MATCH REVIEW: They were made to sweat for all 60 minutes, but HBC Nantes have reached the EHF Cup Final for the second time after a hard-fought win over underdogs Granollers.
Tournat's relentless presence help Nantes qualify for the final
HBC Nantes qualified for EHF Cup final by beating Fraikin BM. Granollers 27:26. As the score suggests, this was no easy task and the French team had to fight until the very last second in order to put the ticket in their pocket.
"Granollers were everything we expected, tough, playful, patient," confirmed Alberto Entrerrios. But, no matter how good they were, the Spanish will play the third place game tomorrow, while Nantes hope for their first European trophy.
Men’s EHF Cup Finals, semi-final
For their first time in the EHF Cup finals, Granollers stated it clearly yesterday: "We're not here on vacation" and this you could definitely tell from their first half performance.
Even though Matias Schulz saved some important balls at the beginning of the game, his teammates were not able to create an early gap. Why? Because fellow goalkeeper Cesar Oliveira de Almeida was having a good day as well.
The first part of the game could actually be summarised as a goalkeeper battle. Granollers were ahead most of the time, since wingers Ferran Sole Sala and David Resina Forns were able to get past Nantes' defence. For the French team, you would almost only see Nicolas Claire, the centre back. Whenever he passed or scored, everything he did was spot on.
It was one of his assists that put Nicolas Tournat into position just ahead of half-time. The line player scored, Mattias Schulz saved another Spanish opportunity and by half-time both teams were level at 12:12.
Granollers hold on, but Tournat is too strong
If the first half was a rather close thing, the second one soon took another turn and Nicolas Tournat was definitely to blame for this. Scoring six times and forcing Granollers to foul, he was a constant presence among the Spanish defence.
For sure, Valero Rivera scored eight, but the only player you could see on the court was the line player. "I tried not to do anything special really, I just played my game," he said afterwards.
"It's always easier when you've got players like Nicolas Claire or Alberto Entrerrios playing with you, you just have to sneak behind defenders and shoot."
After ten minutes in the second half, Nantes was already three goals ahead (19:16) and not about to let their lead go anytime soon. They never really controlled Granollers until the end though, as the Spanish hold on the best they could thanks to the saves of De Almeida and the ten goals of winger Resina.
"We put everything we could into this game, but Nantes were just a little bit better than us. It's even tougher than were not far from them during the sixty minutes," confessed Marc Canellas.
Eventually winning by only one goal, 27:26, Nantes qualifies for the EHF Cup Final and hope to avenge their 2013 final defeat to Rhien-Neckar Löwen.
TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor
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