“It is only half-time”Article
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FEATURE: HSV Hamburg believe that their fortune still lies in their own hands ahead of the second leg against Skopje

“It is only half-time”

They called it “hell on earth”, but survived it in the end. HSV Hamburg returned to Germany with a draw in their luggage and the hope of proceeding to the quarter-finals of the VELUX EHF Champions League very much alive. The 28:28 at Vardar Skopje is “a quite good, but at the same time a dangerous result,” said coach Martin Schwalb: “Still, we need to win our home match to go on to the next stage. It is only half time now and everything starts again at 0:0.”

Stefan Schröder, who replaced injured right wing Hans Lindberg in a splendid way by scoring nine goals, hopes that his team can continue the way they played in the first half at Skopje, when the defending champions were leading 16:14: “We have to show a similar performance in defence to be successful. After the break we were affected by the hectic scenes on and off the court in the Boris Trajkovski Arena. Skopje deservedly took a point thanks to their frenetic spectators.”

HSV had a special training before their away match to prepare on the circumstance in Skopje, as an audio tape was played for 45 minutes with full volume from previous matches in Skopje – and the players learnt to communicate by sign language.

“We had been well prepared and we will prepare well again for the match on Sunday. A draw is a good result, so it is in our hands,” said Danish line player Henrik Toft Hansen, who’s brother Rene wants to march in step with THW Kiel against Zaporozhye right before the starting whistle in Hamburg, where Pascal Hens will be eligible to play despite his direct red card in the first leg after a foul against Vardar’s Timur Dibirov.

Since the 2007/08 season, HSV had nearly always been part of the quarter-finals, with one exception - in the 2011/12, when they lost the crucial home match against Füchse Berlin to miss the quarter-finals for the one and only time since their first appearance in Europe’s elite competition.

Hamburg are also aware as they lost both knock-out stage matches on home court in the previous season – against Celje in the Last 16 and Flensburg in the quarter-finals.

But thanks to the respective clearer away win in the previous away matches, they proceeded later to the VELUX EHF FINAL4, in which they beat Barcelona in the final.

However, speaking of statistics from the current season, HSV have won all of their encounters on home court and this gives them the favourites’ role against Vardar Skopje.

On the other hand, the Macedonian champions lost at Barcelona and Paris after they had tied with both powerhouses at home.

“We could have won at Skopje, but nothing drastic has happened, so we are willing to win at home and hopefully our spectators can create a similar noise to Skopje,” says Croatian defence specialist Davor Dominikovic.

“We must win our home matches regardless the competition and the opponent, we are the defending champions,” claimed goalkeeper Johannes Bitter.

Their cause will be given a timely boost if two-time EHF EURO champion and last season’s top scorer Hans Lindberg can return to the court against Skopje after recovering from a finger injury. 

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor