Close battles in Montpellier, Kielce, Berlin and SkopjeArticle
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Nothing decided in five duels of the Last 16, Kiel already through to the Quarterfinals, Kobenhavn on the best way to next stage.

»EHF CL Channel »2011-12 Men's News

Close battles in Montpellier, Kielce Berlin and Skopje

The first part of the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions has come to an end with four thrilling matches on Sunday: Montpellier (against Barcelona), Kielce (against Koper), Berlin (against Hamburg) and Metalurg (against Skopje) each took highly close home victories – but in those encounters, like in the duel Leon vs. Veszprem, nothing is decided before the second leg.

Only Kobenhavn took a clear away victory at Sävehof, which paved the way to the Quarterfinal, like Madrid did on Thursday in Schaffhausen.

Already one team, THW Kiel, have reached the next stage by beating Plock for the second time in only five days.

Last 16 VELUX EHF Champions League:

Second leg:

THW Kiel (GER) vs. Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) 27:24 (15:10)

First leg: 36:24 (14:12)

For the 13th time in the last 15 years THW Kiel have reached the quarter-final of the EHF Men's Champions League. After the clear 36:24 victory on Wednesday at Plock there had been no doubt that the Germans would proceed, so they could save some powers in the re-match on Sunday. THW extended their series to 43 unbeaten matches in the last 44 games on national and international level.

Orlen Wisla Plock fought hard to avoid to be overrun again and they really improved compared to the first leg. On the other side Kiel did not play with full concentration and missed several chance – so the distance at the break were only five goals.

In the second half Plock played much more engaged like on Wednesday, but could not endanger the THW victory, even as Kiel replaced top star Filip Jicha very early. Momir Ilic was top scorer with eight goals – and now his club wait for the draw on 27 March, whilst their possible opponents need to play their second leg matches.

First leg:

Füchse Berlin (GER) vs. HSV Hamburg (GER) 32:30 (15:15)

The all-German encounter was close until the end. Like in both previous league duels everything was equal for 60 minutes. After 60 minutes the host was the lucky winner in a match full of tension – which meant the first defeat for HSV in this VELUX EHF Champions League season.

It was the first official return of HSV club director and President Martin Schwalb on the bench – as coach next to Jens Häusler. Aside German international Michael Kraus had his comeback, whilst on the other side Sven-Sören Christophersen was eligible to play after the Füchse appeal against his one match suspension had been accepted by EHF.

And Christophersen imprinted the first half as the top shooter with six goals. Like in both league matches of this season the all-German encounter was on the edge.

Berlin had the better start thanks to their highly aggressive defence and led 7:4 and 10:8, before HSV turned the game at the 12:11 – but could not carry their two goal distance (15:13) to the dressing rooms, as the host equalized right with the break.

In the second half no team was able to increase the gap to more than two goals – first HSV led 22:20, then Berlin scored four consecutive goals. The final stage was completely nail-biting until the very last minute – when Hamburg missed two shots, Bartlomiej Jaszka grabbed his chances and secured the two goal victory with a double strike.

Top scorers were Christophersen (Berlin) and Hans Lindberg (Hamburg) with each eight goals. But despite the HSV defeat – nothing is decided yet.

Statements after the match:

Martin Schwalb, coach HSV Handball: I congratulate Berlin despite the fact that it is currently only half-time of this duel. We really gave all, I am proud on my team, unfortunately we did not reach a draw.

Dagur Sigurdsson, coach Füchse Berlin: We know that this result does not mean any cushion to rest on. The constantly changing lead showed how equal both teams were. But now I am satisfied and proud that we are the first team to beat HSV in this season of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Montpellier Agglomeration HB (FRA) vs. FC Barcelona Intersport (ESP) 30:28 (17:11)

A tough and heart-breaking first leg match of two top contenders left no trace or hint for the second leg: After Montpellier had dominated the first half, Barcelona reduced the gap finally to two goals. Bitter moment for the host: Right wing Vid Kavticnik was severely injured at the knee, maybe a rupture of the crucial ligament occured.

The Arena Rene Bougnol went crazy after 30 historic minutes of Montpellier. Like it was before changing to their new arena, Rene Bougnol was the fortress they had hoped for, known from several handball classics. After some weak performances on home ground in the Group Stage Nikola Karabatic and his team mates showed an excellent firework and stopped the defending champions in the first half.

After only six minutes the score was 6:2, and at 8:4 Barca coach Xavi Pascual had seen enough and took his time-out. As Montpellier goalkeeper Primosz Prost had a brilliant day his mates extended the lead from minute to minute. Bojinovic scored the 14:6 – and those eight goals were the biggest gap in the whole match. After 30 minutes the French champions still were away with six goals.

But then the defending champions showed their real faces – wanted to end their series, as they never had won before at Montpellier. It took only ten minutes when Siarhei Rutenka scored the equalizer at 19:19, but the main reason for this improvement was goalkeeper Danijel Saric.

But when the host had adapted also to the changed Barca defence system, the express was running again: Thanks to four straight goals they led 23:19 and later-on 25:20, before the hard fought final stage started. Barcelona reduced the gap goal by and when Noddesbo scored the 28:27 everything was open. After this goal some fights broke loose on the field, causing several two minutes suspensions and later-on a red card for Wissem Hmam (Montpellier).

In the end Montpellier kept their winning series against Barcelona  - but a two goal advantage means nothing for the re-match.

Statements after the match:

Xavi Pascual, coach FC Barcelona Intersport: It was a typical match for the knock-out stage of the VELUX EHF Champions League of two teams, willing to proceed to the VELUX EHF FINAL4. Montpellier played better in the first half, we improved after the break. And I hope that we can play better next weekend to go on to the quarter-finals.

Patrice Canayer, coach MAHB Montpellier: All our thoughts are with Vid Kavticnik, we will play for him at Barcelona. After we had played a strong first half, Barcelona came back, especially thanks to Saric. But despite our victory – it is only half-time now.

Vive Targi Kielce (POL) – RK Cimos Koper (SLO) 27:26 (13:12)

A brilliant catch-up chase in the final ten minutes saved Vive Targi Kielce from a fatal home defeat. But the close victory against the Slovenian champions does not mean that much, as Cimos Koper is known to be even stronger at home.

Kielce – pushed to the limit by their fantastic spectators – started strong and extended their lead to 12:7 and 13:8, before the guests took their time-out in minute 25. It helped, as then Koper scored five straight goals to the 13:13 equalizer right after the break.

Kielce lost their rhythm and efficiency in attack and was below for the first time at 17:18 in minute 39. But the Poles did not wake up then, in contrast: Led by their top scorers Dejan Bombac and Matjaz Brumen (in total eight goals) the Slovenians extended the distance to 20:17 (minute 43) and 24:21.

But as the hall stood as one behind the home team again, Kielce was able to turn the game in the last ten minutes: First Dennis Buntic equalized at 24:24 with his sixth individual goal, then Tomasz Rosinski brought back the lead at 27:25. In the end Kielce took a home victory – but with the smallest possible difference.

RK Metalurg (MKD) vs. RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) 19:18 (7:9)

Metalurg took a hard-earned and close victory, which leaves chances to both teams in the second leg. The first 20 minutes were something like a re-match of the EHF EURO 2012 semi-final Serbia vs. Croatia, when the Croats fought hard with extraordinary Serbian goalkeeper Darko Stanic. And he was the reason why the match had not been decided early. With his saves the Serb kept the Metalurg hopes alive.

Both teams were extremely focused on their defence sides, which resulted in the fact that at the break only 16 goals had been scored. After Metalurg had the better start with 3:2, Zagreb took control as their defence stood like a wall and the Macedonians lacked the means to get through. In minute 22 Zagreb was in front 7:4, but Metalurg reduced the gap to two goals at the break.

And the result remained nearly equal until the middle of the second half, still with strong defence sides. When Metalurg scored a 3:0 series the Boris Trajkovski hall went crazy, as the host had turned the game and grabbed back the lead at 14:13. And as Zagreb became nervous Skopje even could increase the distance to16:14 and 18:16. When goalkeeper Petar Angelov saved a penalty shot of Marko Kopljar the gate was open for a clear victory, but in contrast Zagreb rose again and reduced to 19:18. With 30 seconds to go, Metalurg coach Lino Cervar took his time-out, but the final attack of his team was blocked.

IK Sävehof (SWE) vs. AG Kobenhavn (DEN) 25:34 (9:19)

An easy walk for AG Kobenhavn in Sweden which means more than opening the gate to the Quarterfinals in their first ever participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League for the Danish champions. Already at the break, when the guest led with a ten goals difference, the match was decided. Sävehof was only able to imprint the starting period, when the Swedish champions were in lead 5:4 and 9:6.

In the middle of the second half the gap was 13 goals at 10:23. Only in the end, when Kobenhavn saved some powers, the host could catch-up a little, but never was able to endanger AGK, which had signed Peter Henriksen as substitute for injured goalkeeper Steinar Ege before.

TEXT: Björn Pazen