RNL and Göppingen join Nantes at the EHF Cup FinalsArticle
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Frisch Auf survive a thriller with Branik, Rhein Neckar Löwen succeed in all-German duel with Magdeburg

RNL and Göppingen join Nantes at the EHF Cup Finals

Three out of four EHF Cup Finals participants have been confirmed by Saturday evening as two German teams join the hosts of the final weekend (18 and 19 May) HBC Nantes.

Those results mean that three nations will be represented in the final tournament.

Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER) vs. Maribor Branik 31:30 (15:17)

First leg: 26:26

A last second goal of Serbian Momir Rnić secured Frisch Auf Göppingen the chance to defend their title in the new EHF Cup format. While the German team were celebrating, Branik were completely on the floor, as before Rnić’s goal they would have been qualified for the EHF Cup Finals at Nantes.

Like in the first leg the match was a 60 minutes thriller – surprisingly with intermediate clear advantages for the Slovenian underdogs. But in the final stages, one Slovenian stood in their way: Göppingen’s goalkeeper Primož Prošt, who saved the crucial shots in “crunch time”.

The first 20 minutes were on equal level, but when Maribor took the lead at 13:12, they had the match in grip until the break, led by Croat Nikola Špelić. At the 16:13 Branik even had the chances to extend the gap to four goals, but two Göppingen goals paved the way to the half-time score of 17:15 for the guest team.

And Maribor remained on top – and had even not been shocked, when Göppingen re-took the lead intermediately. Miha Zarabec now was the key for Maribor to go ahead by 27:24 with less than ten minutes to play. Pushed by their fans, Göppingen fought hard, and backed by Prošt’s saves they equalized at 29:29. Maribor was close to Nantes, when they scored to 30:30 – a result, which would have been enough to proceed, before Rnić ended up their dreams.

Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER) vs. SC Magdeburg (GER) 27:20 (13:11)

First leg: 28:31

"It was our dream to go to Nantes from the start of the competition, now we managed it, as we turned around the first leg’s result in a brilliant manner,“ said Löwen manager Thorsten Storm after his team clinched the berth for the EHF Cup Finals.

Match winner for the 2011 VELUX EHF FINAL4 participant was Swiss international Andy Schmid, who scored nine goals. Aside, goalkeeper Niklas Landin saved some important shots in the decisive stage of the match. It took Löwen 19 minutes, until they erased three goal deficit from the first leg for the first time at 8:5.

But Magdeburg stood strong and did not allow the host to outdistance their opponent. “Before the break we were weak in attack,” said Löwen coach Guðmundur Guðmundsson.

“But thanks to our fans we managed it in the second half,” he added.

Löwen forged ahead goal by goal and had all but decided the encounter at 23:15 with 13 minutes left – as Magdeburg had only scored four goals from the half-time whistle to that moment. Best scorer of SC Magdeburg was Jure Natek by seven goals. Due to this elimination in the EHF Cup, the 2002 EHF Champions League winner will not participate in any EHF European Cup competition in the next season.

EHF Cup Finals host HBC Nantes had directly qualified after the Group Phase. The final participant of the EHF Cup Finals will be decided on Sunday in the all-Danish encounter Team Tvis Holstebro vs. KIF Kolding. The first leg had also ended by a draw at Bröndby Arena.

The pairings of the semi-finals will be drawn on Tuesday (11:00 hrs local time) in Nantes.

Photo: Jürgen Weber, Sörli Binder

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br