Löwen sensation in BarcelonaArticle
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Germans take the fortress Palau Blaugrana, as Kiel and Szeged win their season’s opener of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

»EHF CL Channel »2010-11 Men's CL
»Group Phase

Löwen sensation in Barcelona

Group A:

THW Kiel – Chambery Savoie 35:23 (21:10)

The reigning champion started their “mission Final4” with a clear and absolute dominant victory against the French runners-up from Chambery. The match was pre-decided in minute 20 as Kiel had extended their lead to ten goals for the first time (15:5). Chambery couldn’t break through the strong THW defense and caused too many mistakes before the break – punished by Kiel in a champion’s manner. Jerome Fernandez showed his international debut in the “Zebra” shirt – and coach Alfred Gislasson could change a lot as the victory was never endangered. Until the pre-decision Kiel played unstoppable then they decelerated without losing the control in this one-sided match attended by 10.250 spectators in the sold-out arena. The Chambery resistance was broken very early, only line player Gregory Detrez showed some spectacular actions and was top scorer for the French with seven goals – the same as THW top scorer Filip Jicha. For Kiel the second half wasn’t more than a training session. The only bad news for the Germans: Five minutes before the end Serbian back court player Momir Illic had to be replaced due to an ankle injury.

Statements after the match:

Alfred Gislasson (coach THW Kiel): “It feels good to start like this. I’m satisfied how we played, especially in the first half.”

Philippe Gardent (coach Chambery Savoie): “We knew before that Kiel plays with counter attacks due to their strong defense. We kept up with THW at the very beginning, but at the end of the first half Kiel had scored twelve times by counter attacks. It’s not the same level of handball we play in contrast to Kiel, but I promise to play better in the re match.”

Thierry Omeyer (goalkeeper Kiel): “A great match with a great atmosphere. We played exceptional in the first half, especially in defense. It’s not easy to win with such a great distance in the VELUX EHF Champions League and I believe it will be a tougher fight in Chambery.”

Edin Basic (player Chambery): “We haven’t been on eye level and we’re not able to keep up with a team like Kiel. But we played very poor in the first half and have been punished for every mistake we made. The result says everything about our performance.”

Jerome Fernandez (newcomer Kiel): „It was a great pleasure to play for Kiel for the first time in the VELUX EHF Champions League. It’s quite different to play in the Sparkassen Arena and wear the THW shirt than being the opponent here. The fans gave me a warm welcome which made me feel great.”

FC Barcelona-Borges – Rhein Neckar Löwen 30:31 (13:14)

Perfect start for new Löwen coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson, first home defeat for last season’s finalist Barcelona in theVELUX EHF Men’s Champions League since the first group match day last season, as they lost against THW Kiel: Thanks to a late goal of newcomer and topscorer Ivan Cupic (in total ten goals) Rhein Neckar Löwen sensationally won at Palau Blaugrana as the last Barca shot by captain and top scorer Laszlo Nagy (7 goals) was blocked by the German defense two seconds before the end.

The match was on world class level – and the host was close to decide the roller coaster game at the score of 25:21 in minute 51 after an intermediate series of 8:1, but the Löwen fought hard two days after their former coaches Ola Lindgren and Kent-Harry Andersson had been fired by chairman Jesper Nielsen. Thanks to a 6:3 series they took the lead again at 28:27 and didn’t give it from their hands until the final whistle. The strong performance of goalkeeper Slawomir Szmal and four consecutive goals before the break were the reasons why the Germans went to the lockers leading 14:13. They even extended the gap to 19:16 before the reinforced Barca team improved – but in the end this wasn’t enough to take the points in a match Barca could have won.

Statements after the match:

Gudmundur Gudmundsson (coach Rhein Neckar Löwen): “I’m totally satisfied, we were the more clever team in the decisive stages of the match. The victory was a result of our strong defense and our discipline in attacks. Our team showed a perfect winner’s mentality.”

Ivan Cupic (topscorer Rhein Neckar Löwen): “We wanted to proof that we’re a top team and performed perfectly for 60 minutes, thanks to our fighting spirit. We always believed in us. It was a great joy to be part of this team today.”

Thorsten Storm (manager Rhein Neckar Löwen): „It was an absolute roller coaster, but we’re really happy, as you don’t win in Barcelona every day. We have fought hard for those two points and we deserved this victory.”

Group C:

Pick Szeged – Kadetten Schaffhausen 29:26 (12:10)

Even as it was the first of ten matches for both teams the importance was high concerning their common goal to go on to the Main Round. 2000 spectators saw a close match in which even seven goals of Estonian talent Mait Patrail weren’t enough for the Swiss champion to take the points. For Szeged Törö scored six times, Lekai hit the back of the net five times.

But match winner for the Hungarian runners-up was goalkeeper Roland Mikler with his spectacular and important in total 24 saves. Kadetten started better but especially after the break they caused too many mistakes in their attacks so that Szeged was in advantage. But the match remained equal until minute 47, before the “great Mikler show” started.

TEXT: Björn Pazen