Hamburg and Löwen book tickets to CologneArticle
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As HSV qualification was expected, Löwen win at Montpellier with a nine goal difference.

Hamburg and Löwen book tickets to Cologne

Thanks to a sensational second half, 20:9 goals in 30 minutes and an outstanding goalkeeper Slawomir Szmal Rhein Neckar Löwen turned the page against MAHB Montpellier after the break and qualified for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 after losing the first leg on home ground. Hamburg is the second German team in Cologne after the draw in Chekhov.

Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS) – HSV Hamburg (GER) 37:37 (14:19)

Hamburg was the first team to qualify for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne – as expected after the clear 38:24 victory in the first leg. But the Germans had enormous problems with the Russians for 45 minutes, but then could continue their unbeaten record against Chekhovskie with their second draw after four victories in their sixth match. In addition the 14 goals remained.

Chekhovskie was absolute willing to win this game and took the profit from a weak start of HSV. After the 9:3 the Russians extended the lead to eight goals at the 15:7 and were really close to equal the huge disadvantage. But then Hamburg recuded the gap to five goals at the break.

Hamburg started better in the second half and scored two straight goals with two players more on the field. Chekhovskie tried hard to keep the lead but 15 minutes before the end the match was leveled for the first time at the 28:28 and three minutes later HSV took the lead for the first time at 32:31. Even as the Germans went away to 35:33, Chekhovskie equalized again in the final minutes thanks to their top scorers Siarhei Harbok and Dmitry Kovalev who each hit the back of the net eight times. Best HSV scorer was Domagoj Duvnjak with seven goals.

Statements after the match:

Martin Schwalb, coach HSV Hamburg: „Maybe the result from the first match was to clear for us, as we felt much to secure. We really did no find our usual style of performing in the first half, as Medvedi put us under pressure and caused enormous problems. But after the break our attack improved and we played full speed. Now we are really looking forward the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.”

Vladimir Maximov, coach Chekhovskie Medvedi: „We missed the ticket to Cologne already in Hamburg. Our major problem is that we rarely faced top teams. At the break we led with five goals – the same number Hamburg was in advantage in the first leg. But then HSV accelerated and we could not stand this speed anymore. My biggest wish is that we were eliminated by the upcoming winner of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

MAHB Montpellier (FRA) – Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER) 26:35 (17:15)

They knew whom to thank after the final whistle: All Löwen players jumped upon their goalkeeper Slawomir Szmal, who was the super hero of this match –as Montpellier again failed in the Quarterfinals despite their away 29:27 away victory in Mannheim last Sunday. With heads hang low and knowing that they only scored nine times against Szmal after the break the French Champion left the field. For them it was their second international defeat in their new Arena after the opener against Hamburg, as the Löwen continued the series of sensational away victories after the games in Kiel, Zagreb and Barcelona.

The gap of two goals had even been extended after the break, when Montpellier seemed to be in Cologne with an intermediate result of 17:15 and an in total advantage of four goals. As the Löwen defence improved and Szmal closed the gate Montpellier became nervous and did not find anymore means to stop the German express.

With three straight goals after the break Löwen took the lead at 18:17 for the first time, only six minutes later the gap was three goals for the first time at 24:21 – enough to qualify for Cologne Later-on Montpellier collapsed totally except Nikola Karabatic who was the only MAHB player in normal form. Ten minutes before the end the last French will was broken at the 28:23 the rest was a Löwen party full of goals. Top Löwen scorer was CL number 1 scorer Uwe Gensheimer with ten goals, in total now he has 108 goals on his account, Nikola Karabatic and Mladen Bojinovic each scored six times for Montpellier.

Statements after the match:

Mladen Bojinovic, player Montpellier: “This match was the biggest disappointment of my career. It was a nightmare.”

Patrice Canayer, coach Montpellier: “The match was of high quality. We missed decisive shots in the crucial stage of the match, as Löwen strengthened their defence. I felt as if we were physically and psychologically at the end. It is obviously a huge disappointment to be eliminated in this stage of this competition.”

Gudmundur Gudmundsson, coach Rhein Neckar Löwen: “It was the best defence performance since I am coach of Löwen. We are absolutely happy with this result as we were weak in the first leg, but prepared perfectly for the decisive game in Montpellier.”

Thorsten Storm, Löwen manager: “The players have learnt to wait for their chances. Only top teams have this patience – and we are on the right way to become a top team. I am absolutely proud on those players. We showed the will to win and found the right means in defence.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen