Velenje win hunter’s duel, while Veszprém and Kielce keep clean sweepArticle
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Clear victories for Hungarian powerhouse and THW Kiel, while Polish champion close to defeat – Minsk take Zagreb’s fortress

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Velenje win hunter’s duel, while Veszprém and Kielce keep clean sweep

The favourites MKB Veszprém, THW Kiel and Vive Targi Kielce took their expected victories in the second part of Round 8 of the VELUX Champions League. Besides, Gorenje Velenje took revenge against Metalurg Skopje and Dinamo Minsk proved their improvement by winning at Zagreb.

Group B:

IK Sävehof (SWE) vs. THW Kiel (GER) 29:40 (15:20)

They started weak, but when the THW engines were running, the defending champions were unstoppable in Sweden. Boosted by 800 fans in Gothenburg, the Germans clearly improved after being below in the opening period – and shattered the Sävehof hopes of another surprise after they had beaten Madrid in autumn.

Sävehof led by 7:4 and kept the advance until the 9:8  – then Kiel had taken control of the match though team captain Marcus Ahlm had to leave the court early after an eye injury. When Kiel changed their defence, Sävehof did not have the means to stop the powerful Germans, who were away by five goals already at the break. Even nine goals of their top scorer Bliznac were not enough to stop the Swedish downswing. Latest after 40 minutes the match was decided and finally the eleven goal margin could not be expected after the start – and was even higher than in the first leg (43:34). Best THW scorer was Swedish Niklas Ekberg, who also scored nine times.

Sävehof knew before that they need to take their points to proceed to the Last 16 against other opponents. Like Celje and Constanta, the Swedes remain on four points.

MKB Veszprém (HUN) vs. HCM Constanta (ROU) 31:21 (14:11)

Like in their first duel, MKB Veszprém took a ten goal victory against the chanceless Romanian champions – and remain on top position of this group with the optimum of 16 points. A draw in their upcoming top duel at THW Kiel ( Match of the Week on 17 February) is already enough to confirm the group victory. Top scorer against Constanta was Gábor Császár, who netted nine times.

MKB coach Carlos Ortega was “very pleased with our performance, especially in the defence, but there is still room for improvement in attack. It will take some time to have my players on the same level as they were before the world championship.”

On the other hand Constanta coach Zvonko Šundovski was disappointed, even as “we knew that Veszprém are stronger than us. We missed our goal to be better than in the home match. But we could not achieve our expectations in atack.”

After 20 minutes Veszprém were away by 11:5, but the Black Sea "dolphins" did not surrender early, but reduced the gap to three goals at the break. Then it took only ten additonal minutes before the spell was broken and the result was double-figured for the first time at 24:14 – and this distance remained until the end.

Group C:

Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs. Metalurg Skopje (MKD) 23:19 (10:10)

By winning the duel of the Kielce hunters (both already qualified for the Last 16), Velenje took the second position in this group – but still have a tougher programme ahead compared to Skopje. And – if both teams from Slovenia and FYR Macedonia are equal in the end – Skopje have won the direct encounter in aggregate after winning the home match 30:23.

The duel of the top scorers of both teams – Marko Bezjak (Velenje) and Naumče Mojsovski (Skopje) ended in the draw by seven, but thanks to their better goalkeeper performance of  Ivan Gajić (eleven saves compared to only seven of Darko Stanić), Velenje took the points in a mostly equal match.

In the first half no team could increase the gap to more than two goals as both defence sides imprinted the game. After the break Velenje controlled the match, but could not forge ahead decisively until the middle of the half, when at least at 18:14 the fate of Metalurg was sealed. The Macedonians gave up, Bezjak extended the gap intermediately to six goals at 21:15 – and the rest was result cosmetics.

Vive Targi Kielce (POL) – St. Petersburg HC (RUS) 30:29 (20:14)

Vive Targi Kielce keep their 100 percent record after eight matches – but much closer than expected after the clear 31:21 victory in the first leg at St. Petersburg. Hit by a huge number of injuries (Čupić, Štrlek, Buntić) the Polish champions played only well in the first 38 minutes, but then nearly gave the match from their hands.

“This is what can happen if the players think that a match takes only 45 or 50 minutes. This match proved that we still have a huge amount of work ahead,” said Kielce coach Bogdan Wenta. His counterpart, St. Petersburg coach Dmitri Torgovanov, is still convinced that Kielce can make it to the VELUX EHF FINAL4: “They have the chances to go all the way, though currently they are undergoing a hard situation with all those injuries.” And about his team: “Unfortunately we played too bad in the first half to have a chance to win in the end.”

After a strong attack performance in the first half Kielce – as expected – were away by six goals at the break and even increased this gap to 26:17 in minute 38. But without scoring for ten minutes, Vive invited the Russian visitors to grab their chance. Six minutes before the end, the match was levelled at 27:27 – and only thanks to a higher scoring efficiency until the end, Kielce avoided a defeat.

If Bjerringbro take at least one point against Chambéry on Sunday, St. Petersburg and the French team are out, as then the Danish side would clinch the berth for the Last 16.

Group D:

HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) vs. HC Dinamo Minsk (BLR) 23:25 (10:14)

As Dinamo Minsk had been qualified for the Last 16 already on Thursday after the Kadetten victory against Szeged, the Belarussians now even climbed the second place – for at least 24 hours, as they are one point ahead of Berlin currently. And Füchse play the Match of the Week on Sunday on home ground against FC Barcelona Intersport.

Zagreb missed the chance to extend their hopes for the knock-out stage and remain on the bottom of this group with three points, one point below both Szeged and Kadetten.

9000 spectators had come to see and cheer for the six world championship bronze medallists in the Zagreb squad. But the host could not profit from this support, as they were constantly below by four goals in the first half. And only team captain Zlatko Horvat (top scorer with nine goals) kept his team alive.

By improving the defence and after a goalkeeper change the Croatian champions came back. Now it was fantastic youngster Stipe Mandalinić, who scored five goals after the break and lighted the fire. But  as his team mates caused too many technical mistakes in attack they could not turn the match around and lost well-deserved in this crucial clash for the Last 16 spot.

Top scorers for Minsk were Sergy Onufriyenko and Pavel Atman scoring six times each. Their coach Sergii Bebeshko was delighted. “I knew that this will be a hard match and that Zagreb is very good but I always believed in my team. We started in the right way and we kept the goal difference until the end. Zagreb are a very young team, so our experience won today’s game,” he said.

Zagreb coach Slavko Goluža was disappointed with the weak start, but: “I believed that we need only five strong minutes to get back in game. But it didn't happen in the end, especially because of a bad defence. You cannot win with a bad defence is my theory, and this theory was proved today,” he explained.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br