Magic Gensheimer, extraordinary Landin stun BarcelonaArticle
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MATCH REVIEW: Löwen teach Barcelona the lesson the hard way by a sensational 38:31 win to open the gate to Cologne widely

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Magic Gensheimer, extraordinary Landin stun Barcelona

13.200 spectators in the sold-out SAP Arena in Mannheim went crazy in a magic night of handball. Rhein Neckar Löwen beat favoured FC Barcelona in an unexpected way 38:31 (22:14) – and have already more than one hand at the ticket to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. Only a miracle can prevent the Catalan club from their second quarter-final elimination after 2012 (by AG Kobenhavn).

Goalkeeper Niklas Landin and left wing Uwe Gensheimer, who had denied a Barca offer last autumn and scored 14 times on Sunday, were the men of a match, which marked a historic day of the EHF Champions League.

VELUX EHF Champions League, quarter-final, first leg:
Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER) vs. FC Barcelona (ESP) 38:31 (22:14)

Never before in 20 years of EHF Champions League participation, FC Barcelona were down by eight goals at half-time, the biggest gap by now was a 8:15 in the 2010/11 season at Veszprem. And in no match since the 31:41 in the 2007/08 semi-final at THW Kiel and the 38:38 in the 2010/11 season at Löwen, Barca conceded more goals in a Champions League match.

This historic result was caused mainly by three keys: an incredible performance of Niklas Landin, who saved nine Barca shots before the break (19 in total), a solid rock defence and a gala of Uwe Gensheimer. The Löwen left wing scored sensational ten goals before the break – and finally added 14 to his tally. Gensheimer even put Barca top scorer Kiril Lazarov (ten goals, including seven penalties) into the shadow.

“It was simply madness on the court, simply brilliant, what we did. Against a selection of world class we were the better team. But we should not make the mistake to celebrate the qualification for Cologne already now, as it is only half-time,” said Gensheimer.

His coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson agreed: “It will be very tough to play at Barcelona and to make it to Cologne despite this result in a fantastic match. It is a shame that one of these two brilliant teams will miss the VELUX EHF FINAL4.”

Barcelona on one hand could not get through the Löwen defence wall, and then were punished by series of counter attack goals. At the 2:6, coach Xavi Pascual took his first time-out, but the Löwen express, scoring 22 (!) times in only 30 minutes, was unstoppable. And if in position attack, pivot Bjarte Myrhol opened the gates for his team mates, who were ahead by 22.14 at the break.

After only six minutes, Barca returned from the dressing, took, after a short, but intense Pascual sermon. But nothing changed in the initial stages. The 13,200 spectators could not believe their eyes, when the distance rose to ten goals at 25:15 (minute 33) for the first time.

The only question was, whether Löwen could manage to put this enormous pressure on Barca until the end. But as the desperately shooting Catalans failed against Landin, who clearly won the goalkeeper duel against Danijel Saric (first half) and Arpad Sterbik, and Löwen playing like frenzy in attack, the ten-goal difference again was scored at 35:25 (47), when Pascual took his next time-out.

Even the Löwen players stared at the score board permanently to recognize that this reality and no dream. Four days after clashing THW Kiel in the Bundesliga top duel to take the top on domestic ground, the final result could even end in huger margin, but the German side lost some concentration in the final stages, when failing against Sterbik.

“Löwen were clearly superior in all aspects of this match, the final result reflects the performances of both sides,” said Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual. Team captain Victor Tomas was disappointed too: “We expected a tough match, but we did not expect that we would not play as a team. In Palau Blaugrana we will try everything next week to turn the result around.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br