Barcelona and Chekhov book ticket for EHF FINAL4 in CologneArticle
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Russians decide heart breaking match in Montpellier by penalty shoot-out.

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Barcelona and Chekhov book ticket for EHF FINAL4 in Cologne

Chekhovski Medvedi is the lucky winner of the penalty shoot out in Montpellier: As the French team won 32:27 after the 27:32 in Chekhov on Wednesday the penalties had to decid about the EHF FINAL4 participant and goalkeeper Oleg Grams was the Russian hero. On the other hand Barcelona won the second match against Veszprem 34:33 after a clear victory last weekend and didn’t need to shiver for their ticket to Cologne.

Montpellier HB – Chekhovski Medvedi 32:27 (12:14), 5:6 after penalties, first leg: 27:32

Highest tension, deepest sadness for Montpellier, highest emotions for Chekhov: The 14. penalty of the shoot out decided the game, in which Montpellier had to replace their top stars Nikola Karabatic and Vid Kavticnik.

The first half was imprinted by the Russians – after the five goal victory in the first leg they extended the gap to in total eight goals at the score of 9:6. At the break the distance was still seven goals, as Chekhov was in lead 14:12. But then the match changed completely, as Montpellier improved in offense. In minute 40 the host took the lead for the first time (19:18), still 20 minutes to reach out for four goals. But the Russians tried everything to get their best ever result in the EHF Champions League, as they never before had reached a semi final.

Ten minutes before the end Montpellier had increased the gap to three goals (26:23), ten minutes for two goals – and the “equalizer in total”. After Shelmenko (Chekhov) had received a red card the hall went crazy, as Montpellier had reach the nearly impossible: In only 26 minutes they had turneda –7 in a 0 at the score of 30:25 and 31:26 – with this score as the final Montpellier would be in Cologne. The last minute: Ivanow keeps the hopes of the Russian alive with a penalty goal 40 seconds before the end – 31:27 – now Chekhov would be through to the EHF FINAL4. Three seconds to play: Czech international Jan Sobol gets the ball on the left wing, throws – and hits the back of the net: 32:27 – penalty shoot out in Montpellier!

Both first players (Bojinovic and Dibirov) score – 1:1. After Chekhov goalkeeper Grams saved against Guigou, Filipow brings the Russians in front. But as Stojinovic saved against Ivanov, everything’s open again. Honrubia (HBM) misses the goal, Stopinksev and Sobol score – first match ball for Chekhov: If Kamanin hits the goals, the Russians have won. But Kamanin hits the post – another extension of the shoot out after five players. Debirov and Bojinovic score, Fillipov scores – David Juricek need to score to keep Montpellier in the race for the EHF FINAL4 – but goalkeeper Grams saves the ball with his leg. Montpellier’s eliminated, Chekhov is celebrating their ticket to Cologne after a real heart breaking match.

Vladimir Maximov: "Although this season's Champions League has not been completed, with our qualification for the EHF FINAL4 we have already achieved our best result, so I am satisfied. Finally, we were on same level with some of the top Spanish teams of the Asobal league. We broke a 'tradition' by beating Montpellier HB, the champion of the country whose national team has dominated world handball over the last 5 years. I want to thank everyone who supported us and didn't turn away from the team during a difficult period, and I hope that our fan-base at Chekhov will grow following this success."

MKB Veszprem – FC Barcelona 33:34 (19:15), first leg: 33:27

The chance for Veszprem was minimal after the 27:33 defeat in the first leg in Barcelona – and in the end the Hungarians even lost the second match against the Catalans. The Spanish record winner of the Champions League was the first team to qualify for the first ever EHF FINAL4. Again wing player Tomas was the outstanding star for Barca with eleven goals (Garcia hit the back of the net eight times), on the other side Gergö Ivancsik was Veszprem’s top scorer with ten goals. Supported by 5100 frenetic fans in the sold out hall the Hungarians had an ideal start. After the 6:6 Veszprem extended the lead to 15:9 – and equalized in the addition of both matches for the first time. But Barca improved before the break, reduced the gap to 15:19 after 30 minutes. Even as the host scored twice right after the break (21:15), Barca took control of the game and was close to Veszprem at the score of 23:21. The last fire of hope was lighted by the Hungarians three minutes later and the score of 25:21 – but then the better defense and the more alternatives on the bench decided the game for Barca – but very narrow. “Barcelona is a well deserved participant of the EHF FINAL4,” Veszprem coach Lajos Mocsai said: “They have a wide range of world class players in their team, as we only have little options in contrast.” Top scorer Ivanscik added: “We had to play against a real giant. In between we had moments of hope, but in the end, we didn’t have a chance.”

Barcelona’s Hungarian international Laszlo Nagy was really impressed by the audience in Vezsprem, but: “As we managed to handle the second half we were sure that we’re through to the EHF FINAL4. Veszprem was well prepared after the first match and was much better than in Barcelona.” Barca coach Xavier Pascual added: “We love to play in Veszprem because of this outstanding atmosphere. We knew that the Hungarians would try everything to reduce the six goal gap from the first leg, but we kept our patience and found back our rhythm.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen