Early top matches in two groups
The second round of matches in the Men’s EHF Cup Group Phase contains two meetings between undefeated teams.
In Group A, Dinamo Bucuresti, who had a marvellous comeback against Fraikin BM. Granollers in their first match, face SC Magdeburg at home and in Group B, HBC Nantes take on Team Tvis Holstebro, an old acquaintance from the first-ever finals round of the newly-organised competition back in 2012/13. Group C and D also in action in a busy weekend of Men's EHF Cup action.
Aalborg Handball (DEN) vs Fraikin BM. Granollers (ESP)
Saturday 20 February, 15:00hrs (local time), live on ehfTV.com
Two losers from the first match day meet in the Gigantium of Aalborg on Saturday afternoon – home side Aalborg lost 25:19 away against SC Magdeburg, while Granollers were leading by 10 at one stage at home against Dinamo Bucuresti, but still lost - 29:28 in the end.
“They must have felt that they had thrown two points out of the window after that defeat,” said Aalborg Coach Jesper Jensen to eurohandball.com about Granollers.
“However, they played very well until their collapse and even though we know that we have to win our home games in order to proceed from the group, we know that this one will be difficult.
“We realise that we are favourites though,” he continued. “Despite having a very small squad at the moment, with some of those playing having to carry an extra load of responsibility,” referring to the fact that he was missing key players Sander Sagosen, Olafur Gustafsson and Simon Hald in the match in Magdeburg, “I have hope that Hald can play Saturday, at least in the defence. That would mean a lot to us.”
Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) vs SC Magdeburg (GER)
Sunday 21 February 14:00 (local time), live on ehfTV.com
This meeting is already shaping up to be a top match in the group as both teams won their first matches.
Dinamo made a stunning comeback in their away game against Granollers in Spain, despite being down 17:7 and 18:8 in the first half, and still trailing 20:13 at half-time, they managed to rise and win 29:28, the final score being the only time in the match they were in the lead.
Things went considerably smoother for Magdeburg, who faced an injury-ridden Aalborg Handball squad, as the Germans were in the lead for the whole match, ending with a clear 25:19 win.
Even though they are playing at home, Dinamo will not want to find themselves with a 10-goal deficit to catch up this time if they want another win, while Magdeburg will undoubtedly be chasing their second win in a row.
Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER) vs OCI-LIONS (NED)
Sunday 21 February 17:30 (local time)
Frisch Auf opened their group phase campaign with a surprising 34:31 defeat in Denmark against Team Tvis Holstebro.
This defeat already puts the Bundesliga side under a certain pressure ahead of their home game in Sunday against the Dutch champions.
The battle for the quarter-final tickets may be tight after Goppingen’s defeat in Holstebro, and a home win Sunday is a must if they are serious contenders to progress.
However, the LIONS are also in need of points if they want to play any part in the race for the quarter-finals.
Having lost their opening match at home clearly, 33:26 against HBC Nantes, OCI-LIONS will have to start getting some points soon, if they are to have a say in this group.
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Team Tvis Holstebro (DEN)
Sunday 21 February 20:00 (local time), live on ehfTV.com
Both teams won their opening matches and will be keen on continuing their positive streaks.
In fact, the match is a remake of the semi-final of the 2012-13 tournament when Nantes were the hosts, just as they are this season. Back then, Nantes won 26:20 and Holstebro are understandably eager to turn it around this weekend.
“Of course, we are eager to do better this time,” Holstebro coach Patrick Westerholm told eurohandball.com. “I have watched a few of Nantes’ matches and I realise that we are in for a difficult task, but not an impossible task.
“Our win against Göppingen opened up this group and it also puts pressure on Nantes,” he continued.
“Hosting a final tournament without being part of it yourself cannot be much fun so I am sure they will be highly motivated against us, but I definitely see some possibilities for us too.”
Saint-Raphael Var Handball (FRA) vs SKA Minsk (BLR)
Saturday 20 February 20:00 (local time)
The two teams got a very different start to the group phase last weekend. Saint Raphael lost clearly 31:26 away against Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, while Minsk won almost as clearly, 31:27 at home against Pfadi Winterthur.
“Bjerringbro-Silkeborg were a level above us,” said Saint Raphael line player Alexander Lynggaard after the defeat in Denmark. The second-placed side in the French league will be keen on revenge, not only in order to restore their self-confidence, but just as much in order to boost their chances for a quarter-final berth.
Minsk will aim to go on riding on that wave of success they started with in their home win against Winterthur.
Pfadi Winterthur (SUI) vs. Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN)
Sunday 21 February 16:00 (local time)
Pfadi Winterthur have gathered a lot of European experience over the years, in the VELUX EHF Champions League as well as in the Men’s EHF Cup, but this experience did not help in their first group match this season, as they lost 31:27 away to SKA Minsk.
In case of a further defeat Sunday, Switzerland´s number two side risk missing the quarter-finals just like last season.
The match in the Eulachhalle on Sunday is not a walk in the park for Pfadi, though as their Danish adversaries won their first group match 31:26 at home against the strong French side Saint-Raphael.
“In general, I see all away matches in Europe as difficult,” said Bjerringbro-Silkeborg coach Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen to eurohandball.com. “There is no doubt in my mind that Pfadi Winterthur will want to prove themselves in front of their own spectators.
“However, I see some good chances for us to get some of those away points which will probably be necessary in order to reach the quarter-final.”
Ystads IF (SWE) vs Helvetia Anaitasuna (ESP)
Saturday 20 February 13:30 (local time)
A loser is receiving a winner in Österporthallen in Ystad on Saturday as the home side got off to a tough start to their first Men’s EHF Cup Group Phase campaign, losing 32:22 away against French side Chambery Savoie Handball.
But the Swedes were weakened by illness and injury and after the match, Ystad coach Sebastian Seifert expressed belief that his team can win at home in their upcoming return fixture. But before his men get the chance to prove that they will have to take on Anaitasuna, who are debutants in Europe this season.
The lack of European experience proved irrelevant as they had a fine start to not only the group phase but their European adventure, winning convincingly 28:22 at home against another European debutant, CSM Bucuresti.
The Spanish visitors will probably have to worry about an Ystad player for which Chambery did not have to worry about as the Swedish side are likely to welcome back their huge left back talent Lukas Nilsson, the 19-year-old Swedish international who did not play the match in France due to illness.
CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs Chambery Savoie Handball (FRA)
Saturday 20 February 15:30 (local time), live on ehfTV.com
European debutants CSM lost their first group match clearly 28:22 away to Spanish side Anaitasuna, while Chambery won their initial encounter even more clearly, 32:22 at home against Ystad.
The strong French side Chambery, who sent last season’s Men’s EHF Cup winners Füchse Berlin out of the tournament already in the qualifiers this season, will get the chance to show what they can do on the away court in the Romanian capital.
TEXT: Peter Bruun/amc