Hamburg ease past CeljeArticle
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Germans take a large lead home for the second leg in the Match of the Week

Hamburg ease past Celje

Hamburg are on the verge of qualifying for the VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-finals after a fine display in Slovenia against Celje Pivovarna Laško.

The Northern Germans overcame the Slovenian opposition in the first match in Zlatorog Arena in Celje 38:29 (20:13). The result leaves the second leg in Hamburg on 21 March looking like a formality.

For the first few minutes the partisan home crowd was pleased by the performance of their team.

Both defences were not as tight as the coaches had wanted and after some quick exchanges and no saves Celje held the lead after the first 10 minutes (5:4).

After that the German steamroller gained momentum. Both backs, Marcin Lijewski on the right and Blaženko Lacković (4 goals in the 1first half, 6 in total) on the left, started to fire in goals from afar.

Celje's 5-1 defence could not cope with Hamburg's powerful onslaught, there was not enough contact and aggressiveness, and the visitors started to build a significant advantage.

Neither of the goalkeepers were particularly in form. Only four saves per team made in the first half. HSV with a 67 % scoring success in attack were markedly lively on the right side, where Lijewski and Hans Linberg netted six and seven goals respectively.

Borut Mačkovšek almost singlehandedly kept the hosts in touch with seven goals in the first period.

After 20 minutes Celje were five goals down (8:13), and Hamburg extended the lead to eight goals by half time (12:20).

Celje hit the ground running in the 2nd half and Martin Schwalb had to quickly request a time out after a 4-1 run score by the hosts.

The recently crowned Slovenian Cup winners then tried to close the gap even further but getting within five goals was the best they could do. 

The Germans regained their momentum and rotated their players well. Celje who at times were visibly physically weaker and had too many mistakes to give themselves a chance of bringing the score any closer.

With 12 minutes to play HSV once again pulled away to an eight goal lead (22:30) and sealed the deal four minutes later with a 10-goal advantage 22:32.

The match ended with a comfortable cushion for the visitors, who enjoyed whopping 71% scoring rate.

Lijewski ended the game with nine goals and three two-minute suspensions, while the competition's top scorer, Hans Lindberg, recorded another impressive display with 10 goals.

“Hamburg were favorites on paper and they have proved that on the court as well. 

“We tried to do our best. Our attack was OK, but it was our defence where we were just not ourselves today.

“They have a huge advantage now and we are facing an almost impossible task in the return leg,” said Celje's Borut Mačkovšek who had a superb individual display with 13 scored goals for the hosts.

TEXT: Grega Sever / cor