La Rioja catch up with VelenjeArticle
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ROUND REVIEW: Spanish newcomers beat Aalborg in a real thriller thanks to goalkeeper Martinez, while Slovenian team was defeated by Hamburg.

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

La Rioja catch up with Velenje

The VELUX EHF Champions League resumed after the EHF EURO 2014 break with two matches of Group D on Wednesday night. While defending champions HSV Hamburg took their in total seventh victory in Velenje, Naturhouse La Rioja are back on track for the Last 16 after a highly thrilling home win against Aalborg.

Velenje and La Rioja are equal at six points now – if both are equal at the end, the Slovenians are ahead after winning the head-to-head duel. Aalborg missed the first chance to confirm the Last 16.

Group D:

RK Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs. HSV Hamburg (GER) 29:36 (13:19)

Velenje were a much more tricky fortress to capture than defending champions Hamburg had expected – and as the final result reflects. Despite a six goal lead at the break, HSV could not take control of the game most of the time against a highly motivated and inspired Slovenian champion, who surrendered only in the final minutes.

Thanks to the victory the German side, leading the group with 14 points now, intermediately managed to increase the gap ahead of the runners-up from Flensburg to three points. Velenje remain fourth ranked. After 73 goals in the first match (41:32 for HSV) the spectators saw 65 goals in the second encounter of these two teams.

Until the intermediate score of 8:9, Gorenje were on eye level with the German side, then Hamburg forged ahead quite easily to a six goal breakaway at the half-time. While the “Wasps” played without a sting in attack in this period, HSV benefitted from the turnovers of the home team and punished Velenje by counter-attacks.

But coach Ivan Vaidl found the right words during the break. Velenje took the profit of an easy-going playing style of the defending champions. While HSV lacked concentration, Gorenje – led by youngster Stas Skube (best Velenje scorer by seven goals) – reduced the gap goal by goal. At 18:20 seven minutes in the second half they were close to turn the match around, before a time-out of coach Martin Schwalb stopped the downswing of the defending VELUX EHF Champions League champions.

Velenje were close again at 25:29 – but then they were punished really hard in the final stages, when Hamburg extended the final cushion to seven goals. Best HSV scorer was Adrian Pfahl with six goals.

Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) vs. Aalborg Handball (DEN) 25:23 (13:10)

A brilliant second half of goalkeeper Jorge Martinez was the key for the home victory in the “do or die” game against Aalborg. Spanish team had the better end and have six points on their account now, while the Danes remain on eight points.

A strong defence and a clearly higher efficiency in attack provided Naturhouse La Rioja with a three goal margin at the break. The Danish champions had enormous problems in attack, as only each third shot reached the net in the first 30 minutes.

But coach Nikolaj Jacobsen woke up his team in the dressing room. After only ten minutes the result was 16:16, and a double strike of Morten Slundt and Mads Mensah Larsen even delivered a 18:16 lead for the Danes, who caused a La Rioja time-out with 18 minutes left.

The match became a combative fight for every ball and every centimeter – and goalkeeper Jorge Martinez became the tower of power in the clearly improving La Rioja squad.

At 20:20 two consecutive penalty goals of Angel Fernandez boosted their confidence for the 22:20, followed by another Aalborg time-out. And again the roller coaster turned its direction. Aalborg levelled again, when Slundt scored his eighth and last goal for 23:23.

The final minute was a Hitchcock-style: Aalborg, down 23:24, replaced their goalkeeper by a seventh court player – and even had a two man advantage after a suspension against Thiago Petrus. But failing twice against outstanding goalkeeper Martinez meant their defeat at the end.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br