MATCH REVIEW: Hungarian side take host Füchse Berlin down in first EHF Cup semi-final thanks to goalkeeper Roland Mikler
Szeged end German run of titles
Since 2004, all winners of the old and current format of the EHF Cup were German clubs - this series came to an end on Saturday - even before the 2014 final in Berlin.
By beating event host Füchse Berlin 24:22 in a thrilling game, Pick Szeged are not only the first finalists of the event, but ended the German series of ten titles in this competition, including 2013 winner Rhein Neckar Löwen.
Match winner for Szeged was goalkeeper Roland Mikler in his penultimate match for Pick before his transfer to Veszprem.
"Mikler and our defence decided that match," said Pick coach Juan Carlos Pastor one day prior to his 46th birthday, whcih now will be crowned with the EHF Cup final.
EHF Cup Finals, semi-final 1:
Füchse Berlin (GER) vs. Pick Szeged (HUN) 22:24 (9:13)
Pick surprised over 7,000 spectators in the Max-Schmeling-Halle by a strong performance against the hosts, who lacked efficiency in attack in the first 35 minutes. Backed by a brilliant goalkeeper Roland Mikler (nine of his in total 17 saves came before the break) Szeged were clearly dominant from the start, when they forged ahead to an early 3:0.
Boosted by back court snipers Zsolt Balogh (5) and Ference Ilyes (4), who scored nine of the 13 Szeged goals in the first half, Pick had the control of the match.
"In no point of the match we managed to find our rhythm, we are disappointed, but we are the only ones to be blamed," said Füchse coach Dagur Sigurdsson.
Maybe the Füchse were still too excited and impressed by the brilliant opening ceremony including “We will rock you” and the presentation of the newly created EHF Cup trophy.
When Berlin strengthened their defence, Szeged could not break through as easily as before, but Füchse still had problems with the powerful Szeged defenders and goalkeeper Mikler, who was cheered permanently by “Roli, Roli” chants of the Hungarian fans.
On the other side, German international Silvio Heinevetter did not have his best day and was replaced by Petr Stochl after 26 minutes. And in the final stages of the first half, Füchse coach Dagur Sigurdsson gave his young guns like Paul Drux and Fabian Wiede their chance on the court, attended by German national team head coach Martin Heuberger.
At 8:9 the match was close to turn in minute 24, but then Szeged re-gained their dominance to be ahead by four goals for the first time right before the halftime buzzer, after Füchse only netted in eight field goals in the 30 minutes.
Shouting and singing, the blue and white dressed Szeged fans were in a perfect mood when the second half started - but after only four minutes their coach Juan Carlos Pastor took his time-out, as Füchse had scored twice to reduce to 11:13 and his team caused three straight technical mistakes.
But nothing changed initially, as it took Szeged more than eight minutes to score their first goal after the break - however, Füchse could not profit immediately, as either they were too nervous or failed against outstanding Mikler, with one exception: Swedish wing Matthias Zachrisson (best Berlin scorer with six goals alongside Jaska).
Still counting on their talents, Berlin top stars like Iker Romero, Konstantin Igropoulo or Pavel Horak were on the bench most of the time. But one Füchse player took the initiative after the break: goalkeeper Stochl. His saves and the strong performance of playmaker Bartlomiej Jaska enabled his team to nearly bridge the gap at 16:17 in minute 48 - and the Berlin crowd came alive once again.
But every time Füchse were close too equalising, Szeged struck back. And while their snipers Balogh and Ilyes had been stopped by the Füchse defence after the break, the time had come for line player Szabolcs Zubai with eight minute left to play, at 17:20, when he caused the next Füchse time-out with his fourth goal.
"We had enough opportunities to turn the match around, but we did not grab them," Sigurdsson said, and Igropoulo added: "It was a really bad day for us, there's not much more to say. It was one of our worst matches this season. We had no confidence."
The crucial point for the final outcome of the game was with five minutes left on the clock, when Mikler first saved a penalty of Konstantin Igropoulo, which was followed by a Füchse mistake, allowing Nico Eilgaza to make it 21:18. Finally, the match was decided at 23:20 with less than two minutes to play and the rest was pure Szeged celebration on the court and in the stands.
"It was crucial for us to return to our strength after a weak start in the second half. We are proud, as we beat a big team," said Pastor, while his team capatin Attila Vadkerti added: "The first day of a competition is always good for a surprise and in this case the EHF Cup Finals are not different to a World Championship or an EHF EURO event. I think we can recover quickly enough, as this match was not so intense, so we have our chance tomorrow."
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
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