Chambery and Bosna take the last ticketsArticle
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The final decisions of the Group Phase in the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League.

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Chambery and Bosna take the last tickets

Thanks to their victory against Rhein Neckar Löwen and the parallel defeat of Celje against Barcelona Chambery Savoie took the fourth position in Group A and qualified for the Last 16. In Group D St. Petersburg lost in Zagreb and missed the chance to enter the knock-out stage. With one point more on the bank Bosna Sarajevo took the fourth place – now all 16 teams for the draw on Monday in Vienna are known. Also the third group winner is obvious: Reigning Champion THW Kiel is already number one in Group A after the Löwen defeat and before their match in Kielce on Sunday.

Group A:

Chambery Savoie (FRA) – Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER) 32:27 (17:16)

Their fourth victory brought Chambery the fourth place: The French runners-up again could count on their strength on home ground and their spectators to take the crucial points. Löwen were far away from their normal performances and finished second in this “group of death”.

Chambery started strong and were well prepared on the Löwen tactics. Only Löwen keeper Henning Fritz stood in their way to an early decision. After the 8:8 and 10:10 the Germans had their best period and put pressure on the French which had lost their rhythm. But after a time-out of coach Philippe Gardent Chambery re-improved and took a one goal lead to the dressing room.

And in the next 15 minutes the team from the Alps overran the Löwen. Thanks to an 11:5 series the French decided the game at the score of 28:21 as Löwen caused one mistake after the other. Löwen had resigned as Chambery played like in trance and extended the gap to 31:22 in minute 53. Knowing they had won the game Chambery started celebrating a little bit too early so Löwen could catch up to 31:26 before outstanding youngster Benjamin Masson Pellet scored the 32:26 – and the party started – but the French had to wait another 35 minutes before they had known they were through to the Last 16. Top scorers were Basic and Bicancic with each six goals for Chambery and Stefansson with eight goals for Rhein Neckar Löwen.

Pivovarna Lasko Celje (SLO)– FC Barcelona-Borges (ESP) 27:30 (15:16)

The Slovenains know they had to beat Barcelona at halftime, as then result from Chambery was confirmed – and the Slovenian young guns did everything possible to beat the Spaniards, but in the end they failed. 4500 spectators caused a lot of noise to support their team for the “mission impossible” and despite having a complete new team Celje played much better than in the away match in Barcelona (33:44).

The starting period was not looking good for the home team: The Catalans led 7:5 and 12:8 especially thanks to the saves of their Bosnian goalkeeper Danijel Saric, before Celje coach Miro Pozun took his time-out. And his players understood what he was saying: Thanks to four straight goals Celje equalized then took the lead for the first time at 14:13. The hope was still alive even when Barca was in front at the break.

And the hope had one name: Gasper Marguc – in total he scored ten goals for Celje – and it was his job to lead the catch-up chase. But the 23:22 was the last Celje lead in this game, before Barcelona extended the gap three times to three goals (26:23, 27:24 and 28:25). When Marguc scored his tenth goal the distance was only one goal (27:28/58.), before Ex-Celje player Siarhei Rutenka (Barca top scorer with six goals)latest decided the game with two straight hits to the final result.

Barcelona finish Group A ranked third and will mostly have to face a top opponent in the Last 16.

Group C:

Cuatro Rayas Valladolid (ESP) – Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) 35:26 (15:13)

Valladolid secured the second place and Schafhausen remain on fourth position after this clear result. After some weaker performances the Spaniards showed their real strenght and left Kadetten without a chance.

Both teams were on eye level until the final stage of the first half as Valladolid could not increase the gap. But then goalkeeper Tomas Svensson shut the gate, saved in total 17 Kadetten shots and paved the way to the victory after the break. Valladolid decided the game with a 9:5 series from 16:14 to 25:19 – then Kadetten gave up. Especially from the wing positions Valadolid was highly efficient, aside pivot Eduardo Fernandez caused a lot of problems to the Swiss defense and scored six times, but top scorer was World Champion Guillaume Jouli with eight goals. Stojanovic and Ursic each scored five goals for Kadetten.

Group D:

RK Croatia Ossiguranje Zagreb (CRO) – HC St. Petersburg (RUS) 31:21 (16:11)

Croats help Bosnians: Thanks to their clear victory Zagreb paved the way for Bosna Sarajevo to the Last 16. So St. Petersburg is the last of three debutants of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League to miss the knock-out stage. Bosna rank one point ahead of St. Petersburg and Constanta in the end. After Flensburg had beaten Bosna on Wednesday it was obvious that the Croats would finish third in this group and will face a second rank team in the Last 16.

Though they did not play with their top team and with full speed Zagreb continued their series on home ground and remained unbeaten. Zagreb took the control very early and did not have any problems to beat the Russians clearly in the end. Top scorers for the host were Stepancic and Strlek with each six goals.

TEXT: Björn Pazen