Kiel and Flensburg complete German Last 16 quartetArticle
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ROUND REVIEW: THW easily beat Plock, while their local rival take a highly narrow win at Aalborg. PSG continue their winning series, while Wacker take their first ever Champions League point.

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Kiel and Flensburg complete German Last 16 quartet

With the last four matches of Round 7 on the first Sunday in Advent the VELUX EHF Champions League said “good-bye” to 2013 and will continue after the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark with the last three rounds in February.

Right before this break the teams six and seven have clinched their berths for the Last 16: THW Kiel and SG Flensburg-Handewitt have completed the German quartet which marched in step to the next stage after defending champions HSV Hamburg and Rhein Neckar Löwen had booked their tickets on Wednesday and Thursday.

Additionally the only two still unbeaten teams from Veszprem (HUN) and Barcelona (ESP) have made it to the next stage as well as Kolding (DEN).

On Sunday PSG Handball made a huge step towards the Last 16, while Metalurg blundered against Wacker Thun, who took their first ever Champions League point in their club history by the 24:24 at Skopje.

The Group Phase will resume on 5 February and be finalised on 23 February. The each four best teams of each group qualify for the knock-out stage, the matches of the Last 16 will be carried out in March.

Group B:

THW Kiel (GER) vs. Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) 34:25 (16:11)

THW Kiel first said „thank you, Porto and Dunkerque“, then made it to the next stage. After the surprising victories of both sides on Saturday against the toughest Kiel opponents for the group victory, the German side did not only clinch their berth for the Last 16, but have a perfect base for the final three group matches after beating Orlen Wisla Plock.

By 12 points after their sixth win in seven matches, Kiel are already four points ahead of Kielce and two points ahead of KIF Kolding Kobenhavn. If they tie at the Danish team and win against Kielce in 2014, THW will be the group winners.

After the narrow away win at Plock in their opener, Kiel showed a different face on home ground. It took 15 minutes until their engine got really started, but from then on, Kiel left no doubt, which team will take those two points.

The Polish runners-up, led by nine goals of Petar Nenadic,  remain on six points, feeling the hot breath from Porto in their necks – as the Portuguese are only two points below after beating KIF.

Attended by 8,600 spectators the THW trio Aron Palmarsson (9 goals), Marko Vujin (7) and Filip Jicha (6) was the key to success. In the initial stage Kiel gave a huge number of chances from their hands, but when Vujin hit the net for 15:10 the spell was broken.

After the break Kiel had no problems in extending the advance and taking a clear win – though both Plock goalkeepers Adam Wisniewski and Marin Sego showed some brilliant saves.

"After yesterday's results of Kielce and KIF we were eager to win, and I am satisfied with the way we did it," said THW coach Alfred Gislason: "My players deserve some free days now after a hard training week."

Plock coach Manoel Cadenas had to cope with some injuries cases in his team, but: "This was the toughest match of all since I am in Plock and the clearest defeat of all. I am satisfied with our attitude."

Group C:

HC Dinamo Minsk (BLR) vs. PSG Handball (FRA) 29:35 (14:19)

Even without injured former world handball player of the year, Mikkel Hansen, PSG Handball took the hurdle at Belarus easily and opened the gate to the Last 16 wide. After their third straight victory the French champions have nine points on their account and extended the gap to fifth ranked team from Minsk already to five points – but have the tough matches against both teams from Skopje and Barcelona ahead.

Surprisingly their oldest player on court was the match winner for Paris: Serbian Mladen Bojinovic, who scored ten times – he had paved the way to the clear victory by seven strikes only in the first half.

From 6:5 on in minute eleven, Paris did not give the lead from their hands, though the hosts were pushed by the spectators. After losing both encounters against Barcelona by 25:35, Minsk were hit by their third straight defeat in the Group Phase.

The closest gap in the second half were four goals, so the PSG win was never endangered. Best Minsk scorer was Damir Doborac by five goals.

HC Metalurg (MKD) vs. Wacker Thun (SUI) 24:24 (11:14)

Wacker Thun were close to make handball history on Sunday: After Paris lost and tied, and Barcelona tied, the Swiss champions were highly close to be the first in this season to take the fortress Boris Trajkovski Arena and to win at Skopje – but in the end some seconds were missing.

But the draw against the Macedonian runners-ups means club history for Wacker, as this 24:24 will be part of their history book to be the first ever point in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Metalurg were highly lucky not to lose the encounter – but still remain equal with PSG on the third rank.

In nearly no second the hosts managed to find their rhythm, only one round after the clear victory against their city rivals Vardar. Wacker had nothing to lose, arriving with zero points in the Macedonian capital – and they were not impressed by the atmosphere or the opponent.

Thanks to Lukas von Deschwanden, top scorer of the match by eight goals, and the saves of goalkeeper Marc Winkler, Wacker Thun were sensationally away by three goals at the break.

One thought that everything would change in the second half was completely wrong. In minute 42 the Swiss champions had forged ahead to 20:16 and were clearly on the winner’s way against Metalurg, missing precision, power and passion.

After his double strike for 18:20, Naumce Mojsovski failed with a penalty shot against Winkler, enabling Wacker to be ahead 21:18 by Markus Hüsser. But as the Metalurg defence improved and Wacker lacked power, Thun only scored twice in 15 minutes.

Five minutes before the end, the arena went crazy, when Metalurg’s top scorer Renato Vugrinec hit the net for the first equaliser at 21:21. But the hosts – now boosted by goalkeeper Darko Stanic – could not take the lead, in contrast: Wacker went ahead to 24:22 100 seconds before the end.

Vugrinec and Goce Ojlevski prevented their team from a bitter defeat, securing the draw by a double strike. Deschwanden failed with the last action of the match, a direct free throw – but in contrast to the host, his team celebrated the point, as it was historic.

Group D:

Aalborg Handball (DEN) vs. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) 26:27 (13:14)

The thriller in Aalborg was decided exactly three seconds before the final buzzer: When Aalborg caused a turnover in their final attack, SG Flensburg-Handewitt had taken the victory and clinched their berth for the Last 16 after a more than intense game, now having eleven points on their account, one below group leaders HSV Hamburg.

The Danish side was on eye level in the fully packed arena – but as they could not take the lead in the second half, they lost unlucky.

Aalborg were away by four goals in the first half, but then Flensburg equalised and turned the match at the break.

Seven minutes before the end, the German side seemed to have sealed the deal, leading 25:21. But after a time-out of coach Nikolaj Jacobsen the host changed their defence strategy to man-to-man, and Flensburg could not cope with this tactics.

Backed by the goals of Swedish Johan Jakobsson, who will wear the SG jersey from the next season on, Aalborg reduced the gap goal by goal, as Flensburg’s Dane Anders Eggert even missed a penalty shot in crunch time against goalkeeper Richard Kappelin.

Despite an overall of 14 saves of their goalkeeper Mattias Andersson, Flensburg could not remain in lead. 18-year-old Christian Jensen opened the gate for an Aalborg victory scoring the 26:26 two minutes before the end. When Steffen Weinhold hit the net by another penalty shot for 27:26, Aalborg still had 20 seconds time to equalise. After his final time-out Jacobsen ordered a seventh court player, replacing goalkeeper Kappelin, who had saved 21 shots before. But the measure did not work, as the final pass did not arrive.

Aalborg remain on the third position by eight points, but still are on course for the Last 16.

Top scorers were Thomas Mogensen and Holger Glandorf (both Flensburg) by seven goals, followed by Drasko Nenadic (SG), Havard Tvedten and Jakobsson (both Aalborg) by six goals each.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br