Wisla stun Barcelona and secure knockout stage berthArticle
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GROUP B MATCH REVIEW: Barcelona’s unbeaten run ended in Plock after the Polish side produced a superb performance in front of their vociferous home crowd to book a spot in the last 16.

Wisla stun Barcelona and secure knockout stage berth 

Orlen Wisla Plock booked their passage to the business end of Europe’s premier club competition with a memorable win against one of the continent’s top teams, after both their goalkeepers shone alongside back court leaders Nemanja Zelenovic and Mariusz Jurkiewicz.

It was Barcelona’s first defeat in this season’s VELUX EHF Champions League and the result left Wisla fourth in Group B on nine points from eight games, giving them an unassailable advantage over bottom teams Besiktas and Alingsas.

VELUX EHF Champions League Group B 

Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs FC Barcelona (ESP) 34:31 (17:15)

Beating a team as strong as Barcelona is a mammoth task under any circumstances, and an even bigger one when victory is required to advance into the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition.

This is exactly what a valiant Wisla achieved however, aided by a fervent atmosphere in their Plock Arena where the home fans saw one of the most memorable displays of grit and determination ever produced by their team.

With 34-year old goalkeeper Marcin Wichary performing wonders early on, Wisla raced into an 11:5 lead midway through the first half as Serbian right back Nemanja Zelenovic drilled one unstoppable shot after another past the helpless Danijel Saric.

Speedy winger Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson was lethal with fast breaks at other end, netting five goals from as many attempts in the first half as Barcelona found a way to close the gap.

Macedonian right back Kire Lazarov, thwarted time and again by Wichary in the first half, netted a pair of penalties shortly after the break and it seemed a more resourceful Barcelona would turn the tide with so much depth in their squad.

However, with Wichary’s heroics drying up, former Barcelona goalkeeper Rodrigo Corrales followed in his footsteps and frustrated the players who were once his teammates.

Although Belarusian powerhouse Siarhei Rutenka was unstoppable, Corrales pretty much ground to a halt everybody else wearing a Barcelona shirt while Mariusz Jurkiewicz, Tiago Rocha and Kamil Syprzak tormented the visitors with delightful link-up play in attack.

One might have expected Wisla to run out of steam in the final stretch but the home side held on valiantly as Corrales saved a crucial penalty and Romanian right wing Valentin Ghionea nailed two vital late goals to sink one of the favourites to reach the 2014 VELUX EHF FINAL4. 

Rutenka finished as the game’s top scorer with nine goals, while Zelenovic and Lazarov had seven each. Jurkiewicz and Sigurdsson amassed six apiece, while Rocha led a pack of Wisla players who scored five goals for the Polish side.  

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / jh