Veszprém take first ticket to Last 16Article
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Sixth straight victory for the Hungarians, Kielce take one point in Barcelona.

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Veszprém take first ticket to Last 16

MKB Veszprém are the first of 24 teams to qualify for the Last 16 in the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League. Barcelona missed their second home victory in a row with a draw against Kielce, as Celje showed signs of life, and Valladolid took a lucky point against Aalborg.

Group A

RK Pivovarna Lasko Celje – Chambery Savoie 35:27 (17:13)

Things can soon change within a week, as shown by the result of the return match of Celje and Chambery. After losing 24:30 in France, the Slovenians have found their way back by beating the same opponent by eight goals on home ground. It was the one and only victory in this group as Kiel vs. Löwen and Barcelona vs. Kielce shared the points.

Celje Coach Miro Požun celebrated, even though he was still missing Luka Žvižej and Ales Pajović, but was still able to send Edward Kokšarov onto the court.

The game was absolutely equal until the score reached 10:10, before Renato Vugrinec scored the decisive goals and Mirko Alilović saved the Chambery shots to make the half-time score 17:13 for the host.

Celje were clearly on the winner’s way and even increased the lead to 20:13, and by the score of 25:15, the match was effectively decided. Three minutes before the end, a ten-goal difference was on the score board, although Chambery reduced that gap to eight goals by the end. Top scorers were Vugrinec (9 for Celje) and Paty (5 for Chambery).

The Slovenians are currently fifth in this group, only two points below Chambery.

FC Barcelona-Borges – Vive Targia Kielce 28:28 (15:12)

Barcelona remain with only a single home victory (against Celje), but have still taken third place of this group, despite Kielce securing their first away point and reducing the gap to the fifth-ranked team of Celje to only two points.

The Catalans took the early initiative in this game. Romero, Igropulo and Sarmiento sought power and speed to overcome Kielce goalkeeper Marcus Cleverly. But Kielce reacted by closing-down Barca’s defence. The direct consequence of that tactic was a few minutes without any team goals being scored.

The Spaniards then found time to consolidate their work by opening-up a four-goal difference to make the score 13:9, before Polish coach Bogdan Wenta used his time-out card. His intervention was not very successful, though, as Barca led 15:12 at the break after a direct Romero free throw after the final whistle.

The Poles fought hard in the second period, and turned the game in the 50th minute, when Mirza Džomba scored to make it 26:27.

Kielce missed the chance to score at the 28:27 stage (following the equalizer of Jesper Nøddesbo), but the result was level at the end. Top scorers were Romero (9 for Barcelona) and Zaremab (6 for Kielce).

Statements after the match:

Rastko Stojković, Vive Targi Kielce player: Congratulations to Barcelona for these two games we've played. It has been two very tough games. We are very proud of the draw achieved in Barcelona. We had the chances to win, but we’re also very happy with this result. As a team, we are growing step by step and hope to continue growing during this season

Victor Tomas, Barcelona player: It seemed we had the game under control with a five-goal lead in the second half, but we relaxed, and this is the result.

Bodgan Wenta, Kielce coach: I’m very happy with the draw. To get a point in Barcelona is important, but we’re still far from the level of Barca.

Xavi Pascual, Barcelona coach: It was an absolute error of concentration. We never had a match tempo today, and in the second half we couldn’t break into the game. Today, I have to apologize to our audience.

Group B

MKB Veszprém – IK Sävehof 38:34 (17:15)

MKB Veszprém are the first team to qualify for the Last 16 with their sixth straight victory. Eleven goals from Marco Vujin, the top scorer of the VELUX EHF Champions League, paved the way to this expected, but close, victory against the Swedish Champion, which remains in fifth with two points, and four points below Montpellier, HSV and Kolding.

The spectators saw a quite close first half, as Veszprém led by two or three goals. But then it took only ten minutes before the one-sided game was decided at the score of 26:17.

Until the 38:32 point, Veszprém were leading by six to eight goals, and Sävehof could only reduce the final score to a four-goal difference. Top scorer of the away team was Aftenbäck with nine goals.

Group C

Cuatro Rayas Valladolid – AaB Handball 33:33 (14:16)

Guillaume Joli saved a lucky point for Valladolid with his equalizer in the last minute, as Aalborg had led for most of the match.

The Danes (still with only one victory in the VELUX EHF Champions League) dominated the game for 59 minutes. They started well, building a 7:3 lead, and maintained their advantage, not only at the break, but until the middle of the second half.

Even after being hauled back to 16:16, the Danes didn’t lose their confidence and pushed-on again to lead 26:23 and 29:26. At 30:30, the very tense final stage began – with the host having the advantage. But the final result was a draw, as Joli scored and saved a point for the home team.

TEXT: Björn Pazen