Barca through, still three places openArticle
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Minsk, Barcelona, Löwen, Ciudad Real and Montpellier win Sunday’s matches of Round 9.

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Barca through, still three places open

As last season’s finalist FC Barcelona-Borges qualified as 13th team for the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League still three places are open before the final Round of the Group Phase. In groups A, C and D the fourth place will be decided next weekend. Aside only one group winner – Chekhovski Medvedi in group C – is known before Round 10. Kiel, Veszprém and Ciudad Real still can be overtaken - another fact for the closeness of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League this season.

The Sunday’s matches of Round 9 were under the motto “time for revenge”: Löwen took revenge for the draw in Kielce, Barcelona took revenge for the defeat in Chambery and Ciudad Real took revenge for the draw in Zagreb.

Group A:

The two first positions are known one Round before the end: Thanks to their victories against Celje respectively Kielce THW Kiel and Rhein Neckar Löwen secured the first two places – but the constellation still can change. Kiel is one point ahead of their German opponent. Even a clear 38:23 victory against Chambery did not help Barcelona-Borges to have the chance to overtake the German duo, as the Catalans still rank two points below Löwen and three below Kiel. But this victory meant the qualification for the Last 16. The final decision of the fourth participant for the Last 16 will be taken in the last Round, as Chambery and Celje are still equal with six points. Chambery will host the Löwen and Celje play at home against Barcelona. If they remain equal Celje is qualified thanks to the direct encounter.

Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER) – Vive Targi Kielce (POL) 29:27 (11:13)

Löwen performed much weaker than one week before against Barcelona but luckily and deserved took the points against the Polish champion. In the first 20 minutes Kielce played with an aggressive defense and forced Löwen to make mistakes. So the 2500 spectators in Eppelheim were surprise when the Poles led 11:6.

But then the Germans woke up: Some saves of goalkeeper Henning Fritz, some goals of Uwe Gensheimer – and the Löwen scored a 8:2 series for taking the lead at 14:13. But the host still did not play their usual style. Hendrik Knudsen and Rastko Stojkovic played brilliant for Kielce – so the Poles were close until the end. At the 24:24 everything was completely open again – and even three consecutive goals of the Löwen Polish international Tkaczyk, who will transfer to Kielce next season, did not decide the game. Kielce again reduced the gap to 27:28 before top scorer Uwe Gensheimer raised his arms after the 29:27 – his seventh goal five seconds before the end. Rosinski and Knudsen each scored six times for Kielce.

Statements after the match:

Bogdan Wenta, coach Kielce: “If we would have played all matches like this we would still be in the race for the Last 16.”

Gudmundur Gudmundsson, coach Löwen: “We did not play well, but in the end we secured the second rank. This is what counts for us.”

Uwe Gensheimer, player Löwen: “We had two big problems today: The first one was the defense, the other one the attack.”

FC Barcelona-Borges (ESP) – Chambery Savoie (FRA) 38:23 (20:7)

Easy going for Barcelona before the tribute celebration for their former legendary goalkeeperDavid Barrufet – after losing 26:27 in Chambery the Catalans really took revenge against the French runners-up. Barcelona played dominant for 60 minutes. After a 6:1 start of the host Chambery was in a state of shock. Iker Romero extended the gap to ten goals for the first time at the score of 16:6. Thanks to in total twelve saves of goalkeeper Danijel Saric in the first 30 minutes Barca increased the distance to 13 goals at the break – the game was already decided. At the 23:8 it were 15 goals for the first time before Barca decelerated. Top scorer was Victor Tomas with eight goals.

THW Kiel (GER) – RK Pivovarna Lasko Celje (SLO) 43:27 (23:16)

Like Barcelona, like Kiel: Also THW did not have any problems against Celje in their last home match of the Group Stage. The Germans were as dominant as Barcelona against Chambery – and the 10.250 spectators saw an impressive number of 70 goals. Every Celje mistake was punished by counter attacks – and the Slovenians aside failed against outstanding THW goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer. For Kiel it was the sixth victory and the fourth one on home soil.

Led by Filip Jicha and Aron Palmarsson Kiel increased the lead very early to 12:5 in minute 15. With full speed the reigning champion, which remains on top of their group, overran Celje.

But it took until minute 43 when the distance were ten goals for the first time at the score of 31:21 – then the guest resigned completely. Thanks to their speed, their alternatives and their individual class Kiel dominated specially the final stage. Milutin Dragigevic scored the 40:25 in minute 54 - the first 15 goals difference, and in the end it were 16 goals. Top scorer was Jerome Fernandez with eight goals in eight attempts.

Group B:

Montpellier Agglomeration HB (FRA) – Tatran Presov (SLK) 40:25 (19:11)

Montpellier is ready for the clash of the titans in Round 10: Next Sunday they host MKB Veszprém in the final duel for the group victory. The Hungarians are ahead with two points but the French team only need a victory with a two goal difference to become number one.

The match against Presov was an easy exercise – and it was the sixth straight Montpellier victory in the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League season.

Montpellier took the match very serious and showed a dominant performance though they had to replace Michael Guigou, Luka Karabatic and Vid Kavticnik. Guigou will miss the next four weeks due to an injury. After the 6:1 Presov had their strongest period and reduced to 6:7, but then Montpellier started their express mode and overran the Slovaks like an avalanche.

At the break the distance were eight goals and in the second half youngster Maxim Arvin Berod (19) scored his first goals in the EHF VELUX Men’s Champions League. On the other side Presov goalkeeper Krupa also scored – one of the little highlighters of the Slovaks. Again the atmosphere in the new arena was great – the spectators are well prepared for the final showdown in the Group Stage, too.

Statements after the match:

Rastislav Trtik, coach Presov: “We did not play so bad but every mistake of our young team was punished by Montpellier. Bojinovic and Karabatic made the difference. In the second half we tried to come back but we failed. Montpellier is a candidate for the VELUX EHF FINAL4.”

Patrice Canayer, coach Montpellier: “We are very satisfied with the result. After winning in Hamburg we knew that we had to be aware of Presov. In the end we really overcame our opponent, but the score does not exactly show the difference between both clubs, as Presov is a strong team. Now we start to prepare for the crucial game against Veszprém – but even winning the group does not already mean the access to the VELUX EHF FINAL4.”

Nikola Karabtaic, player Montpellier: “It was fun to play today and we are very happy with the result. We were absolutely focussed latest when we knew that Vid Kavticnik would not play like my brother and Michael Guigou. We played very fast and I think the spectators saw a good show.”

Group C:

HC Dinamo Minsk (BLR) – Aab Handbold (DEN) 33:31 (16:17)

With 5:1 straight points from the last three matches Dinamo Minsk still can hope for the Last 16 – but need a little wonder after the Schaffhausen and Szeged victories before. For AaB the international appearance for this season is over. Minsk have to pray for a victory at group leader Chekhovski Medvedi in Round 10 and that Schaffhausen lose in Valladolid – then the Belarusians have reached the knock-out stage.

The Danes started better and were in front at the break, even as Dinamo were in lead most of the time. Though Minsk improved AaB seemed to be on the winner’s way at the score of 28:24 – but then failed too often in the final minutes when Dinamo decided the game at the score of 33:31.

Group D:

Renovalia Ciudad Real (ESP) – RK Ossiguranje Zagreb (CRO) 30:20 (16:12)

Goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik was the match winner for Ciudad Real. The Spaniard taught a lesson in goalkeeping even as Zagreb keeper Sego also saved well. The result looks quite clear, but the game was absolutely close until minute 37, when the score was 17:16 for Ciudad Real. But as Sterbik closed the gate then the Croats did not score for 13 minutes and Ciudad Real decided the match with a 8:0 series to 25:16.

The starting phase was equal even as Ciudad Real did not give the lead from their hands after minute 3. After the 10:9 they extended the gap to 16:12 at the break and right after scored the 17:12. But then Zagreb changed the goalkeeper to Sego and the Spaniards had big problems in attack. With 4:0 goals in a row the Croats came closer to 16:17 – but then Sterbik and the Ciudad defense stood in their way. Luc Abalo scored the last goal which meant the one and only ten goal difference. So Ciudad Real learnt the lesson from their first defeat in this VELUX EHFMen’s Champions League last Sunday in Flensburg.

Due to this defeat Zagreb has lost the direct encounter against the Spaniards after the draw in the first match. The Croats cannot become group winner anymore as they rank three points below Ciudad Real. If Flensburg beat Bosna on Wednesday the Spaniards need to win in Constanta to remain number one of the group in the end. Zagreb still can overtake Flensburg if they lose and Zagreb win.

TEXT: Björn Pazen