Pressure on PortlandArticle
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Portland prepared for the decisive Zagreb game with a victory against Leon in the Spanish league.

Pressure on Portland

In 5th round of Group 3, Portland San Antonio have to defeat Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb in Pamplona. Only with two points from this match can hope the team of Javier Cabanas to reach the semi-finals.

Lazarov will meet Nikolic again on SundayThe first match of Zagreb and Portland ended with a clear Zagreb victory (29:23). The main factor of the Croatian triumph was a superb defence of the Cervar-team. They were able to completely neutralised Balic. If the Croatians manage to repeat that great defence, Portland could be in trouble.

The truth is that the two teams know each other very well and there are no secrets any more. Three Croatian players play in Portland: Ivano Balic, Davor Dominikovic and Valter Matosevic. They know Lino Cervar and Lino Cervar knows them.

Zagreb players, Igor Vori and Mirza Dzomba, also have great experience from playing against Portland in the Asobal League and they could be decisive on Sunday.

Portland prepare with a Leon game

On Wednesday, an Asobal league derby was played. Portland defeated Ademar Leon 35:30 (18:12) in Pamplona. The key player was Portland’s 40-year old Svensson who from the very start gave push to his team to get a 7:3 lead. Jordi Ribera was forced to take an early time-out, but it didn't help his team. Portland ended the first half with a six-goal lead, 18:12.

Rusega is nearing his top formIn the second half, the team of Pamplona even had 9 goals of advantage (28:19) but the match ended with 35:30

Svensson was fantastic with 20 saves. He had great efficiency in saving 9-meter shots, an incredible 72%.

Apart from the great Svensson, Portland had a strong defence with Juancho and Jorgensen. Ruesga played in his best form again after a couple of weaker games (scored 8 goals). Malmagro and Kjelling helped him very well in attack.

The Portland victory means that the Cabanas-team have taken the third place of the Spanish league and they are near to qualify for the next Champions League edition.

For Leon, it was also an important game and a tough preparation before their CL game at home against Chehovski Medvedi.

No place for mistakes

Portland have to win on Sunday to reach the semi-finals. Zagreb are not in the same situation. The Croatians may even lose and still have a chance for the CL semi-finals.

Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb are now in a really good situation. Before the start of Main Round, Portland, Flensburg and Hamburg were hoping to get extra away points in Zagreb, but it did not happen. Now, Zagreb secretly hope for points in Pamplona or in Flensburg. If this plan succeeds, Zagreb will end up among the four the best teams of Europe.

The last time Zagreb played semi-finals was in 1999/2000. Their opponent was Kiel back then. History may even repeat itself.

The Portland San Antonio vs. Zagreb Croatia Osiguranje game will be played in Pamplona on Sunday at 18:00 hours. The referees will be Martin Gjeding and Mads Hansen from Denmark. HRT 2 and ehfCL will show the match live, while Teledeporte will show delayed.

TEXT: Ivan Ambros and Fernando Urra Goñi