Kielce struggle to victory on a surprise-free SaturdayArticle
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GROUP D REVIEW: All three favourites found their way to two points, but it was not all plain sailing for the leaders in France

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Kielce struggle to victory on a surprise-free Saturday 

Kielce continued their perfect record in France despite Dunkerque's spirited performance, Aalborg flew on their wings to victory in Ukraine and Szeged dismissed Kadetten Schaffhausen with an impenetrable defence.

VELUX EHF Champions League Group D

Dunkerque HB Grand Littoral (FRA) vs KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) 25:28 (12:14)

The French champions played arguably their best game so far in this European season. Unluckily for them they faced the group favourites, who capitalised on their abundance of quality and experience in the dying minutes.

It was a tight encounter form the start. Neither side could produce a substantial lead. Dunkerque goalkeeper Vincent Gerard (14 saves) was excellent, while Karol Bielecki (6 goals) was dangerous from the nine-metre line. Kielce managed to get ahead just before the break (14:11) and there were some notions that Dunkerque could follow the doomsday scenario of previous games.

But the hosts bounced back quickly with a deep 5-1 defence and tt was 16:16 by the 35th minute. The teams could not be separated and Slawomir Szmal (12 saves) parried Gerard's efforts.

The hosts went ahead 15 minutes from time (21:19), only to concede a 5:2 partial score and Kielce were again in the driver's seat (24:23 in the 51st minute).

A nervous finished beckoned, but Marin Šego, who came on for Szmal, broke the home crowd's heart with two key saves, one of which was from a penalty.

Dunkerque could not score for five minutes straight and the Polish guests comfortably held on to another win to keep their perfect record.

"We are very happy to win against the French champions. It was a tough game, which we knew it would be after losing here last season," admitted Kielce line player Julen Aguinagalde.

"We almost had the game that we needed to beat this team. The decision was made on details in the last five minutes. They scored the goals when it was necessary. No one can be blamed but ourselves," said Dunkerque's Benjamin Afgour

Kornel Nagy top scored with six goals for Dunkerque, while Krzysztof Lijewski bagged seven for Kielce.

HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs Aalborg Handball (DEN) 25:28 (13:13)

A great secnd half performance brought Aalborg another pair of points on Satuday afternoon. Motor started superbly, but found themselves without fuel in the key minutes and remain without a single point.

It was a dream start for the Ukrainian outfit in Kiev. After 10 minutes they were 6:1 up, with Olexander Shevelev (five goals total) and Sergii Burka (five goals) the usual suspects.

Aalborg somehow managed to get their 6-0 defence in order and they came from behind to level at 8:8 nine minutes later. Sören Westphal came in goal instead of Ole Erevik and he was on fire (seven saves in the first half, 15 in total).

The Danes suffered 12 turnovers in the first 30 minutes, but Westphal's performance contained Motor to 13:13 at half-time.

The hosts modified their defence to 5-1 but Aalborg’s response was a textbook one. They widened their attack and the wings had a field day. Havard Tvedten (seven goals) and Christian Jensen (also seven) were pouring in goals left and right respectively, while the difference slowly grew bigger. 

Sergiy Onufrienko (nine goals) was trying to narrow Aalborg’s advantage, but he had too little support from his teammates. It was only 23:20 to Aalborg with nine minutes to go but Westphal and the woodwork were in the way of some of the key shots and the visitors never looked back.

MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) vs Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) 34:24 (16:13)

Both teams came into the game with high hopes after spirited performances in the previous round. But Swiss dreams of another upset were shattered against an excellent 6-0 Szeged defence. The Hungarian side were a class better this time.

It took 5 minutes (5:5) for Szeged to crank it up a notch. Led by a superb (Dean Bombač (seven goals in the first half, 11 total) they went ahead 13:9 in the 23rd minute.

Kadetten were able to follow them after a solid display by Nikola Portner in goal (nine saves in the first half, 14 total) and Rares Jurca in offense (five goals in the first half, 6 total). Both teams had overall good shot percentages (53 vs 50 per cent).

Szeged then strengthened their 6-0 defence, which became extremely agile and Kadetten could not score for the first nine minutes in the second half.

Jurca was neutralised and Jose Sierra (12 saves) was stopping what his teammates could not. It was 20:14 in the 40th minute, after which Kadetten pulled a few goals back, but they were doomed when Bombač re-entered the court.

The home offense had a field day with fast breaks, after the opposition smashed against the defensive wall (and some woodwork) again and again.

The score was 29:20 in the 53rd minute and the deal was done right there and then. Jonas Källman and Rajko Prodanović for Szeged and Andrija Pendic for Kadetten added 5 goals respectively.

TEXT: Grega Sever