F.C. Barcelona Borges triumph at VELUX EHF FINAL4Article
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The Catalans win the trophy for the seventh time.

F.C. Barcelona Borges triumph at VELUX EHF FINAL4

A world class performance of goalkeeper Danijel Saric and great team play brought F.C. Barcelona Borges the title at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. The Catalans took the trophy well-deserved – and in total for the seventh time – after beating Renovalia Ciudad Real.

In 2010 they lost the final, in 2011 F.C. Barcelona Borges were unbeatable at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne – and all players knew whom to thank after the final whistle: Danijel Saric.

The Bosnian goalkeeper of the Catalans saved the unbelievable number of 26 shots in 60 minutes. All 19,750 spectators in the LANXESS Arena cheered for Saric and gave standing ovations to the new VELUX EHF FINAL 4 champions.

For F.C. Barcelona it was the seventh title in the EHF Champions League history and the first since 2005 – when they had beaten Renovalia Ciudad in the Final. Top scorers in a most of the time one-sided Final were Jesper Noddesbo with eight goals for the new champions and Jurkiewicz and Lazarow with each five goals for the La Mancha team. But over all heroes was Saric and also his counter part Jose Javier Hombrados, who played outstanding, too, and saved 18 shots.

Both finalists were forced to replace 50 percent of their ordinary goalkeeper line-up due to injuries: Like in the semi-final against Rhein-Neckar Löwen Johan Sjöstrand could not play for F.C. Barcelona Borges and was replaced by young Gonzalo Perez de Vargas.

On the other side Arpad Sterbik arrived on crutches at the LANXESS Arena after his severe leg injury that occurred in the semi against HSV Hamburg. Renovalia Ciudad Real had to react and brought in Antonio Carreno Rodriguez by plane to Cologne. He arrived only four hours before the starting whistle.

But of course both Spanish teams started with their usual keepers Jose Javier Hombrados (Ciudad Real) and Danijel Saric (Barcelona). And both left the biggest footprints on the VELUX EHF Champions League Final. Until the break Hombrados saved ten shots, but Saric had the match of his life: In the first 30 minutes he did not only save the incredible number of 13 shots including two penalties, but even scored a goal himself, the 12:10 when he threw the ball over Hombrados into the net.

The first half of the Final was also imprinted by five goals of Barca line player Jesper Noddesbo and a surprising high number of unforced errors for Renovalia Ciudad Real. Even the experienced players lost balls and caused technical mistakes – or failed against the “human wall” Saric.

After an equal start F.C. Barcelona Borges scored four times in the last nine minutes of the first half, as Renovalia Ciudad Real missed all shots after the 10:10 and only scored nine field goals in the first 30 minutes.

Barca punished the mistakes of their opponents with counter attack goals – and could have been much further ahead than 14:10 at the break, if Hombrados would not have saved so brilliant.

And nothing changed after the break: Saric remained unbeatable, F.C. Barcelona Borges played strong in defence and attack and Renovalia Ciudad Real lacked the means to score goals. The margin reached new heights at the 19:12. And in contrast to 2010 when Barcelona lost despite a six goal advantage 20 minutes before the end against THW Kiel, things had changed as Barca seemed to have learnt their lesson.

At the score of 22:15 in minute 44 everything looked safe and well for Barca, but then Renovalia Ciudad Real showed they are still alive. By reducing to a margin of four goals and the obvious fact that F.C. Barcelona Borges had lost their strength and confidence in attack, the team from La Mancha saw a chance to turn the game.

But those hopes did not last that long – three goals by wing players Garcia and Tomas made the Catalan fans go crazy, singing their “Barca, Barca” song as the intermediate result was 26:19 and only eight minutes to play. Everything was decided, the party started on the Barca bench. Renovalia Ciudad Real reduced the gap to three goals in the end but had to accept that their Spanish opponent was the clear better team.

VELUX EHF Champions League Final 2010/2011:
F.C. Barcelona Borges (ESP) – Renovalia Ciudad Real (ESP) 27:24 (14:10)

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TEXT: Björn Pazen