Göppingen and Plock successful, Magdeburg remain unbeatenArticle
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Polish runners-up cheat the gallows, while Germans and La Rioja keep the lead in Group A, first victory for Besiktas.

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Göppingen and Plock successful, Magdeburg remain unbeaten

Eskilstuna Guif and Motor Zaporozhye are definitely out of the race for the quarter-finals of the Men’s EHF Cup after their each fourth defeat in the fourth Round on Saturday. On the other hand, Frisch Auf Göppingen, Naturhouse La Rioja and SC Magdeburg made huge steps towards the knock-out stage.

Polish runners-up Plock cheated the gallows after two defeats and Besiktas Istanbul celebrated their first win.

Group A:

Eskilstuna Guif (SWE) vs. Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) 24:30 (10:11)

Thanks to their third victory in their fourth match, Naturhouse La Rioja made a huge step towards the quarter-finals in the highly close Group A. In contrast, for the Swedish team of Eskilstuna Guif the race for the knock-out stage is over after the fourth defeat.

Without their key player Mattias Zachrisson Guif had missed the starting period completely. Coach Kristjan Andresson had to take an early time-out, when his team was down by 2:8. The measure worked well – and especially the change of goalkeeper Robin Hallberg boosted Eskilstuna which then reduced the gap to only one goal at the break.

But if one on the Swedish side had hoped to turn the match, was wrong. La Rioja took control again and kept the margin mostly between three or four goals like at the 17:14 or the 23:19 ten minutes before the end, mainly thanks to their best player Jorge Martinez and top scorer Rafael da Costa Capote (eight goals).

Finally Guif – with their best scorer Helge Freiman (five goals) gave up in the final minutes and the team from Logrono took a well-deserved victory.

Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER) vs. RK Cimos Koper (SLO) 38:32 (20:15)

Frisch Auf Göppingen and Naturhouse La Rioja march in step with six points now, while Cimos Koper  - without their injured key players Milorad Krivokapic and Matjaz Brumen - lost their second straight encounter against the Germans and are two points below the top duo.

Attended by 3000 spectators the German team started well like in the 39:36 in the first leg and extended the gap early to 7:2, forcing Koper coach Fredi Radojkovic to take his time-out. And the Slovenians improved intermediately, reduced the margin to 8:11 – but then weakened themselves, when their top scorer Vladimir Osmajic was disqualified after his third suspension after only 25 minutes.  Göppingen forged ahead to five goals at the break – mainly thanks to counter attacks and their strong Slovenian goalkeeper Primoz Prost.

The starting phase of the second half was the clearly best period of Koper. Led by goalkeeper Gorazd Skof and shooter Uros Rapotec the former EHF Challenge Cup winners were back on track at 20:23 and were on eye level until minute 47, when the score was 28:26 for the host.

But from that moment on Göppingen took the control again and when top scorer Manuel Späth netted in for the eights time for 34:28 the deal was sealed. Rapotec was best Koper scorer with eight goals, too.

“The result is correct, but my young team was playing and fighting well. The atmosphere in the EWS Arena of Göppingen was very good,” said Koper coach Fredi Radojkovic

Göppingen coach Velimir Petkovic saw "a fast game and a good fight of both teams. We realized a lot of goals from the first and second wave in the first 15 minutes, and came into a lead, which we defended until the end.” For Frisch Auf player Momir Rnic Koper “was a strong opponent and made a good game. But our victory was deserved. I hope that we can continue with two more victories and finish on top of the group.”

Group B:

TATRAN Presov (SLK) vs.  HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) 36:28

For at least 19 hours TATRAN Presov are equal with second ranked team of Rhein Neckar Löwen in this Group. On Sunday the Germans face KIF Kolding in the top duel (live and free of charge on www.ehftv.com). Like Presov now after their second victory against Motor, Löwen have four points on their account.

On the other hand, Zaporozhye were chanceless again for the fourth time – the change of coaches from Nikolay Chigarev to Nikolay Stepanets did not improve the Ukrainians, who remain on zero point.

After a quite equal first half, the Slovaks had more power and passion and took the profit of in total 19 Zaporozhye turnovers. Presov extended the gap minute by minute from 24:20 to 27:22 and 29:23 ten minutes before the end. Rado Antl (nine goals) and Dainis Kristopans (seven goals) were the keys in attack, additionally the defence and goalkeeper Krupa stood well. Sergii Burka was best Zaporozhye scorer with nine goals.

Group C:

Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs. RK Maribor Branik (SLO) 30:26 (15:12)

After two straight defeats it was „to be or not to be” for Orlen Wisła – but the Polish runners-up stood the pressure and are back on track for the race for the quarter-finals by four points now, one point below Maribor.

The Oilers had to replace the injured Petar Nenadić and Ivan Nikcević, but were highly motivated, and despite a 2:0 lead of Maribor, they quickly got back on the right tracks and scored three consecutive goals. In the next ten minutes the defence and goalkeeper Marin Sego (an overall of 15 saves) were the keys for the Poles. Thanks to this and their counter attacks it was 11:6 in minute 18 for Wisla  - and this advantage kept until the end of the first half.

After the break Michał Kubisztal kept his effectiveness in attack and led Orlen Wisla to a pre-decisive 22:14, while Maribor had big problems in attack. But suddenly four consecutive goals of Sostarić gave new hopes to the Slovenians. But Wisla didn’t give this advantage from their hands in a match with a huge number of mistakes.

Top scorers were Kubisztal  (nine goals for Plock) and Tarabochia (six for Branik).

Plock’s coach Lars Walther saw “a little nervous Wisla team. We did not play very good finally. In a situation with lack of self confidence it is hard to show a good play. Today we had to find the right rhythm but now we are still in the race.”

Maribor coach Marko Sibila spoke about a ”deserved victory for Plock. But my team fought as hard as possible, but unfortunately today we couldn’t find our correct speed, we had to make many changes and our key players didn’t have their best day. As a consequence we had to play a lot of time with players, which are substitutes normally and I’m satisfied with their presentation.”

On Sunday the Scandinavian  duel Team Tvis Holstebro (DEN) vs. Elverum Handball Herrer (NOR) will finish Round 4 in this group.

Group D:

Besiktas JK (TUR) vs. Stiinta Municipal Dedeman Bacau (ROU) 25:23 (15:10)

The Besiktas Haldun Alagas arena remains a fortress: After winning all respective European Cup matches in the previous rounds on home ground, Besiktas continued the series in their first match of the Group Phase in Istanbul. Two weeks after losing 24:26 at Bacau, the Turkish champions were boosted by their fans and built the base for the first points in the first half, when their defence was strong and the speed was high.

Bacau caught up after the break, but in the crucial stages Ramazan Döne (top scorer of Besiktas with nine goals)  was cold as ice scoring the decisive strikes, as his team were running out of power.

Both teams have two points on their account – and are already five points below leading Magdeburg, which they face in the upcoming matches. Best Bacau scorer was Radu Ghita with nine goals.

SC Magdeburg (GER) vs. HBC Nantes (FRA) 26:26 (14:17)

A final save of „goalkeeping field player“ and top scorer Robert Weber (six goals like Stefan Kneer) prevented SC Magdeburg from a home defeat in their 199th European Cup match. The draw is lucky for the Germans, who had won the first leg of this top duel 27:20 at Nantes two weeks ago, as on Saturday the French team were in lead nearly the whole 60 minutes. But with their last attack, Magdeburg had the big chance to keep their 100 per cent clear record after three straight victories.

Nantes remain below by two points – and lost the direct encounter against their major contender for the group victory.

“Thanks to the character we have shown after the break we deserved this point,” SCM coach Frank Carstens said, and added: “It was important that our goalkeeper Gerrie Eijlers was supported by our defence.”

His Nantes counter part Thierry Anti was happy with the match: “After the weak result in the first leg we have shown our real face.” And Magdeburg’s match winner Robert Weber explained the crucial situation right before the final whistle: “I just threw myself on the floor and was lucky that the Nantes player shot flatly.”

Nantes played completely improved compared to the first leg on home ground. From the first minute on the French team proved their ambitions and showed the eagerness to take revenge for the home defeat.

Led by the Spanish duo Valero Rivera and Alberto Entrerrios Nantes were in lead in the whole first half, while Magdeburg had big problems in attack. After only 13 minutes SCM coach Frank Carstens took his first time out, as his team were below by 3:7. But despite five goals of Austrian international Robert Weber before the break, Magdeburg could not turn the match around.

When goalkeeper Gerrie Ejlers improved, the Germans reduced to 13:14, but went to the dressing room with a three goals backlog. And also at the start of the second half, Nantes were much more efficient in attack, but the general level of the match decreased as the number of mistakes on both sides arose. When Gharbi had to leave the court after an injury, Magdeburg saw their chance to come closer, but missed to many fast break chances.

The goals of Entrerrios kept the hopes of Nantes alive. But eleven minutes before the end, the advance of Nantes had melted to only one goal at 20:21 – and pushed by their fans Yves Grafenhorst equalized for the first time at 23:23, before Weber finished the intermediate 4:1 series to secure the lead at 24:23.

To be below for the first time was the wake-up call for the Spaniards in the Nantes jersey: First Rivera, then Jorge Maqueda scored, while Stefan Kneer missed two major chances for the Germans in this crucial stage of the match.

Until the final minute the run-down was always the same: Nantes take the lead, Magdeburg equalize. 73 seconds before the end, Nantes took their time-out at the score of 26:26. But the French team missed the chance to score, causing first a turnover and the SCM time-out 18 seconds before the end. Coach Carstens send Weber as seventh field player on the court, replacing Ejlers. But when Bartosz Jurecki missed a 100 per cent chance, Nantes were in ball possession seconds before the end – but Weber saved the shot as a field player– 26:26!

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br