BACK TO NANTES: With one point in the first three matches, the EHF Cup Group Phase has not been what Aalborg Handball expected, but the players still cling to the hope for the quarter-final.
Aalborg still believe in the chance
One point after the first three matches. That was definitely not what Aalborg Handball were expecting ahead of their first EHF Cup Group Phase.
The Danish team who was in the VELUX EHF Champions League in the previous two seasons and reached the Last 16 on both occasions do not lack international experience.
Still, the first half of the team's matches in Group A have only resulted in one point through the 28:28 draw at home against Dinamo Bucuresti last Saturday.
The 25:19 defeat away to SC Magdeburg in their opening match might have been expected, but the 31:25 defeat at home against Fraikin BM Granollers was absolutely not.
“If we want to go on from the group – and we do – we need to win our home matches,” head coach Jesper Jensen said before the match against number three in Spain.
However, Jensen's team was far from a win that day.
When they finally got their first point, it was actually another disappointment.
Aalborg were leading by six goals at home against Dinamo Bucuresti, but they only managed to get a 28:28 at the end.
The poor results on home court are not due to lack of support from the standings.
3,915 and 3,347 have been the attendances at Aalborg's first two home matches in the group phase, and those spectators have definitely made themselves heard in the Jutlander Bank Arena.
“If I knew the reason for our poor performance, I could make millions as a psychologist,” Aalborg's Swedish left back Emil Berggren said after the defeat against Granollers.
Injuries are part of the explanation, though.
In all their group matches so far, Aalborg have been missing their Norwegian playmaker Sander Sagosen who broke his right hand during the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland.
Lately, the Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Palicka has also been sidelined, while line player Simon Hald, who is also crucial in the defence, has also been missing part of the time.
“Of course, injuries play a part, but in general, we have been suffering from lack of stability this season, which has also been obvious in the Danish league, where we have had a tendency to be best against the top teams, but lose against the teams from the lower end of the league table,” says another Aalborg playmaker, Morten Slundt.
“I think that part of the explanation is the fact that our team becomes younger and younger, when you look at the average age in the squad.
“We cannot be content with our performances so far, though.
“Our efforts against Granollers were not good enough at all, and of course, we should also have won against Dinamo when leading by six,” the 31-year-old centre back tells eurohandball.com.
He and his teammates still believe in the chance to proceed to the quarter-finals, though.
“If we win our three last matches, we will finish on seven points, and that may still be enough to qualify.
“It will not be easy, of course, but we do believe in the chance to win our last three games and that we can still go on,” says Morten Slundt.
“We know the conditions, and I believe we can win, if we play at our best all the way and play wisely,” he finds.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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