Hamburg and Medvedi through to the knock-out stageArticle
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First two Last 16 participants of group A confirmed, as Constanta grab their last chance.

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Hamburg and Medvedi through to the knock-out stage

After Veszprém, Barcelona, Berlin and Kielce two more teams have made their way to the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League. In their last international match in 2012 HSV Hamburg and Chekhovskie Medvedi marched in step in Group A, topping the table by eleven points each after beating León and Belgrade. Most probably the direct duel in the first 2013 VELUX EHF Champions League round will decide the group winner.

In Group B HCM Constanta cheated the gallows by a well-deserved home victory against Sävehof. Currently four teams are equal in points below the top trio in this group.

Group A:

HSV Hamburg (GER) – Reale Ademar León (ESP) 32:26 (16:14)

After initial problems HSV Hamburg improved after the break to secure a clear victory against Ademar León. While the German marched already to the Last 16 by 11 points now, the Spaniards remain by 3 points – and will have tough challenges ahead to proceed to the knock-out stage, as Montpellier can increase the gap to already four points on Sunday.

But the small León squad played a perfect first half with a lot of tactical variations and caused big problems to the HSV defence, which was – due to some injuries – not in their usual composition. Especially Iosu Goni was unstoppable, scoring the half of León’s 14 goal before the break. On the other hand it was again Hamburg overall top scorer Hans Lindberg, who was responsible for the decisive goals of the Germans. The biggest gap in the first 30 minutes was a 12:9, then a time-out of León coach Manolo Cadenas stopped the intermediate small downswing.

And after the break Hamburg stood themselves in the way by missing to many clear chances to decide the encounter early.

But when 2007 world champion Michael Kraus took the responsibility, HSV went on the winner’s way. A double strike and a brilliant pass to line player Igor Vori, who had no problems in scoring, made the margin grow to 27:21 in minute 46 – and the resistance of the really brave fighting Spaniards was broken, who totally improved from their disastrous domestic defeat at Barcelona.

And the main reason that they had not been beaten that clear in Hamburg, was still Goni, who scored in total 11 goals for Ademar. And intermediately the emotions went wild, when Felipe Borges received a red card. But finally León was chanceless, as goalkeeper Dan Beutler saved brilliantly and Marcin Lijewski scored goal by goal to finish as best Hamburg scorer with seven strikes.

“We have a brilliant base now. We are aiming to finish first in the group and we can be proud that we are already through to the Last 16,” HSV right wing Stefan Schröder said after the match in an interview with Eurosport.

RK Partizan Beograd (SRB) vs. Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS) 27:31 (14:11)

The duel of the youngest against the oldest coach of all 24 VELUX EHF Champions League coaches ended with a well-deserved win for the “godfather of Russian handball”, Vladimir Maximov against his counterpart Alexander Brković. Like León in Hamburg, Belgrade stood brave against the favourites for a long time, but finally could not manage another sensation.

Partizan showed a strong defence performance against the physical stronger Russians in the first half, but when the Medvedi engines were running after the break, the Serbs had no chance to stop the Russian champions.

Five days before the “Čair” Arena in Niš will be host of the Preliminary Round of the Women’s EHF EURO the spectators stood as one behind their men’s team. And they cheered even louder, when Partizan continued the way they had played in their home match against Montpellier, leading constantly in the first half though they had to replace their team captain Nenad Maksić.

And they really missed him after the break, when the Russians had built a concrete defence wall, allowing the host only six in the first 15 minutes of the second half and turning the match around. Medvedi easily increased the gap to a seven goal distance seven minutes before the end. Top scorers were Timir Dibirov with seven goals for the Russian champions and Uroš Mitrović and Bogdan Radivojević with five strikes each for Partizan.

The Serbs remain on the bottom line of this group with only two points.

Group B:

HCM Constanta (ROU) – IK Sävehof (SWE) 28:23 (18:9)

The race for the fourth position in this hammer group is fully open again after the opener of round 7. Below top ranked Veszprém (12 points), THW Kiel (8) and Atlético Madrid (6) currently all four remaining teams have four points on their account, promising three thrilling final rounds.

After beating RK Celje on home ground, HCM Constanta sent a crucial sign of life by their well-deserved victory against the Swedish champions. The improvement of the Romanian champions had already been significant in their two close defeats against Madrid, but now they were gifted by two important points.

And again Laurentiu Toma was one of the Constanta match winners, hitting the net seven times, as Sävehof missed a huge chance to make a step towards the Last 16. Goalkeeper Mihai Popescu stood in the way of the Swedes, who again had shut up his shop, especially in the crunch time before the break.

Constanta grabbed their last chance already in the first half, when they extended the margin constantly to pre-decisive nine goals after an early 14:6 lead. Right in the beginning of the second half the result was double-figured at 19:9 – and this margin remained until the 26:16, when the match was finally decided. To reduce the gap to five goals in the end, was nothing else than result cosmetics by the Swedes, who lost the direct encounter after the 35:31 victory in the first match too.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br