Kiel make it to their seventh finalArticle
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MATCH REVIEW: Combative semi-final encounter with Veszprem ends in a close but deserved win for THW

Kiel make it to their seventh final

“Ole, here comes the THW!” Again the fans of Kiel were signing their song in the sold-out LANXESS-Arena on Saturday after their team had made it to the final of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 for the third time after 2010 and 2012. After a disappointing fourth rank in 2013, Kiel are fighting for their, in total fourth EHF Champions League title on Sunday against the winner of the second semi Barcelona vs. Flensburg.

Brilliant performances of Aron Palmarsson (seven goals) and goalkeeper Andreas Palicka (12 saves) paved the way for the29:26 win over VELUX EHF FINAL4 debutants MKB-MVM Veszprem, who stood strong for 60 minutes but could not leave Kiel behind.

"I can hardly describe how proud I am of my team, because they gave everything they could the last weeks even though we had a lot of problems. Today we never gave up and especially in the second half we played very well. The defence was very important. The whole team and especially Andreas Palicka did a great job. We won the match most of all with our great defence," Kiel coach Alfred Gislason said after the game.

In total, Kiel will play their seventh EHF Champions League final after their victories 2007 and twice in Cologne and final defeats in 2000, 2008 and 2009. So definitely the “traditional” constellation of VELUX EHF FINAL4 finals in Cologne will remain, as again only German and Spanish sides will fight for the trophy. And Kiel continued a series, as they remain victorious against teams coached by Spaniards in Cologne. And now they aim to continue another series: If Kiel were in the finals in Cologne, they always won them.

VELUX EHF FINAL4, semi-final 1:
MKB-MVM Veszprem (HUN) vs. THW Kiel (GER) 26:29 (13:13)

Attended by 20.000 fans in the sold-out LANXESS arena an impressive light show and the live performance of Rob Fowler with his official VELUX EHF FINAL4 anthem “Do it like us” opened the fifth edition of the event in Cologne - and Veszprem’s Serbian line player Uros Vilovski scored the first goal of the tournament.

The halftime result of 13:13 exactly reflected the fully equal performances of both sides in highly combative first 30 minutes. Kiel had enormous problems in scoring from position attacks, as the Veszprem defence stood in an incredible way, backed by the saves of extra-ordinary goalkeeper Mirko Alilovic. So the German side needed to count on their counter-attacks - and mainly Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (in total six goals) in his last but one for THW was cold as ice.

Also Veszprem had their best weapon in counter-attacks, thanks to Christian Ugalde, who like Sigurdsson had netted in four times in the first half.

After a fully equal start, Veszprem seemed to be able to get ahead of Kiel, leading 11:8 in minute 21, but it took the three times champions only 70 seconds to equalize at 11:11 and even take the lead at 13:12 - mainly thanks to the saves of Andreas Palicka, who had replaced Johan Sjöstrand after 16 minutes and despite missing two penalty shots.

At the begin of the second half then show of THW youngster Aron Palmarson culminated in a hammering double strike, giving Kiel their first ever two goal lead at 18:16, causing a time-out of Veszprem’s coach Carlos Antonio Ortega in minute 39 - followed by the 19:16.

The only Kiel problem: In Rene Toft Hansen and Christian Zeitz two defence specialists had already received each two two minutes suspension 20 minutes before the end. But Veszprem were even hit harder: Renato Sulic was sent-off by a direct red card after an elbow check in attack against Patrick Wiencek in minute 43.

Veszprem desperately tried to level the result, but every time the Hungarian side were close to only one goal, Kiel stroke back by double strikes - like on a roller coaster ride on which the goalkeepers Alilovic and Palicka set the highlighters still.

"When we changed our defensive to be less agressive, 6:0 formation we became much more successfull. Palicka did a great job in the goal today, and so we got our fast-breaks," Palmarsson said.

Palicka's counter-part Alilovic also praised the Swedish goalkeeper. "We had our chance in the first half, but then made too many mistakes. They read our passes very well and we lost some easy balls. Palicka in the goal made the match I think," he said.

But it was Swedish 2012 Olympic Games top scorer Niklas Ekberg, who opened the gate to the final for Kiel, netting in twice within 25 seconds for 27:23. But it took until minute 59 before the first semi-final was decided at 29:26.

Best Veszprem scorer was Momir Ilic, who added five more goals to his tally to take over the lead in the top scorer list by 96 goals ahead of Renato Vugrinec (95) - so the Serb is on the best way to become top scorer of the competition for the first time.

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TEXT: Björn Pazen / br