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BLOG: Tom looks back at Sunday's Match of the Week between Veszprém and Rhein Neckar Löwen, which was rich in both quality play and tactical nuance


Anyone who thought that this was just another group game to be played between two teams assured of qualification from Group A of the VELUX EHF Champions League had another thing coming.

You would be forgiven for thinking that each team would be happy with a home win in each of their respective games, knowing that this would more or less guarantee qualification. But the "Lions" had other ideas. Stung by their home draw against "The Zappers", they left nothing on the court at the end of this match apart from a victory. 

Veszprém took off like a jet plane, breaking Mach speed in their urgency to completely destroy the confidence of RNL. But like any good German team, forged in the steel that is the Bundesliga, they never know when they're beaten. They were functional, without being exciting, but found all the right tactics to keep Veszprém in sight. 

Being Irish, I have an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustains me through temporary periods of joy. I apologise to Oscar Wilde for paraphrasing, but in the above game my joy along with my blood pressure was simmering to the boil.

Madness among the brilliance

It had everything you could want including a mad moment in the first half that looked like a bunch of 6-year-old kids playing their first game of handball. The two coaches consistently rearranged their tactics in a game of handball chess that Fischer and Spassky would have been proud of.

I have never seen a tactics board more in use as Ortega and Gudmundson delved into their respective playbooks and parried and riposted on each of the others gambits. 

Gorbok ended up being a much unused pawn in the match. The 'name changer' is normally a game changer, but not on this performance. Nagy was also not his usual self, but the Hungarian Knight did at least weigh in with some goals. 

In the first half a returning hero of Veszprém was really keeping RNL in touch. Myrhol's general play on the line was exceptional, as were his goals. I guess it's typical of a former player to have one of the matches of his life; I certainly didn't expect it, but maybe as John Lennon sang "A Norwegian Would".

The two pieces that excelled for both tacticians were IlIc and Ekdahl. Ekdahl is in possession of one of the greatest sidesteps I have seen in a long time and regardless of which player they sent to defend him, they found out to their cost that it was two minutes, a certain substitution from the bench or a goal against. Veszprém had no answer.

Return of the king

Neither Sulic, Terzic, Nagy nor Scuch could stop his explosiveness. His assists and his breakthrough goals kept his team in touch. On the other side the Serbian King was unstoppable. His nine goals and the fact that he has stepped from the shadow of Jicha to the light of Vesprém has given him a sense of importance he perhaps lacked at Kiel.

And yet at the death he could have been remembered for not scoring the simplest of goals when straight through. The “Lions were drawn," and in possession of the ball, but inexplicably achieved a defeat from the jaws of victory. Chema broke having turned over the RNL ball and scored. One more chance fell to Schmid but he found Alilovic in top form.

The stats say that goalkeepers and goal scoring for both teams was 1% apart. That 1% was the one goal victory for Veszprém.

Veszprém hasn't quite hit on the formula yet, but if they keep winning no one will mind. However, if they want to achieve a VELUX EHF FINAL4 place, then all the pieces will have to click. Grandmaster Ortega is just the man to find the endgame. 

TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator