Hamburg finish on top, first defeat for BarcelonaArticle
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ROUND REVIEW: Catalan team stumble at Metalurg, while KIF secure the second position and Wacker remain without a victory.

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Hamburg finish on top, first defeat for Barcelona

With the finalisation of the group phase it is confirmed that no duel of teams from the same national leagues will occur in the Last 16 pairings, which will be drawn on Tuesday, 12:00 hrs. local time in Vienna (live stream on

As defending champions HSV Hamburg beat Aalborg to secure the top spot in Group D, the Danish side finished fourth ranked, while their country-fellows from KIF Kolding-Kobenhavn ended up on the second position in Group B.

FC Barcelona, winner of Group C, were defeated for the first time – and it was again in Skopje, where they had tied against Vardar in their group phase opener. This time Metalurg took the upper hand. But this result had no influence on the final ranking, as Barcelona had already been confirmed group winner and Metalurg had finished third ranked below PSG.

By today’s results, Hamburg are the top team of the group phase by 18 of 20 possible points ahead of Barcelona and Veszprem (17). Like St. Petersburg and Halmstad before, Wacker Thun finished the group phase without a victory.

Group B:

KIF Kolding Kobenhavn (DEN) vs. Dunkerque HB Grand Littoral (FRA) 26:24 (15:15)

Although they had already been eliminated from the Last 16, Dunkerque gave – like in the first leg – a big fight to KIF. Like in France (20:18), the final distance were only two goals in favour of the Danes, who secured the second spot in this group three points below THW Kiel.

But the task was much tougher to handle than KIF had expected. After a good start, they lacked precision in attack – so the halftime result was a draw at 15:15.

But led by Albert Rocas and Bo Spellerberg, Kolding-Kobenhavn dominated the second half – and despite the quite close final result, their victory had not been really endangered.

Dunkerque finished their international campaign in style and proved that they had deserved to be among the 24 best teams in Europe.

Best scorers were Rocas (eight for KIF) and Espen Lie Hansen by six for Dunkerque.

Before the last of 120 matches of the group phase – the all-Polish Match of the Week of Kielce vs. Plock – everything is settled already in this group with Kielce finishing third ahead of their compatriots – regardless the result.

Group C:

Wacker Thun (SUI) vs. HC Dinamo Minsk (BLR) 26:30 (11:13)

In a match with low relevance, Wacker Thun highly closely missed their first ever victory in the VELUX EHF Champions League. The Swiss debutant fought well against the Belarusians – like them already eliminated – but finally lost for the ninth time in the group phase. The only point they finally won, was a draw against Metalurg.

Both teams lacked a strong goalkeepers performance, and both teams caused an unusual high number of technical faults (Wacker: 36, Minsk: 28). In the end the ten goals of Croatian international Ivan Nincevic paved the way for Minsk. On the other hand, Florian von Deschwanden scored seven times for Wacker.

HC Metalurg (MKD) vs. FC Barcelona (ESP) 31:29 (15:11)

The arena Boris Trajkovski was shaking in their fundaments again – and again was a perfect set-up for another historic Macedonian handball classic. After Metalurg had beaten Vardar in this venue and Vardar had tied with Barcelona, now the big Catalans again stumbled in Skopje.

After a series of eight straight wins, the record winner of the EHF Champions League were defeated for the first time in this season – and the arena in Skopje went crazy after the final whistle.

Metalurg’s heroes were goalkeeper Nikola Mitrevski and Goce Georgievski, who netted in six times, including the decisive last goal for 31:29 in the dying seconds of a finally thrilling match, most of the time dominated by Metalurg.

Thanks to their brilliant defence and Stanic, the hosts were away all the time and sensationally conceded only eleven goals by the Catalan goal machine in the first half.

And even more surprisingly, they stood the pressure, Barca put on them after the break. The distance was four to five goals most of the time – but one thought that the match was decided at 25:20 eight minutes before the end, was wrong.

Barcelona stroke back, reduced to only one goal in the final minute, when Macedonian national team captain Kiril Lazarov scored by a penalty. But despite one player less on the field, Skopje came through the Barca defence in their crucial attack – and Georgievski was ice-cold against Barca goalkeeper Danijel Saric.

Group D:

HSV Hamburg (GER) – Aalborg Handball (DEN) 28:20 (12:9)

Ten matches, nine victories – defending VELUX EHF Champions League champions HSV Hamburg left no doubt in their final group match that they were not willing to give the group victory from their hands.

In contrast, Aalborg finished on fourth position, but to understand this ranking some competitions maths are needed.

Aalborg, La Rioja and Velenje finished by eight points, in their internal ranking all three have four points. As La Rioja had the worst goal difference they missed the Last 16. Velenje and Aalborg are even equal even in their goal difference (+2), so finally the overall number of goals (117:104) in this “little ranking” decided that Velenje finish third ahead of the Danish champions.

Having this constellation in mind, Aalborg tried hard to get this point, they needed to finish third, in Hamburg. Until the 9:10 they were fully equal with the German side, before a double strike of Domagoj Duvnjak and Joan Canellas (a direct free throw goal right with the half-time buzzer, pictured below) gave a three goal advance to Hamburg.

Aalborg still were on eye level, when the score was 15:13 for the host – but then: While the Danes missed all their chances, HSV stroke a 8:0 series to the first double-figured lead at 23:13 to decide the match in minute 49 – and to secure the top position.

Best scorers were Duvnjak (7) and Nicolaj Pedersen (5 for Aalborg).

“We made a really good match,” HSV coach Martin Schwalb praised his side, adding: “We have reached our first goal to finish on top and now we are eager, how this competition goes on for us.”

Even Nikolaj Jacobsen, Aalborg’s coach, was not that disappointed: “We showed moral and attitude, our defence including goalkeeper Ole Erevik worked well. But when the HSV back court axis overran us by those eight straight goals, we had no chance anymore.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br