SKA Minsk wins European title after 23 yearsArticle
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The long waiting is over for the Belarusian club as they won the Challenge Cup trophy on Saturday.
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SKA Minsk wins European title after 23 years

The army club from Belarus beat the Luxembourgish side Handball Esch 32:24 in the second leg of the Men’s Challenge Cup final in Minsk. A week earlier in Luxembourg, SKA were also a better side, winning 31:26. In fact, the Belarusians have celebrated victories in  all ten matches played in Challenge cup this season. No wonder that they have become the winners of the whole tournament.

Men's Challenge Cup Final, second leg:
SKA Minsk (BLR) vs Handball Esch (LUX) 32:24 (16:11)
First leg: 31:26.

This is the sixth European victory in SKA history. In the past, they won the European Champions Cup (1987, 1989, 1990) and the Cup Winner’s Cup (1983, 1988). The club from Minsk have glorious traditions, but during the last 23 years they could not win anything in Europe. The fans had to wait long, but now they are delighted.

Besides, the best scorer of Challenge Cup is also a SKA player. Barys Pukhousky scored 83 goals in nine previous games and added nine more today, so his total number is 92.

The 26-year old center back Pukhousky, who will move to the Hungarian club Csurgó in summer, had been the lethal weapon of SKA in Luxembourg. And in Minsk, in his last international game for SKA, he also started to score from the first minutes.

Martin Muller, the best scorer of Handball Esch, tried to compete with him, but the general level of the host team was higher. The Luxembourgers, who still harbored a slight hope for revenge, fought hard, especially during the first 15 minutes when SKA were leading by maximum 1-2 goals. But by the halftime, the army team dominance became visible — 16:11.

In the second half, the situation did not change. Led by the unstoppable Pukhovski and two other Belarus internationals Siarhei Shylovich and Aliaksandr Tsitou, SKA Minsk managed to increase their lead even more.  With ten goals, Martin Muller became top scorer of the game, but it was not his team that raised the trophy in front of 7000 spectators at Minsk-Arena.

All five previous European titles of SKA had been won under the lead of Spartak Mironovich. Now the 74-year-old veteran coach added the sixth trophy to his collection. Before the game in Minsk, he did not hide his anxiety. But after the award ceremony, Mironovich was very happy. "The main thing is that we won. So many years have passed, and we are holding a European trophy again. Even if it is the Challenge Cup and not the Champions League, I am proud of my young team which consists of Belarusian players only," he said.

Werner Klockner, the head coach of Handball Esch, admitted that the Belarusian hosts deserved the victory: "We played pretty well, but the difference between amateurs and professionals is visible. SKA Minsk are a very good team and I want to congratulate them. We tried hard, worked on tactics and psychology between the two games, but had few chances."

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / br