Gaberšek and Vlah steer Celje to sensational victory
In their first group match at Aalborg, the young guns of RK Celje Pivovarna Laško were already tough nuts to crack. In their first home match of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League in more than a year, they underlined their ambitions with a sensational win.
Thanks to 10 goals from Aleks Vlah and 13 saves from goalkeeper Gal Gaberšek, the Slovenian record champions took a well-deserved 38:36 victory against THW Kiel. Even 10 strikes by Patrick Wiencek were not enough for the four-time champions.
Both sides are now on two points after two rounds.
RK Celje Pivovarna Laško (SLO) vs THW Kiel (GER) 38:36 (17:14)
- after Kiel’s flying start for an 8:4 lead, Celje turned the tide thanks to the exceptional performances of Aleks Vlah, who scored seven goals in 15 minutes, and goalkeeper Gal Gaberšek to pull ahead to 15:11
- Kiel’s biggest time to celebrate before the break was when new Norwegian arrival Petter Øverby netted for the intermediate result of 7:4. This was THW’s 10,000th goal in Champions League history
- any expectations that Kiel would take control from the re-start were wrong – and it took a long time for THW coach Filip Jicha to switch his goalkeeper from unlucky Tomas Mrkva to Niklas Landin
- in minute 39 with a 25:19 lead, Celje seemed to be on the way to victory already, but then Patrick Wiencek struck back at both ends of the court
- when the visitors were close to reducing the deficit to 27:29, they missed three chances and Celje pulled ahead again. Finally Matic Suholeznik secured the victory, scoring for 38:34
Celje are used to surprising German teams
In 2004, RK Celje Pivovarna Laško became Champions League winners for the first and so far only time – and they beat a German club in the finals, SG Flensburg-Handewitt.
Since then Celje have routinely managed to surprise German clubs, and their victory against Kiel was not a one-off. In just the last five seasons they beat Flensburg twice (23:29 in 2018/19 and 25:24 in 2019/20) and Kiel (29:26 in 2017/18) and Rhein-Neckar Löwen (37:31 in 2016/17) once each.
I told the team before the match that if we give our best, we can get into a situation which would allow us to challenge Kiel. We fought like lions, helped each other in every segment of the game. We knew we are a faster team and that’s what we wanted to use, beside working hard in defence.
We couldn’t stop them, we conceded too many goals and that was the key for the home team's deserved win. It was a typical Champions League match, now we need to analyse it well and rise again as soon as possible.