QUARTER-FINAL REVIEW: Saint-Raphael Var Handball and RK Nexe are very close to the EHF Cup Finals after first leg of the quarter-finals.
Saint-Raphael and Nexe secure EHF Cup quarter-final wins
Saint-Raphael Var Handball and RK Nexe are both on track for the EHF Cup Finals, for which hosts SC Magdeburg have already qualified.
In the first leg of the quarter-finals on Saturday, Saint-Raphael won at home against Fraikin BM. Granollers, while Nexe defeated Füchse Berlin 28:20.
Quarter-final, first leg
Nexe, who have never been this far in a European competition before, took a major step towards the EHF Cup Finals with this eight-goal win in front of 2000 spectators on Saturday evening.
Füchse were missing line player Erik Schmidt and left back Stipe Mandalinic as well as their versatile right-hander Mattias Zachrisson, and this seemed to be too much of a handicap against a well prepared and well playing home team who could have secured an even bigger win.
Apart from a 2:0 lead for Füchse at the beginning, Nexe dominated the first half.
A strong home defence and a similarly strong Kristian Pilipovic in goal meant the visitors only scored five goals in the first 22 minutes of the first half.
The Nexe attack made use of this to change a 5:4 deficit into a 9:5 lead, and the hosts were five up again at 11:6 before taking a three-goal lead with them to half time.
In the second half, a powerful Nexe defence continued to cause Füchse trouble, as did Pilipovic. This way, Nexe increased their three-goal lead from half-time to 10 before finally winning by eight.
Sasa Barisic scored eight goals for Nexe, Fabian Wiede and Hans Lindberg five each for Füchse.
Saint-Raphael Var Handball (FRA) vs Fraikin BM. Granollers (ESP) 37:23 (17:10)
Mathematically, Saint-Raphael are even closer to the final tournament than Nexe, after the French side beat their visitors by 14 goals.
Despite enthusiastic support from a small number of Spanish fans, Granollers were only able to keep the match equal until 2:2. From 4:2, Saint-Raphael moved to 7:3, 11:5 and 16:8.
The strong French defence and inventive attack were simply too tough for the visitors.
Early in the second half, Saint-Raphael got 11 goals up, and even playing seven against only helped Granollers to keep the distance between nine and 11 goals for a while.
Towards the end Saint-Raphael were able to increase their lead even further, leaving very little doubt ahead of the return match in Spain next Sunday.
Alexander Lynggaard and Raphael Caucheteux scored seven goals each for Saint-Raphael, and Marc Canelles and David Resina four each for Granollers.
TEXT: Peter Bruun/jh
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