Madrid triumphant on the roller coasterArticle
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Spaniards win battle of nerves at Berlin 27:26 and qualify for the quarter-finals after a thrilling Match of the Week

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Madrid triumphant on the roller coaster

What a thriller, what a tension: After 120 equal minutes in both Last 16 legs, Atlético Madrid have made it to the quarter-finals of the EHF Champions League for the tenth time in the club history. A hammer strike of Kiril Lazarov 25 seconds before the end decided the “Hitchcock match” in the German capital. After the 29:29 on home ground, Madrid won the Match of the Week  - a roller coaster ride for 60 minutes - by 27:26 (14:13).

Berlin were completely below par in the first 15 minutes, failing in attack and being too far away from their opponents in the defence. Led by inspiring playmaker Ivano Balić and boosted by a highly aggressive defence, Atlético clearly were away by 8:3. But after a time-out of coach Dagur Sigurdsson, the German side woke up, pushed by the 9000 spectators in the sold-out Max-Schmeling-Halle. As Madrid were still cold as ice in attack, now Füchse found the gaps in the Spanish defence and played much more patient than in the initial stage.

And suddenly they were in express mode, as Madrid were far away from their usual rhythm. Berlin reduced goal by goal and the goalkeeper change from Magnus Dahl to Jose Javier Hombrados did not stop the downswing of the three times winners of the premier continental club competition. The hammer goals of former Barcelona striker Konstantin Igropoulo made Berlin return, scoring five times before the break and leading his team to a close 13:14 deficit.

And the match turned around completely in the beginning of the second half: Iker Romero and Evgeni Pevnov were unstoppable, as Madrid were down on the floor. Füchse forged ahead to 19:16 and seemed to have full control of the match. But then the roller coaster changed its direction rapidly. The Berlin highflyer came to an abrupt end, Madrid scored five straight times to 21:19 and virtually were in the next stage. Led by Jonas Källman and counting on their much bigger international experience the Spaniards were back.

But not for long: Berlin changed the goalkeeper from Silvio Heinevetter to Petr Štochl, and the Czech backed his team by incredible saves. Scoring four straight goals including a powerful shot of Bartłomiej Jaszka (on the court only nine days after an appendix operation) they were in lead by 24:22.

Madrid successfully fought hard, knowing that a draw would not be enough to proceed. The thrilling final stages had begun – the Match of the Week had become a match of nerves. 100 seconds before the end, Madrid had the joker in their hands, after Nikolaj Markussen scored for 26:25, but Romero equalized right with the next shot.

Talant Dujshebaev took his time-out 45 seconds before the end, and Kiril Lazarov found the gap to score for the 27:26 20 seconds later. With only 14 seconds on the clock Sigurdsson took his time-out, replacing the goalkeeper by a seventh field player. Jaszka hit the post – game over for Füchse, big celebration on Madrid side, the tenth participation in a EHF Champions League quarter-final was secured.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br