PSG finish second, Flensburg still can hopeArticle
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ROUND REVIEW: Clear victories for Paris against Vardar and SG at Velenje, while Zagreb’s win against St. Petersburg was worthless.

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

PSG finish second, Flensburg still can hope

After 115 of 120 group matches, nearly all decisions have been taken in the VELUX EHF Champions League. The only open question is, which team will finish on which position in Group D? SG are ahead after their Saturday’s win at Velenje, but a draw on Sunday against Aalborg is already enough for the defending champions to finally top the group. For the Danish side the draw would be also enough to claim the third position ahead of Velenje.

In Group B all final positions are confirmed after Paris (second ranked) beat fourth ranked Vardar (finishing below their local rivals Metalurg).

Before, Motor Zaporozhye had secured the last open place for the Last16 by beating Veszprém – so like in the previous season Zagreb missed the knock-out stage despite their final victory against St. Petersburg.

In those five matches on Sunday the final rankings of Group B and D will be decided – but each four participants of the Last 16 are already confirmed.

Group A:

HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) vs. St. Petersburg HC (RUS) 26:24 (15:14)

Despite their second straight win Zagreb missed the qualification for the Last16 for the second straight time. 7,000 fans again caused a great atmosphere although race for the first four spots in the group was already over after Ukrainian champions Motor Zaporozhye had beaten Veszprém.

“Before the beginning of the match we were familiar with the fact that Veszprém  were not able to take at least a point from Zaporozhye and so our Champions League journey is over for this season. It was really hard to prepare the team for the match which had no significance,” said Zagreb’s coach Boris Dvorsek.

“We have tried to rotate a lot to find the right line-up. We are satisfied with this win and now we're turning to SEHA GSS league in which we'll host Brest Meshkov next week,” he added.

Both teams played a great match for the supporters as it was the last appearance on international ground for both. St. Petersburg had the better start, forcing Zagreb’s coach Boris Dvorsek to call an early time-out. After that the hosts started playing much better in both attack and defence.

A 6:1 series led by national team players Mandalinic and Stepancic (from 6:10 to 12:11) finally got them back in minute 25.

Like in the first half Zagreb needed a wake-up call after a weak start, but then they managed to control the match until the end.

Zagreb’s best scorers were Josip Valcic with by seven goals, goalkeeper Stevanovic added 21 saves. Blagonadezhdin scored  five times for St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg coach Dmitrii Torgovanov hoped for more in the Croatian capital: “We were trying to prepare on Zagreb’s attack and we knew that we can only attempt to surprise hosts with defence on the highest possible level. In the end of both halves we were getting too tired and weren’t able to keep the speed of Zagreb.”

Group C:

PSG Handball (FRA) vs. HC Vardar – Skopje (MKD) 35:25 (15:12)

Paris secured the second position in style and thanks to a highly strong second half. After the draw in the first leg, the French champions had not been endangered in any second of the rematch, in which the score was levelled only once – at 1:1.

Despite seven goals of outstanding Igor Karacic, Vardar (still missing Alex Dujshebaev) were chanceless and finish Group A on the fourth position.

Regardless the result of their home match against Barcelona on Sunday, Metalurg Skopje will end the group matches on the third rank.

After being ahead by 11:6 after 16 minutes the host missed to seal the deal earlier, while Skopje had their best period, still in reach by a three goal backlog at the break.

By scoring a 7:0 series after the 15:13, PSG had decided the match at the score of 22:13 already in minute 41 and at 31:21 the distance was double-figured for the first time. All PSG court players scored, headed by Luc Abalo and Antonio Garcia by five goals each.

On PSG side goalkeeper Patrice Annonay (pictured below) stood like a rock.

Group D:

RK Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) 23:28 (9:15)

A weak first half, in which they only scored five field goals, a clear improvement after the break, but finally no points – this is the way the Saturday evening went for Velenje. Flensburg took the lead of the group after their eighth victory, but if Hamburg at least tie on Sunday, Flensburg will finish second ranked.

The match was of two completely different halves: Flensburg played with a highly strong defence before the break, while Velenje lacked the ideas and precision in attack. One could think the host would run straight into a disaster when they were down by 6:13 after 24 minutes.

At the break the distance were still six, but then the German side took the match too easy, decelerated and allowed Velenje to get closer.

Backed by their top scorer Stas Skube, who stroke all his six in the second half, Velenje started their catch-up chase, while Flensburg lost their rhythm.

When Skube scored by a kempa goal for 20:23, Flensburg coach Ljubomir Vranjes took his time-out. But his team even invited the “wasps” to reduce to only two goals at 22:24, scored by Jernej Papez. When all Velenje fans hoped to turn the match around, the Slovenian team missed two penalty shots – and finally a double strike of Steffen Wienhold and Jakob Heinl for 26:22 decided the match.

Like Skube, Flensburg’s best scorers netted in six times: Bogdan Radivojevic and Weinhold. 

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br