Hamburg play one L (hell) of a gameArticle
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ehfTV commentator Tom Ó Brannagáin blogs after his trip to Celje where he witnessed an easy run of Hamburg

Hamburg play one L (hell) of a game

Slovenia hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for “MOTW” lately. Following on from the defeat Velenje suffered at the hands of Kielce; Celje was next in line. The giants of German handball, both figuratively and literally, Hamburg, showed Celje, that they might surprise one German team this year, but it wasn’t going to be a second.

They dwarfed the Celje team and showed their power when Celje tried to put in some sneaky heavy hits at the start of the game.

HSV flexed their muscles and got their retaliation in first. They hit hard and they hit fast and like a punch drunk boxer, hosts were on the ropes from the 10th minute onwards.

Hamburg unleashed a variety of play on the unwitting Slovenians and they stood no chance with a 6-0 defence with the giant back division raining in goals from 10 metres.

And when Celje changed to a 5-1 they manoeuvred the ball in such a way that Lindberg found himself free on the right with only the goal keeper to beat.

Celje couldn’t decide whether to hit early and leave the line open, in which case Vori and Nilson were well capable of taking their chances, or wait to see could their goalkeeper deal with long range shots. Damned if they did and damned if they didn’t, Hamburg at certain stages looked like they were in a training game, using all their plays to great effect.

And it was one ‘ell (L) of a game from Hamburg. Lindberg 10, Lijewski 9 and Lacković 6 were the top scorers for Hamburg. They hit Celje hard, (Lijewski got 3x2mins), then they outplayed them and just when you thought the young Celje team could take no more they pulverised them. There was nothing the team in yellow could do as Hamburg always seemed to have an answer. In short experience trounced exuberance and there was no hiding place on the court.

The coach Matić did what he could, even giving some even younger players a chance. The 16 year old Janc replaced the ineffectual Marguč and scored.

But the one bright shining light in the gloom was Mačkovšek. He is 20 years of age and he top scored in the game with 13 goals. Bitter and Beutler were made look second rate against his shooting prowess. He carried his team on the day and you could almost imagine every one of the Celje support screaming “Just give the ball to Maček”, because he was dynamite on the day. His movement is not always perfect, sometimes he arrives slightly early for the pass, but when he gets it right, boy does he get it right. Hamburg had no answer for him and he deserves immense praise on a day when some of his teammates didn’t turn up.

Celje won the EHF Champions League in 2004 and their club naturally celebrates this unique achievement in Slovenian sport. So I leave them with some lines from Tennyson’s poetry that it might give them solace and hope for the return leg:

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator