FINAL REVIEW: LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals hosts Frisch Auf Göppingen defend their title to win a record fourth trophy
Prost and Kaufmann steer Göppingen to historic EHF Cup trophy
They were the last to defend and win the last title in the old format of the EHF Cup. On Sunday evening Frisch Auf Göppingen became the first to defend the title in the new EHF Cup format. Thanks to a clear 30:22 win against Füchse Berlin in an all-German final, the hosts of the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals made history and started a huge party with their fans.
FINAL: Füchse Berlin (GER) vs Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER) 22:30 (13:15)
The fans went crazy, the players jumped for joy – and finally the whole EWS Arena was a party in green and white. Göppingen have made history and turned a so far weak season in the Bundesliga into a great one on the international stage.
Magnus Andersson's team finished the EHF Cup season with a clear record of 10 victories in 10 matches, qualified again for the next EHF Cup season – and defended their trophy.
Besides goalkeeper Primoz Prost and left back Lars Kaufmann, the incredible support from the stands in the sold-out arena was a key to Göppingen's success in both games this weekend – eliminating both favourites Magdeburg (33:29) and Berlin (30:22). It was the first ever defeat for Füchse Berlin in a final.
Berlin started strong
The first 12 minutes were all Berlin's with goals of Petar Nenadic and saves by goalkeeper Silvio Heinevetter. Both were keys for a 5:2 lead. But Göppingen struck back after Andersson called an early time-out, turning the tide and making the fans shout and sing even louder.
First it was goalkeeper Prost's saves, then the hammer goals of 2007 World Champion Kaufmann (five before the break, eight in total), which turned the match around. For his performance in the final, he was awarded MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals.
Within nine minutes, Göppingen scored a 6:2 run to be ahead for the first time at 8:7. Even a time-out by coach Velimir Petkovic did not stop the Foxes' downswing, with an unusually high number of technical mistakes.
With the fans creating an incredible noise and atmosphere, the defending champions even extended the gap to three goals at 11:8 for the first time. But somehow Füchse recovered, boosted by Heinevetter and Hans Lindberg's goals. The Dane, who became the EHF Cup top scorer with 92 goals in total, netted in five times in the first 30 minutes and finished on seven strikes.
Göppingen give fans reason to party
But one Lindberg and one Heinevetter were not enough for Füchse. Behind by 13:15 at the break, the 2015 EHF Cup winners could not stop Kaufmann, who was on a roll, and in the initial period of the second half they failed too often against impressive Prost to level the result.
When Zarko Sesum netted in for 22:18 in the 42nd minute, Göppingen fans were already on their feet. One minute later, Petkovic gathered his team for the next time-out.
The number of Berlin mistakes continued to rise. In minute 49, they looked like they had given up when Daniel Fontaine hammered in for a lead of 25:19.
The green and white wall in the stands went crazy and the rest of the match was a party for the hosts, even before the trophy was handed over by EHF Competition Commission chairman Bozidar Djurkovic to Frisch Auf team captain Manuel Späth.
Touching the stars
Füchse Berlin coach Petkovic congratulated their opponents on the win, saying Göppingen coach Andersson had "touched the stars" by winning the trophy and defending the title.
"We did not show our best possible performance. I know how hard it is to beat Göppingen in this arena, when the atmosphere is as it was today. Maybe we were the favourite, but our key players are too young to have enough experience for matches like those," he said.
Andersson said: "I am so proud on this team, everybody knows what we played in the last six months. Now we played incredible handball for two days with a huge fighting spirit.
"Lars Kaufmann made a fantastic game today. He could have even scored from the dressing room today," Andersson added. "Lars is so dangerous and scored so many important goals. Now we have a party, but on Tuesday morning, we start preparation on the next Bundesliga match against Balingen."
He credited the fans for their support, saying: "This title is not only for the team, but for every fan, they helped us a lot."
Kaufmann, who won the Most Valuable Player award, said the win was particularly sweet for him.
Kaufmann said: "This was my last chance to win a trophy in my career. I was fully focused, nobody could expect that I have a flow like this. I am extremely proud of my team and the fans."
TEXT: Björn Pazen / jh
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