Aalborg grab valuable away win, while EHF Cup champions deliver in the top flightArticle
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GROUP D REPORT: The French and Ukrainian national champions defeated by Danish and Hungarian runners-ups after two tense battles

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Aalborg grab valuable away win, while EHF Cup champions deliver in the top flight

In a noisy and atmospheric Stades de Flandres, Danish visitors Aalborg took advantage of a 12-minute second half Dunkerque goal drought to seal victory.

Meanwhile, Hungarian EHF Cup winners Pick Szeged picked up where they left off in May to register their first victory against Zaporozhye, who will be ruing their lost opportunity.

VELUX EHF Champions League Group D

Dunkerque HB Grand Littoral vs Aalborg Handball 21:26 (13:13)

In the first encounter of these two outfits Aalborg came out as worthy winners. In a very physical match they managed to neutralise the hosts for a good portion of the second half and there was no coming back for Dunkerque, who will have to improve their scoring in the next matches in order to pass the group stage.

In this low scoring affair the Danes started very well, especially Morten Slundt, who opened with four consecutive goals.

Dunkerque were frustrated with Ole Erevik's ten saves, all aggregated in the first quarter hour, while the scoring percentage for the visitors was a high 70 per cent. The French eventually picked up their attacking game and significantly strengthened the defence. A 3:0 run put them in front in the 22nd minute (9:8), only for Aalborg to answer with precise passing to the wings and the line to secure a level score at the end of the first half (13:13). 

Aalborg opened the second half well with two goals after being a man up, leading to William Annotel replacing Vincent Gerard between the sticks for Dunkerque.

After a couple of fine saves and an equaliser in the 37th minute, it looked like the French champions will again take charge of the match. But it wasn't to be.

Erevik found his mojo again (18 saves in total) and Dunkerque failed to notch another goal for more than 12 minutes - even twice from the penalty line.

For a while they played with two men down after some sloppy defending and the Scandinavians slowly, but surely increased the lead to a healthy five-goal margin (18:23 in the 55th minute). Coach Cazal tried with a full court pressing as a last resort in the dying minutes, but to no avail.

Aalborg's players were able to keep the opposition at the safe distance and it finished 26:21 to the visitors.

MOL-Pick Szeged vs HC Motor Zaporozhye 27:26 (13:11)

Szeged and Motor have never crossed paths before, but their first encounter ever made for an entertaining match with a volatile second half and a tight finish. The visitors were close to a point, but Szeged had their fair share of luck to record a win.

Both teams launched into the match with intent. The Szeged's deep 6-0 defence was working well, but the Hungarians were not able to create a significant goal margin.

Szeged's tall players blocked many a shot, but Motor's goalkeeper Richard Stochl on the other hand was in an excellent form, accumulating 10 saves in the first half.

Line player Olexandr Shevelev was found open frequently by his teammates and his five goals in the first 30 minutes kept the Ukrainians in the game. Playmaker Dean Bombač answered for Szeged in a similar manner, but his team-mates made too many technical errors for a more substantial half-time advantage at 13:11.

Whatever Motor's coach Sergey Bebeshko said to this players during the break - it worked. The Ukrainians managed quickly to create a 5:1 run in 9 minutes.

Stochl (18 saves total) continued to shine between the sticks and Szeged were in trouble. Sergii Burka (six goals total) and Shevelev (eight) were finding the back of the net with ease and the hosts were unable to respond. Their coach Carlos Pastor had to take his second time out in the 48th minute after Motor steamrolled to a 23:19 lead. 

Things looked bleak for Szeged, but Pastor pulled Bombač (six goals total) and commanded a deep 5-1 defensive formation.

This managed to stop the visitors' onslaught and their fairly static back line was left without many opportunities to shoot.

With five minutes to go Szeged produced a 5:1 run through successful counterattacks and equalised at 24:24.

When Vladimir Vranješ scored for 27:25, it looked that the Hungarians were home free, but a subsequent Alen Blažević suspension gave Motor a glimmer of hope.

They pulled one back from the penalty line, Niko Mindegia shot wide and Shevelev had the last ball, but produced an offensive foul and the points stayed in Hungary.

TEXT: Grega Sever / cor