Romero says farewell as a victorious leaderArticle
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MATCH REVIEW: Great Füchse comeback against Constanta gives them third place in EHF Cup after an intense battle

Romero says farewell as a victorious leader

Five late goals for outgoing top star Iker Romero paved the way for a close and thrilling 29:28 victory of Füchse Berlin in the 3/4 Placement match of the EHF Cup Finals. Constanta gave away a possible victory in the final stages and despite 23 saves from extra-ordinary goalkeeper Mihai Popescu.

EHF Cup Finals, 3/4 Placement:

HCM Constanta (ROU) vs. Füchse Berlin (GER) 28:29 (14:13)

7,000 fans stood and applauded their team, singing and shouting - and knowing that Füchse Berlin were highly close to their second defeat at the EHF Cup Finals, after losing the semi-final 22:24 against Szeged on Saturday.

On the other hand HCM Constanta left the court heads hanging low - as they were dominant most of the game against Füchse, who had to play without injured stars Konstantin Igropoulo and Denis Spoljaric.

The first half was fully equal - and was imprinted by extra-ordinary goalkeeper performances of Popescu (Constanta/12 saves before the break) and Petr Stochl (Berlin/11). Despite yesterday’s disappointing defeats in the semi-finals, both sides played at full speed and went for the win.

Berlin coach Dagur Sigurdsson again counted on young talents like Fabian Wiede, Colja Löffler and Jonas Thümmler, while experienced stars remained on the bench. Constanta fired on all cylinders in the first half. After Berlin had taken their first lead at 9:8 in minute 17, Constanta struck back for 12:10 - the only two-goal lead of one team before the break of an intense game. So the half-time result of 14:13 in favour of the Romanians reflected the first 30 minutes.

In the initial stage of the second half Constanta took profit from several two-minute suspension against Berlin to remain ahead and extend the margin to three goals for the first time at 20:17 in minute 41, after Alexandru Csepreghi had started his engines.

The match became more and more combative, but defence sides fought wioth intensity. Berlin coach Dagur Sigurdsson last needed to interfere with a time-out when his team was down 17:21. Pushed and boosted by the 7,000 fans, Füchse started their chase. Initialised by a double strike of Sven-Sören Christophersen, Berlin tried everything to turn the match around, but still lacked precision in defence and allowed Constanta to break through the gaps.

Just like the day before against Szeged, German number 1 Heinevetter was clearly below par, losing the duel with still brilliant Popescu and left the goal again after 18 minutes to change with Stochl.

And the Czech keeper entered the court at the right time - saving three straight Constanta shots - but his teammates lost the chance to turn the match earlier by missing two penalty shots within only five minutes. Constanta were heavily shaken, but as Popescu stood as a rock they were still leadin 25:22 in the final stages.

But as the Romanian side were running out of power, Füchse managed a triple strike within one minute to equalise for the first time since the opening stages at 25:25, causing a Constanta time-out four minutes before the final buzzer. The fans went crazy, shouting, clapping and singing for their team. And who else then outstanding Iker Romero (best scorer with eight goals) netted for the first lead at 26:25 and decided the match by a penalty goal at 29:27 in the final minute.

In the last international match of his highly successful career, Spaniard Romero was outstanding. The world and two-time EHF Champions League champion ends his career after this season. Romero arrived in 2011 in Berlin and is team captain since the start of this season. “Gracias, Iker” was written on a Spanish flag in the arena, and Füchse had plenty to be thakful for at the end.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor