Bielecki equalises before the final whistleArticle
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Löwen made a draw again with Zagreb and both clubs take two points to the Main Round. Kiel won in Skopje.

Bielecki equalises before the final whistle

The final decision came with the final whistle at a very tense and very high quality game of two top teams. Similarly to the first match in Croatia, Rhein Neckar Löwen shared the points with Zagreb in the decisive match of Group H.

Lazarov player well but missed an important 7-m shotAfter Zagreb were leading for 56 minutes – even with six goals – Löwen took over to win in the final stage. The match ended with a really fair result, a draw. Now both teams will start the Main Round with two points. The top scorers were Sergej Harbok (Löwen with 6 goals) and Kiril Lazarov (Zagreb with 8 goals), but also goalkeepers showed an extraordinary performance.

The atmosphere was great in the Europahalle of Karlsruhe – Löwen had to change the venue due to works in the SAP Arena. About 500 Croatians were there among the 5 482 spectators who were shouting, clapping for their team incessantly.

Zagreb still had to play without their top star, Ivano Balic. The Croatians hope that the playmaker will be fit for the World Championship in their home country. And Domagoj Duvnjak was more than just a substitution of Balic in Karlsruhe: he was the best player in the first 20 minutes.

With his four goals he led Zagreb to a 10:5. At the beginning, Löwen had many problems with an offensive and aggressive Zagreb defence, and RK goalkeeper Gorazd Skof saved nine important shots in the first half-time.

The hosts came closer as Duvnjak had to be treated after a finger injury and goalkeeper Henning Fritz substituted Slawomir Szmal who had a weaker day. Fritz saved five shots, but after 10:13 (26th minute) Löwen missed some great chances again.

Zagreb went away again with easy goals scored from counter attacks. After the break (11:15) the drumming supporters of RNL tried hard to push their team, but the Croatian back court players – Lazarov or Tonci Valcic – were still impossible to stop. It took only four minutes for Zagreb to increase the gap to six goals as they punished all Löwen mistakes with counter attacks. RNL coach Wolfgang Schwenke changed his line-up: the young wing players, Uwe Gensheimer and Patrick Groetzki, put a lot of pressure on the Zagreb defence. Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson moved inside to the middle back position and the Löwen defence – including an outstanding Fritz – was much stronger.

Missing two penalties very easily, the Germans couldn’t catch up immediately. After 20:23 the game became tough and more hectic on both sides. A lot of emotions and great goalkeeping marked the final stage. In the 52nd minute Löwen reduced the gap to two goals for the first time (22:24). And as local hero Uwe Gensheimer scored for 23:24, more than 5000 spectators were standing on their feet chanting for the Löwen.

Six minutes before the end, Grzgeorz Tkaczyk equalised after two great saves of Fritz and two minutes later Groetzki scored the first RNL lead of the game (25:24).

Tense last three minutes started. Zagreb equalised twice before Lazarov missed a penalty shot with 90 seconds to go at 26:26. Löwen, missing their suspended Shelmenko in the very last minute, tried everything, but lost the ball. Manuel Strlek gave Zagreb back the lead from a counter attack (27:26 with 17 seconds before the end), but the Polish international Karol Bielecki equalised again with only moments before the final whistle.


Lino Cervar (coach Zagreb): "In Zagreb Rhein Neckar Löwen were better. Today we were better and we would have deserved a victory. In the last 15 minutes my players didn’t play focused, so we lost a point. Especially Kiril Lazarov believed that the match was over after 45 minutes and he played without discipline.

"As we want to reach the quarterfinal, now we have to win some away matches, but two points are better than none."

Manuel Strlek (Zagreb): "We were the better for 60 minutes, but we have beaten ourselves by losing concentration. In the very end Rhein Neckar Löwen had better alternatives on their bench."

Wolfgang Schwenke (coach Rhein Neckar Löwen): "The atmosphere in the hall was great. After we missed a lot of chances in the first half my players never surrendered until the final whistle. We gave all we had for this point. We would have deserved a victory.

"We wanted to go on with three points, but now – as Lino Cervar said – we also have to win some away match. With three points it could have been possible to go on by only winning at home."

Patrick Groetzki (RNL): "It was a sensational atmosphere and we were highly motivated. I think we would have deserved both points."

THW Kiel won 30:25 (15:12) in Skopje

In the other match on Thursday, THW Kiel kept their spotless record. The decisive game against Barcelona is coming up on 23 November. By winning their fifth CL match in a row, the German champions increased their positive record to 14 victories (in all competitions). The top scorer of Kiel was Vid Kavticnik with eight goals.

TEXT: Björn Pazen