for the quarter-finals before the last round next weekend.
In Group B, Sporting CP made sure they finish at least second, as the Portuguese team celebrated an impressive comeback at home against Skjern Håndbold to change an eight goal deficit into a 30:28 win.
That result robbed Skjern of their last hope to proceed in the tournament.
Sporting CP (POR) vs Skjern Håndbold (DEN) 30:28 (10:16)
As Sporting won the first match between the two teams 32:25, Skjern needed an eight goal win in order to keep their theoretical chance to reach the quarter-final alive.
And already after less than 20 minutes had the Danes established an eight goal lead, at 12:4, in a first half which was controlled completely by Skjern.
Sporting, who needed a win to boost their own quarter-final chances, managed to reduce the gap a bit before half-time, but still the visitors were leading by six goals after the first 30 minutes.
In the second half, however, the game changed completely. Already during the first quarter of an hour, Sporting managed to catch up with the Skjern lead.
Around the middle of the half, the hosts equalised at 24:24, and Sporting even continued to a 27:24 lead.
The home team went on being in the lead for the rest of the match and won by two, 30:28.
“Things turned around completely in the second half. We had a bad start and then we became insecure, even though we had a big lead. We were in trouble once we did not manage to put the plug into the drain,” Skjern's left wing Morten Balling said.
While Skjern lost their last hope to qualify for the quarter-final through the defeat, Sporting are obviously closer, but even the Portuguese team cannot feel completely sure yet.
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Pick Szeged (HUN) 31:23 (15:10)
Nantes took over the lead in Group C and moved extremely close to the quarter-finals, as they won by eight goals at home against Pick Szeged.
Both teams are now at eight points after five matches, but as Nantes are seven goals better in the internal matches, the French team is leading the group.
Pick Szeged got the better start in front of 4,750 spectators in the Palais des Sports de Beaulieu Sunday afternoon. The Hungarian visitors were leading by three goals a couple of times at the beginning, but that was not going take long. No less than eight goals in succession from Nantes changed the score from 6:8 into 14:8 in favour of the hosts.
Having won the first half with six goals to spare, Nantes increased the lead to eight in the second and held that lead by the end.
Despite the big defeat, though, Szeged still have a great chance to reach the quarter-finals, but that will be decided in thefinal round next weekend.
Nantes and Szeged are sure to finish in the two top spots of Group C, but as only the three best second-placed teams in the group phase proceed to the quarter-finals, meaning neither team are officially through.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor
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