Late comeback saves Barca's seasonArticle
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MATCH REVIEW: The record EHF Champions League winners overcame a seven-goal deficit to eliminate the brave Rhein Neckar Löwen on the way to Cologne.

Late comeback saves Barca's season

Only the last ten minutes made the difference for FC Barcelona as they beat Rhein-Neckar Löwen 31:24 and qualified for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 on away goals rule. Löwen won the first leg 38:31 and were leading also deep in the second leg, but found no weapon to stop the late rally of their opponents.

VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals, second leg:
FC Barcelona (ESP) vs Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) 31:24 (15:11)
First leg: 31:38, on aggregate 62:62, Barcelona won on away goals rule

A look back to their rich European history could have inspired Barcelona for yet another successful comebacks in their Palau Blaugrana hall.

It began in 1985 against Vikingur in the Cup Winner's Cup. After that, six more times against CSKA Moscow and Wallau in the same competition, and against Göteborg, Veszprem, Kiel and Atlético Madrid in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Before the game, with both teams on the field, a minute of silence for Tito Vilanova who passed away yesterday, was held. Vilanova was Barcelona's football coach last season and second coach from 2008 to 2012 with Pep Guardiola.

Rhein Neckar Löwen were not surprised by Palau Blaugrana atmosphere and were very concentrated and calm from early on. The German team was very self-confident in the first half and there was really no reason for panic among visitors as Groetzki put them in front eight minutes before the break (10:9).

As the minutes passed, Barcelona defence improved, and the offensive line became more efective. These two factors supported by the pressure of Barcelona supporters helped the hosts to create a four-goal gap (15:11) in the half-time.

The Catalans were winning by six goals (22:16) and Rutenka could have erased the gap completely, but he missed and the Lions quickly reduced the difference to four goals (22:18).

But Barcelona defence utterly blocked all Löwen attacks and with a 6:0 run they escaped to a nine-goal gap (30:21), while the visitors remained scoreless for eight minutes. At the very end Rhein Neckar had the last chance to return to the game, but Barcelona survived the last minute and can pack for Cologne.

"It was a wonderful play-off game. Both games were very intense. Truly, there is no difference between Rhein-Neckar and us. This game has already its place in history of Palau Blaugrana. The key to the match was the change from 6-0 to 4-1-1 defence," Victor Tomas explained.

"I want to dedicate this game to Tito Vilanova and to my godfather. Today we did not win by technical or tactical supremacy, but we had to defend our pride and for that reason we won. The key vas the defence in the last ten minutes. If we would play against Rhein-Neckar in the FINAL4 we would have lost," Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual said.

"I want to congratulate Barcelona on their success. It was a very intense game. I am very disappointed. We had a very good start and we played very well until the last 10 minutes," the top scorer of the first leg match Uwe Gensheimer said.

"I am very proud of my team. We had only one penalty throw and Barcelona four. We were very close to reach the FINAL4. There were things that I did no tlike: The first one is that we could not do counter-attacks because Barca players fell down always after they had lost the ball," Löwen coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson said.

TEXT: Adria Barrio / br