Metalurg and Velenje make it to the Last 16Article
«Go back

Three clubs of group C already confirmed for the knock-out stage, as Barcelona and Veszprém keep their clean record and Szeged grab their chance against Zagreb.

»EHF CL Channel »2012-13 Men's News

Metalurg and Velenje make it to the Last 16

The teams seven and eight for the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League have been confirmed on Saturday afternoon: Thanks to their each fifth victory in their seventh match, Gorenje Velenje (Slovenia) and RK Metalurg (FYR Macedonia) have qualified for the knock-out stage. Due to this results, only one Last 16 spot in Group C is open, as top ranked Vive Targi Kielce had made their way to the knock-out stage already before.

Chambéry (still zero points) and St. Petersburg (2 points) mathematically still have chances to progress, but their fate can already be sealed on Sunday. In case Bjerringbro take at least a draw against Kielce, all four participants for the next stage would already be confirmed in this group.

In Group D Barcelona left Schaffhausen chanceless, taking their seventh victory in their seventh match. Aside, Veszprém have the optimum of 14 points after taking over the Celje fortress. Szeged beat Zagreb in a crucial match for the Last 16 spot in Group D.

Group B:

RK Celje Pivovarna Laško - MKB Veszprém 19:24 (9:11)

5500 spectators – including 1000 from Veszprem – caused a brilliant atmosphere in the Zlatorog arena in Celje. And for 30 minutes the home fans could hope for the next sensation after beating defending champions THW Kiel two rounds ago. But exactly this result made the Hungarians be aware – and they finished this task highly concentrated and victorious.

Veszprém – like Barcelona – have the optimum of 14 points on their account, while the Slovenian runners-up remain with four like Sävehof and Constanta in this open fight for the fourth position.

Veszprém´s coach Carlos Ortega had told his team before to show greatest respect for the hosts: “Before the match we knew that this is going to be very tough, since Celje plays really good at home. We have prepared really well for this match and performed with an extraordinary defence which was the key for the victory. Celje had many problems to score, proved by only 19 conceded goals.  Anyway I want to congratulate Celje, they have really young and talented team, which has shown some great plays and I am sure that they have very bright future ahead.”

After Celje had started by a 4:1 series right from the start, the Hungarians took control and turned the match already before the break. And it took only six minutes in the second half to extend the margin to five goals for the first time at 15:10. But Celje did not resign, kept the distance at four goals until the 18:22, before Veszprem geared up to express mode in the final stage.  

For Celje coach Vladan Matič the Veszprém victory was fully deserved: “I wish them a lot of success and I believe that they can get very far. But also I am proud of my team. We have played our maximum. We had a few problems with many important matches in the past weeks and with some injuries which had been too much for us. I am happy with our defence, this great team of Veszprém scored only 24 goals so I have to be satisfied. We caused too many technical mistakes, as especially the Hungarians  played almost without mistakes. At the end we have to be happy. Our hall was full and we played our max. Now we have two days to relax and then we have new important task in front of us.”

Group C:

RK Metalurg Skopje (MKD) – Chambéry Savoie (FRA) 26:21 (13:12)

RK Metalurg have returned to the winners’ way after their two straight and unlucky defeats against Vive Targi Kielce. But what looks like a quite clear result against the bottom line team from France was a really tough struggle until the final minute to secure the berth for the Last 16.

Chambéry showed their best season’s performance, but finally missed a draw due to their failed shots. Six minutes before the end, the match was levelled at 20:20 and Chambéry could hope for their first point or even two, but then Metalurg not only were backed by the brilliant saves of Darko Stanić, but had more passion, power and concentration.

As goalkeeper Cyril Dumoulin had a nearly perfect day and their defence was much stronger than in the previous matches, Chambéry were on eye level despite missing Bertrand Gille. The French found the right means to stop the Metalurg attackers, but on the other hand failed too often against Stanić and the Macedonian “concrete wall”.

The French team even led by 12:10 in minute 28, before a triple strike brought Metalurg a close advantage at the break, as Stevče Alušovski scored the 13:12 with the final buzzer.

One thought that the favoured home team would easily forge ahead in the second half, was completely wrong until the 20:20. But then – and boosted by the huge red and yellow Macedonian flag on the stands and the standing ovations from their fans – Metalurg found the way to finish successful. Stanić shut up the shop and even got an assist point for the decisive goal. A brilliant pass over more than 25 metres was caught by Goce Georgievski, who stroke for the 23:20.

Chambéry only scored once in the final six minutes, and latest the 24:21 had broken the resistance of the French runners-up.

HC St. Petersburg (RUS) – Gorenje Velenje (SLO) 25:32 (13:16)

For 30 minutes St. Petersburg could hope for their second win, but after they had lost their energies in the second half, they were chanceless against the physical and tactical stronger Slovenian champions.

Led by Jure Dolenec – top scorer by nine goals – and Marko Bezjak (8 goals) Velenje easily extended the gap after the break constantly minute by minute and confirmed their spot for the Last 16 equal in points (10) with Metalurg. So mostly the second position in this group will be decided in the direct duel of both right in the first round after the winter break.

By five of 16 goals Dolenec had already been the main reason for the halftime lead of the “wasps”, and his eighth goal finally shattered all Russian hopes at 21:16. From that moment on Velenje did not need to show all they can as St. Petersburg resigned. The Russians now need a wonder to proceed to the Last 16 with still only two points on their account.

Group D:

FC Barcelona Intersport (ESP) – Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) 36:25 (19:13)

After a ten goal difference in the first match in Switzerland, now Barcelona even topped the result after an easy-going afternoon. As expected Schaffhausen did not have a slice of a chance against the record winner of the EHF Champion League. And in contrast to their lucky victory against Minsk on home ground, this time the Catalans were aware and did not underestimate their opponent.

By 50 percent saved shots goalkeeper Danijel Šarić pulled the Swiss teeth, before the break, and his successor between the goal bars, Arpad Sterbik, continued in the same way. Only Polish Leszek Starczan was able to find the holes in the Barca defence before the break, scoring six of 13 Kadetten goals, but not adding one on his tally after the break. But already at the halftime buzzer – when Siarhei Rutenka hit the net by a penalty shot for the 19:13 – the winners were confirmed.

Even by rotating all players and decelerating the speed before their next week’s Asobal clash against Atlético Madrid, Barca still were absolutely dominant, extending the gap to double figures for the first time at 30:20 ten minutes before the end. Best Barca scorer was Danish Jesper Noddesbo by seven goals. As the Catalans have the optimum of 14 points on their account, Kadetten remain on only two points, but still can dream of the Last 16.

Pick Szeged (HUN) – RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) 26:24 (16:10)

Pick Szeged grabbed their chance – and overtook Zagreb in the ranking by this finally close, but well-deserved victory. Pick coach László Skaliczki was satisfied with the final result and the way his team played.

“This match was very useful experience for both teams. We knew what we could expect because we analysed the style Zagreb play. We could find the empty spaces in their defence and could finish our attacks with goals. In the second half  the aggressive defence surprised our players but František Šulc and Jonas Larholm cooperated well, our goalkeeper Roland Mikler saved some important shots. Finally we won thanks to our incredible fans too and this is the most important,” Skaliczki said.

Backed by Mikler, Szeged went away to a quite comfortable six goals difference at the break, but then the young Zagreb guns like Lovro Mihić (18), Stipe Mandalinić (20) and Luka Stepančić (22) took the responsibility and caused a lot of problems in the Szeged defence.

But though they reduced the gap to intermediately two goals at 25:23, Zagreb were not able to turn the match around. Latest the 26:23, scored by Šulc sealed the deal. Now Szeged (4 points) are ahead by one point of the Croats.

Zagreb coach Slavko Goluža had hoped for a draw in Hungary, but: “Our team is young. As a former Veszprém player I was here before and the feeling of the hall is fantastic. I think my players could not handle this atmosphere. For us it is very important to gain experiences in such good matches in front of many spectators. The fans were incredible here, I felt good despite the defeat.”

For Szeged player František Šulc this victory is worth gold:We knew that this would be a very important match and we had to win. We knew that we would play under pressure because we had to qualify for the Last 16. Both teams fought until the end and we won a very important match. I am proud of our young players because they understood how we had to play against the good defence of Zagreb.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen