Szeged among the Last 16Article
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Brilliant day for Hungary: Pick beat Valladolid and Veszprém take the points from Kolding – Sarajevo back on track.

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Szeged among the Last 16

Team number 12 of in total 16 has qualified for the knock-out stage of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League: Thanks to their well-deserved 30:25 over Valladolid, Pick Szeged are part of the Last 16 – and Pick also decided the duel for the number one in this group. Despite their defeat in Winterhur against Schaffhausen on Wednesday Chekhovski Medvedi is already known as the group winner.

The Hungarian champion MKB Veszprém took the hurdle in Kolding and remain on top of group C thanks to 12 goals of Marko Vujin, HSV nearly stumbled in Sävehof and Bosna Sarajevo took their last chance for the Last 16 by winning the thriller against Constanta 24:23.

Group B:

KIF Kolding (DEN) – MKB Veszprém (HUN) 29:34 (11:16)

Marko Vujin makes the difference: MKB Veszprém took their eight victory in their ninth match. Again the top scorer of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League was the match winner. Unstoppable Vujin scored 12 times (eleven field goals) and nearly decided the top match of Group B on his own despite ten missed shots. He increased his lead in the CL top scorers list to incredible 83 goals after nine games.

The game was on highest level and full of tension until the final stage. Veszprém started well with a 9:4 lead, but Kolding – frenetically supported by a full arena- stood strong and reduced the gap to 10:11. But at the break a five goal difference was again on the score board.

Thanks to the saves of goalkeeper Ole Erevik and the counter attack goals of Lars Christiansen (KIF top scorer with six goals) the Danes were close to turn the game in the middle of the second half. In minute 54 the distance was only two goals at the 26:28 – and the hopes of the host were rising. Right then the powerful Veszprém back court players, led by Vujin, took over control again. Thanks to a 4:1 goal series to 32:27 the Hungarians decided the game – and who else than Vujin should have scored the final goal of this match.

Kolding remain with ten points and Veszprém are still number one with 16 points now. If Montpellier beat Presov on Sunday the final clash of the French and the Hungarian champion has to decide about the number one in this group. As Veszprém won the first encounter only with a one goal difference they have to be aware in Montpellier.

Statements after the match:

Lajos Mocsai, coach Veszprém: “We are very satisfied as we controlled the game throughoutthe whole 60 minutes and took a well-deserved victory. Especially I have to thank our medical staff for their work from which we could take the profit. The Danes tried to catch up several times but we always managed to stop them. Perez and Vujin played excellent.”

Marko Vujin, player Veszprém: “It was great to play here and we are very confident after this victory. We were well prepared on our opponent which could not surprise us.”

Ingemar Linnell, coach Kolding: “Even when we were close with a two goals difference we could not settle our normal play.”

Anders Petersen, player Kolding: “It was a great atmosphere thanks to our supporters and also the Veszprém side. Overall we did not play bad but in the decisive moments we made too many mistakes.”

IK Sävehof (SWE) – HSV Hamburg (GER) 31:34 (18:18)

Though they had to replace some injured players HSV Hamburg did not expect such a close game and such a hard work in Sweden. The Germans decided the match in the last four minutes, but Sävehof played extremely well against the favourite. With now eleven points HSV have overtaken Kolding, rank third ahead of the Danes – and will meet KIF in their last encounter.

The game was something like a private duel of Johan Jakobsson (Sävehof) and Michael Kraus (Hamburg). In contrast to the final result of the match this duel was won by the Swedes, as Jakobsson scored eleven times, Kraus ‘only’ ten goals. Hamburg was surprised by the strong start of Sävehof. After the 13:10 the host extended the gap to 17:12 – but then HSV woke up. By scoring six straight goals they turned the game and took the lead at the 18:17.

And Sävehof remained on eye level after the break. Until the score of 28:28 in minute 48 the lead had changed constantly and no team could increase the gap. But in the final ten minutes Hamburg had advantages in attack as Sävehof lost their powers. When Stefan Schröder scored the 32:30 the winner’s way was paved, latest Vori decided the game with his 33:30.

Statements after the match:

Martin Schwalb, coach Hamburg: “We had big problems in the first half as we lost too many balls and our defense was weak. And one saw that we had to replace some key players. But now I am glad that we took those points thanks to our fighting spirit.”

Mikael Franzen, coach Sävehof: “We played really well in the first half. But it was disappointing that the halftime result was 18:18 after we had been leading with five goals intermediately. Even when we had the chance to win I have to say that Hamburg was the better team.”

Matthias Flohr, player Hamburg: „Our defense was much too open before the break – and we were punished for every mistake. But after the break we fought hard to turn the game.”

Group C:

Pick Szeged (HUN) – Cuatro Rayas Valladolid (ESP) 30:25 (17:12)

Big dance after the final whistle – and Frantisek Sulc made his words come reality: The Slovak had mentioned in an interview with “We will beat Valladolid and will qualify on Saturday!” For his club it is the first qualification for the Last 16 stage since 2007.

The first half was imprinted by Szeged’s efficient back court shooters and the saves of goalkeeper Roland Mikler. After the 0:2 the Hungarians paced up and put the Spaniards under pressure. But after the 7:5 Valladolid found their rhythm and took the lead back at 10:9.Thanks to a 8:3 series Szeged turned the match again – and even missed the great chance to go with a six goal lead to the dressing room with the halftime whistle.

After the break the host remained dominant as Valladolid had enormous problems in attack. The Szeged defense stood strong and the Spanish strikers caused too many technical mistakes. So the arena started celebrating early – as Pick had increased the lead to 22:15. When Gabor Herbert received a red card in minute 45 Valladolid tried hard to leapfrog. But Szeged remained calm. Building on a still wall-like defense, the saves of the new goalkeeper Peter Tatai and the cleverness of their shooters the distance remained between five and six goals until the end. Top scorers for Szeged were Butenko (7) and Lekai (6), Joli scored six times for Valladolid.

Due to this defeat Valladolid missed their last chance to become number one in the group – and now they are even endangered by Szeged, as the Hungarians are only one point below before the last Round. If Minsk do not win their home match against Aalborg on Sunday all four participants in this group are known before the last match day. Only with a victory the Belorusians could hope for the Last 16 by overtaking Schaffhausen.

Statements after the match:

Laszlo Skaliczki, coach Szeged: “The key to success was to stop the Spanish play makers – and fortunately we took control of them. Thanks to the audience which was another part of this victory in this tough match. We have reached our goal and this feels great.”

Juan Carlos Pastor, coach Valladolid: “We wanted to win or at least take a draw to be sure second in the group, but unfortunately we could not do this. Szeged defended well and even when we took the lead in the first half, they stood strong. In the second half we tried hard to turn the game, but we only came closer but could not turn the game. We have to continue in fighting to become second in the group.”

David Katzirz, player Szeged: “This game gives us strength and confidence for the next challenges. I am proud of the team, each player and the audience. It was impossible to play weak attended by such a crowd.”

Marko Krivokapic, player Valladolid: “I do not understand why we played such a terrible game, maybe it was the trip. But this is sports, once you win, once you lose. Now we have to win our last game to secure the second place in our group. I am sure that we put ourselves together.”

Group D:

Bosna Sarajevo (BIH) – HCM Constanta (ROM) 24:23 (11:13)

Dragan Marjanac was in the middle of a big bunch of players after the final whistle – as the goalkeeper was the hero who saved the victory for Bosna Sarajevo. Six seconds before the end he saved an incredible shot from the wing position – and anything later-on in Sarajevo was a just party.

The match was more a battle than handball – as the importance was so big for both teams. By the second straight victory Bosna jumped over Constanta and St. Petersburg (each four) with no five points and are on the fourth rank for the first time in this season. For the Romanians two points would have more than one leg in the door to the Last 16. Before the last Round Bosna is in the better position – and all three opponents face the top ranked teams.

The game was a tough fight for every centimetre with a lot of suspensions, fouls and disruptions. Thanks to their strong goalkeeper Constanta dominated the first 27 minutes and led well-deserved 13:8. By scoring four consecutive goals Bosna came back to life – and from the 12:13 on the atmosphere was more than hot in the Skenderija.

Outstanding Igor Karacic (top scorer with eleven goals) paved the way to the first ever Bosna lead at the 18:17, but Constanta fought back to the lead again, before the thrilling last three minutes started at the score of 22:22.Despite a man disadvantage Bosna scored the 23:22. Then Constanta’s Chike Osita Onyejekwe received a direct red card after a foul against Karacic and Petar Kapisoda seemed to decide the game with his penalty goal to 24:22 80 seconds before the end.

Typical for this clash the last minute started with in total nine field players on the ground. Constanta reduced the gap to 23:24 by a penalty goal by Stavrositu. By releasing the goalkeeper the Romanians tried everything to get at least one point. But even as they had two attacks in the last 25 seconds they failed to score. Top scorer for Constanta was Branislav Angelovski with six goals.

TEXT: Björn Pazen