Ciudad make the final in close endgameArticle
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Hamburg beat Ciudad Real by 32:26 - one goal short of reaching the final.

Ciudad make the final in close endgame

Hard work, palpable tension, emotions on both sides: the Spanish champion Ciudad Real are the first finalists of the Champions League season – but they had to shiver until the very last seconds of their second semi-final in Hamburg.

Sterbik's decisive saveAlthough the team of Talant Dujshebaev lost the second leg in Hamburg on Friday evening by 26:32 (11:14), the seven-goal lead from the first match (34:27) was enough. More than 13.000 spectators in the Color Line Arena of Hamburg and the 14 HSV players did their best  – but in aggregate Ciudad were the better team with the better goalkeeper and the better defence. However, they also needed a lot of luck to go through to the final as HSV had the chance to go on in the very last minute.  

Hamburg can be proud: in their first CL season ever they proved to be the toughest opponents of Ciudad so far this season.  The best scorers were Pascal Hens for Hamburg (9 goals) and Olafur Stefansson and Siarhei Rutenka  for Ciudad Real (both six  goals).

The teams were not able to step on court with their best teams. HSV’s world champion Torsten Jansen could not play due to an injury, while Oleg Velyky, Stefan Schörder and Matthias Flohr were sure to miss the game. On the Ciudad Real side, Croatian international Petar Metlicic is still injured with his broken hand, while Chema Rodriguez is also missing the rest of the season.

Tough duel: Hens vs DinartThe first half was marked by two strong defensive sides and by the outstanding performance of Bertrand Gille who scored four times despite playing with a broken rib.

In the very beginning the game was a tie until 3:3. After that the 13.000 spectators really supported their team and Ciudad were really impressed by this atmosphere - as Hamburg coach Martin Schwalb hoped, they really raised the roof... 

Hamburg went on with four consecutive goals to 7:3 – and half of “Project 8” was realised in a very tough match with a lot of injury breaks on both sides, dominated by two “defensive walls”. But by making some mistakes in offence, Hamburg became weaker and Ciudad Real’s goalkeeper, Árpád Sterbik (in the end the decisive factor) also improved.

After 23 minutes the Spanish team again were close at 8:9, but until the break Hamburg took back a three-goal lead (14:11).  

It was obvious that HSV’s backcourt players, Hens and especially Yoon, had  some problems with the Ciudad defence. At the beginning of  the second half Siarhei Rutenka scored twice in one minute – and Ciudad were back on track again at the score of 14:13.

The atmosphere of the hall was unbelievableAnd the match became even tougher. David Davis was injured seriously in the 34th minute and Torsten Laen  took revenge in the next HSV attack (and was suspended for two minutes). 

Ten minutes later HSV was ahead with three goals (23:20), but it didn’t look like HSV would be able to enable the “Project 8”, as Ciudad now were stronger at the 7-metre line than in the first half.

There were only 15 minutes to play and for Ciudad were still comfortable with a 24:22 lead of Hamburg. Even as Hens now played in world class form, the Spanish defense (including goalkeeper Sterbik) were still massive. Siarhei Rutenka was also in an improving form.  

For HSV, Danish European champion Hans Lindbergh showed one of his best matches in HSV ever and scored seven  goals. But in the end it was not enough for the German runner-up of last season.

Hens kept scoring and HSV increased their lead to 32:26 (58th min). Then Ales Pajovic was suspended and Ciudad had to play the last minute with one player less on court. The last chance for Hamburg arrived, but Sterbik saved 20 seconds before the final whistle. 

Ciudad’s Olafur Stefansson failed against Johannes Bitter and received a red card for making a faul against the goalkeeper just two seconds before the end.  

Final whistle: HSV disappointed, Ciudad dancing and celebrating.

For Hamburg the  Champions League finished. In their first participation they reached  the semifinals, while Ciudad Real can hope for their second title after 2006.

TEXT: Björn Pazen