Andersson and Flensburg's young guns cause huge sensationArticle
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SEMI-FINAL REVIEW: German side rallied from a six-goal deficit in the last eight minutes of regular time and beat Barcelona in a penalty shoot-out

Andersson and Flensburg's young guns cause huge sensation

What a match, what a thriller, what an excitement. Never before the LANXESS Arena in Cologne was host of a more spectacular VELUX EHF FINAL4 match than the second semi-final of 2014. SG Flensburg-Handewitt rallied from a six-goal deficit deep in the second half to beat FC Barcelona 41:39 after a penalty shoot-out thriller.

In the Sunday's final the FINAL4 newcomers take on another favourite and bundesliga rivals THW Kiel, while FC Barcelona will meet MKB-MVM Veszprem in the game for the third place.

"I am very satisfied and happy that I sit here and can say 'we will play the final'. I am proud of my players. I have to thank the audience. It was behind us, pushed us to do things I never thought we are able to do. At the end somebody had to win this match," Flensburg coach Ljubomir Vranjes said at the press conference.

Flensburg were down by 26:32 against the record champions eight minutes before the end, then scored six straight times to make it to the first semi-final extra-time in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 history and then to the penalty shoot-out, in which goalkeeper Mattias Andersson became the hero as his save on Nikola Karabatic virtually decided the game.

The fixture against Kiel is the second final duel of both teams in an EHF Champions League after Kiel beat their rivals in 2007. Since the implementation of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in 2010, it is the first time that two German sides face each other in the final at Cologne and after 2007 the second time ever in the history of the EHF Champions League.

For Barcelona it was the third defeat against a German team in the fourth attempt at the VELUX EHF FINAL4. So for the first time the Champions League record winner will miss the final, when arriving at Cologne - and will face MKB-MVM Veszprem in the placement match 3-4 on Sunday.

"We came to Cologne to win the trophy, and now we have to recover for tomorrow. It will be hard to play tomorrow, but we defend the colours of Barcelona and we will give our best to do it," Barcelona captain Victor Tomas said.

"We didn't play well today, we weren't in a good rhythm, we weren't fluent through the game. In the second part, Saric was the one to keep us in the game with his saves, but we started to make a lot of mistakes and gave Flensburg to take the lead. On top of all we didn't score in the last 8 minutes of the game and were not moving the ball," Barca coach Xavi Pascual added.

VELUX EHF FINAL4, semi-final 2:
FC Barcelona (ESP) vs. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) 39:41 (36:36, 32:32, 17:18) after extra-time and penalty shoot-out

When at 20:07 the final whistle was blown after a battle of nerves, the players of SG Flensburg-Handewitt jumped on the court, jumped upon goalkeeper Mattias Andersson - and it took them some second to recognise that they made it to the final.

Surprisingly the underdogs of Flensburg were ahead at the break. In contrast to the tactic they had hoped for- running counter-attacks - SG scored mainly from the right back position. Holger Glandorf and Steffen Weinhold were unstoppable and netted in eight times in the first 30 minutes. Despite the much wider bench and the clearly better alternatives Barcelona did not manage to forge ahead after the 6:4. And finally the Catalans had to thank their best player, goalkeeper Danijel Saric, who saved ten shots before the break that they were “only” down by one goal. In attack, Siarhei Rutenka and Kiril Lazarov, war far below their regular efficiency from the back court positions. The only one stroke from all cylinders, was Nikola Karabatic.

After an time-out after the 4:6, Flensburg woke up, equalized at 8:8 again and even took the lead at 12:11 in minute 20 backed by the saves of goalkeeper Mattias Andersson, who stood like a wall. So the VELUX EHF FINAL4 debutant grabbed their chance and left Barca behind.

And the German side went on initially - boosted by Andersson they forged ahead to 21:18 in minute 34. But exactly then the roller coaster turned its direction. Saric shut up his shop, saved seven consecutive Flensburg shots - and in attack his team mates stroke from all positions. Barcelona (not shocked after a leg injury of line player Jesper Noddesbo) had turned the match around within seven minutes only, scoring a 8:1 series to 26:22, led by Saric and Raul Entrerrios and Kiril Lazarov in attack. A Flensburg time-out was the logical consequence.

Nothing changed, in contrast: Flensburg caused too many mistakes in attack or failed against “man-wall” Saric, so Barcelona easily increased the margin goal by goal. Twelve minutes before the end, when  Lazarov netted in for 31:25 the semi seemed to be decided, the Flensburg resistance seemed to be  broken.

But then at 32:26 in minute 52, no one in the arena believed in a miracle. But it came true: Barcelona felt to sure and secure, the margin melted like snow in May. Passionate Flensburg suddenly saw the chance and grabbed it.

At 32:30 Barca coach Xavi Pascual took his time-out, but his team was already in lethargy, trying to run the clock - but failed! A double strike of hammering top scorer Holger Glandorf (in total eight goals) in the final minute completed the “mission impossible”, boosted by more than 19.000 in the arena. Scoring 6:0 goals in the last eight minute, Flensburg made it into extra-time at 32:32, as also goalkeeper Sören Rasmussen was on fire.

And despite a two goal lead at the break (35:33) Barcelona again did not manage to seal the deal. Flensburg equalized again - 36:36! Penalty shoot-out! Sensationally the young Flensburg players like Radivojevic, Gottfridsson and finaly Wanne took the responsibility and stood the pressure. The only player, who failed in the shoot-out, was Karabatic - against Andersson.

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TEXT: Björn Pazen / br