Former players secure victory for AG KobenhavnArticle
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Defending champions lose in front of record-breaking crowd inside the Parken Football Stadium

Former players secure victory for AG Kobenhavn

VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-Final, First Leg
AG Kobenhavn 29:23 (16:11) FC Barcelona Intersport
Parken Football Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark

For an official Match Report click HERE.

They are debutants in the VELUX EHF Champions League, but after beating the defending champions FC Barcelona Intersport clearly in the first leg of the quarterfinals the gate is widely open for AG Kobenhavn to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.

Two former players of FC Barcelona were the key to success for AG Kobenhavn against the defending VELUX EHF Champions League champions from Spain. Thanks to eight goals of top scorer Mikkel Hansen and 19 saves of goalkeeper Kasper Hvidt (including four saved penalty shots) AGK is in top position after the 29:23  (16:11) in the first leg of the quarter-finals. The rematch will be played in Barcelona next Saturday (28 April).  FC Barcelona Intersport was stopped by the strong Danish defence and could not reach their usual performing level, as AG Kobenhavn was flying on the wings of success and atmosphere.

The “battle of Kobenhavn” was highly emotional  and the 21,293 spectators attending the match in the Parken Football Stadium, meant a new record for European Cup matches in the history of the EHF.

The match began with a shock for the host: When scoring the 1:0 after only 46 seconds Joachim “Tractor” Boldsen was injured at the ankle, could not return to the field and had to leave the court early to be treated in the dressing room.

But his team mates fought hard for him, especially Mikkel Hansen and outstanding goalkeeper Kasper Hvidt imprinted the starting period. Both sides had built up concrete defence walls, nearly unbreakable for the attackers. As AGK tried to keep Siarhei  Rutenka out of action, the Barca defence focused on Mikkel Hansen.

His team started better, led 6:3 in minute eleven, when really angry Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual took a loud but effective time-out. And this measure worked: As goalkeeper Danijel Saric shut up the shop, the defending champions were able to equalize thank to Rutenka’s goals and the tough struggle of Barca’s line player Jesper Noddesbo.

And when Mikkel Hansen had to be treated after an ankle injury, too, Barca seemed to be able to take the profit. But cheered by the crowd and pushed by Hvidt’s saves AG Kobenhavn again took the control and extended the gap thanks to strong last five minutes before the break to a halftime score of 16:11. Both teams fought for every centimeter on the football pitch, with tough actions on both defence sides and hard struggles for every ball.

In the initial phase AGK was able to keep the five goals distance despite some hammer goals of Barca captain Laszlo Nagy (in total six goals), as on the other hand Mikkel Hansen had restarted his engines after his injury. The Catalans seemed to have some problems with the long break – and when Kasper Hvidt saved his third penalty shot, his team was ahead 21:15 in minute 42. Aside the strong AGK middle block forced Barcelona’s mistake in attack.

And Barca lost their precision and pace in attack completely. Two Hansen hammers brought the first seven goal distance at 25:18 in minute 50 with the spectators jumping from their seats when Hvidt even saved his fourth penalty shot, this time thrown by Juanin Garcia. And the lead for AGK could even have been clearer, but the Danes missed several chances against new Barca keeper Johan Sjöstrand.

Barca coach Pascual reacted, changed the defence strategy in the final stage to a more offensive one with a man-to-man defence against Mikkel Hansen – but due to their weak performance in attack the defending champions could not reduced the gap decisively. 90 seconds before the end AGK still was in lead with a seven goal margin at 28:21.

The emotional clash ended with two red cards against Jesper Noddesbö and Kasper Hvidt, in total 24 minutes of suspensions and good chances for the host to reach Cologne.

For an official Match Report click HERE.

Statements after the match:

Xavi Pascual, coach Barcelona: Kasper Hvidt played fantastic, AG Copenhagen was very good and we did not perform as usual. We hope and need to improve in the second leg and we hope that 7000 spectators will help us on Saturday in Palau Blaugrana.

Magnus Andersson, coach Kobenhavn: It is only halftime now after a fantastic, but really tough match with Kasper Hvidt and our defence as the keys to success. This was a great day for our club and the Danish handball.

Arnor Atlasson, player Kobenhavn: We started well and later-on we showed that we even can cope with injuries of key players like Joachim Boldsen or Olafur Stefansson. Still nothing is decided, as six goals in handball are not that much taken into account that Barcelona had beaten Montpellier with 16 goals difference on home ground. So one half is still missing.

Laszlo Nagy, player Barcelona: We still hope to proceed to the VELUX EHF FINAL4. Today we scored less goals than usual, this was the problem.

TEXT: Björn Pazen