Kiel, Kolding and Zagreb in the Last 16Article
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Some surprises in Round 8 of the VELUX EHF Champions League

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Kiel, Kolding and Zagreb in the Last 16

By winning their eighth matches of the VELUX EHF Champions League THW Kiel, KIF Kolding and RK Zagreb have made the step to the Last 16. SurprisinglyValladolid only tied against Minsk. Celje and Sarajevo took their last chances to keep the fire for the knock-out stage burning.

Group A:

Chambery Savoie (FRA) -THW Kiel (GER) 26:28 (16:12)

Thanks to their fifth victory reigning champion THW Kiel qualified for the Last 16 and remained on top of group A. But the Germans had to struggle hard for their points as Chambery was a tough opponent. By losing their first home match in this season the French remain with six points and were overtaken by Celje (equal in points). Top scorers of the match were Filip Jicha (Kiel/9) and Cedric Paty (Chambery/7).

THW started well and led 5:2, but then the Germans had enormous problems in scoring. Thanks to a 9:2 series Chambery had turned the match at the 11:6. This distance remained until the break before Kiel improved. In minute 38 Jicha reduced to 16:17, before Klein equalized at the 19:19. Now the spectators saw an open fight for the points. But in the final stage Jicha showed why he was awarded World Handball Player of the Year: The Czech international took the responsibility in his team – and by scoring the 27:25 he decided the game.

HC Pivovarna Lasko Celje (SLO) – Vive Targi Kielce (POL) 30:29 (12:14)

Sign of life by the Slovenian champion: Thanks to this high tensioned victory Celje is still in the race for the Last 16, as the Kielce hopes have come to an end after Round 8 with still four points.

In the first match after the earthquake in Zlatorog arena many expected a David against Goliath story, but it was an epic thriller for the whole match. Both teams knew only the victory could bring them to the Last 16 and both started with a great determination. The new Celje without Zorman, Kozlina, Gajič, Pajovič and Vugrinec had to rely mostly on youngsters but they showed an enormous effort and Kielce could not jump further than to a two goals difference. Knudsen created another two goals lead two minutes left in the first half, but Polish champion were far from a safe ride for two points. The goalkeeping show on both sides (Alilovič and Cleverly) kept going after the break. Toskič did not use his chance to level the score (15:16) and moments later Džomba push guests to three goals lead after ten minutes of the second half (15:18). But young gunners from Celje refused to give up and not only evened up, but managed to turn the score over (22:21) despite playing in a one man disadvantage. Celje ran to 24:22, but desperate Kielce came back (25:25) five minutes before the end. Gašper Marguč sent his team flying and all home supporters standing again and after his counter-attack (28:26) Kielce coach Bogdan Wenta had no other choice than to take the time-out. But his players first lost nerves and after the final Alilovič save and the buzzer the chance to qualify for the best sixteen as well.

Statements after the match:

Bogdan Wenta, coach Kielce: “We came with a big chance to qualify and were very well prepared for a big fight. In the first half our play was OK, but then our performance broke down. We had cracks in the defense and did not play counterattacks at all. We can only congratulate to our opponents. Their younger players were hungrier for victory than our experienced guys.”

Markus Cleverly, player Kielce: “We really believed in our chances we wanted to punish young Celje for their mistakes, but it was other way round, we were punished. We had to win this match and now the situation is different than we expected.”

Miro Požun, coach Celje: “I  am very happy with this victory, because of the situation in the club. the players showed how you have to fight for your club. This will be a bust for our team. We have to focus on our play and we will see what happens in Kiel, where young players will see that atmosphere for the first time in their lives. In the first half we paid too much respect but after the break we improved and with some luck we beat Kielce.”

Gašper Marguč, player Celje: “I am delighted for me and for my team mates as we wanted to show we can play a big handball. I want to thank all the spectators who believed us, came today and helped us. They were our eighth player tonight and although it was not full we felt their support.”

Group B:

MKB Veszprém (HUN) – Tatran Presov (SLK) 33:22 (21:10)

Easy victory for Veszprém – and a right preparation for the tough matches ahead in Kolding and Montpellier. With now 14 points the Hungarians – who had been qualified for the Last 16 before -have best chances to remain on top until the end.

The game against Presov – now the only team without a victory among the 24 participants of the VELUX EHFChampions League – was close only in the first eleven minutes. Then the higher individual class decided the game very early. Presov scored only two goals from minute 14 to minute 30 and Veszprém extended the gap easily from 8:6 to 21:10.

Despite seven goals of top scorer Radoslav Antl Presov could not decrease the distance – and Veszprém did not have to work too hard after the break to get a clear win. MKB top scorer was Marco Vujin with six goals.

Statements after the match:

Lajos Mocsai, coach Veszprém: “We defended very good, with a strong and tactically high-quality performance. We played with great pace, great dynamics, punishing the Presov errors starting from the initial stage. In all critical moments we dominated the game.”

Rastislav Trtík, coach Presov: “The first half we could not keep up with the very strong Veszprém offense. We are very happy to be part of this great atmosphere in this arena.”

KIF Kolding (DEN) – IK Sävehof (SWE) 32:26 (21:11)

For the eighth time in history KIF Kolding progress from group stage in VELUX EHF Champions League. By needing only one point against Sävehof this objective was clear in focus before the match against the Swedes. Before the game HSV – Montpellier they even have overtaken Hamburg with now ten points. All four teams going to the Last 16 from group B are known.

The winner was obvious very early as Kolding came over Sävehof like an avalance and led 10:2 and 18:8. With the half time score of 21:11 Kolding could decelerate comfortably without losing the control of the game. Even losing the second half 11:15 against the Swedes did not cause any harm.

"We played probably one of our best halves of the season in the first half, as everything succeeded”, KIF top scorer Lars Christiansen (nine goals) said. Best Sävehof scorer was Erik Fritzon with seven goals.

Group C:

Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) – Pick Szeged (HUN) 31:27 (12:15)

Back to life: Kadetten Schaffhausen took revenge for their home defeat against Minsk and stepped close to the knock-out stage with now seven points (one point below Szeged). But the Swiss champion will have to meet the top teams from Valladolid and Chekhovski still. Szeged – remaining on third position with eight points – missed the chance for an early qualification.

Kadetten took the points because of their improvement after the break. As Szeged was stronger in attack and defense in the first 30 minutes they led well-deserved 15:12 – but then the great time of Kadetten goalkeeper Björgvin Gustavsson started. His saves gave confidence to his team mates but it took still 17 more minutes before Schaffhausen equalized for the first time at the 24:24. But then the game was turned completely and Kadetten decided this crucial match five minutes before the end at the score of 29:26. Top scorer was Mait Patrail (Kadetten) with eight goals, Butenko, Lekai and Zubai each scored five times for Pick.

Cuatro Rayas Valladolid (ESP) – Dinamo Minsk (BLR) 27:27 (10:14)

Valladolid (now eleven points) have nearly reached the Last 16 despite surprisingly losing one point against Minsk. If AaB do not take at least one point against Chekhov on Sunday the Spaniards are through to the knock-out stage.

The Belorusian champion again showed their strength in away matches after the victory in Schaffhausen and remain on track with five points – two points below fourth raked team from Switzerland.

Surprisingly Minsk was the physical stronger team for 60 minutes especially thanks to their top scorer Pavel Atman who hit the back of the net nine times. After a strong period in the middle of the first half Minsk took the lead and extended it to four goals at the break.

But thanks to an improving defense Valadolid reduced the distance goal by goal led by Tvedten and Joli who each scored seven times. In the end the draw was well-deserved but for Valladolid the tie was a small defeat concerning the fight for the top position in this group against Chekhovski Medvedi.

Group D:

Bosna Sarajevo (BIH) – HC St. Petersburg (RUS) 25:24 (16:11)

With their first victory in their eight match Bosna kept the fire burning for the Last 16. Though remaining on sixth position the Bosnians reduced the gap to Constanta and St. Petersburg to only one point with two matches ahead.

Bosna played a brilliant first half: After the 5:0 Sarajevo extended the gap to 14:6, before the Russians came closer to five goals at the break. Then the Bosnian-Russian roller coaster started in minute 52: St. Petersburg equalized at the score of 22:22 after Bosna had lost their rhythm completely. In the heart attacking final stage Kapisoda missed the lead for Bosna as then St. Petersburg missed the great chance for their first lead by failing from the penalty line at the score of 23:23 against goalkeeper Uvodic. Despite another Bosna lead Andrej Ljasenko equalized 20 seconds before the end. Bosna coach Irfan Smailagic released his goalkeeper – and Rakovic decided the game nearly with the final whistle by scoring the 25:24. Top scorers were Celica (7 goals for Bosna) and Poljakov (five goals for St. Petersburg).

HC Croatia Ossiguranje Zagreb (CRO) – HCM Constanta (ROU)  34:30 (19:16)

Zagreb is through to the Main Round with twelve points on the bank as Constanta will have to struggle hard in their next two matches to go to the knock stage with still four points.

Zagreb coach Ivica Obrvan had to replace several injured players so his team was not as dominant as expected especially as Constanta fought hard for the surprise. But led by Balic, Gojun and top scorer Manuel Strlek (ten goals) Zagreb was the better team in defense and attack. Despite the nine goals of Toma Constanta could not take the control of the game.

TEXT: Björn Pazen