Kiel win over Brest sends La Rioja throughArticle
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GROUP A MATCH REVIEW: Spanish outfit Naturhouse La Rioja benefited from Kiel’s victory against Meshkov as they advance into the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 ahead of their clash with Paris Saint-Germain Handball on Saturday

Kiel win over Brest sends La Rioja through

THW Kiel ended their VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase campaign on a high note with an emphatic win over Belarusian champions Meshkov Brest, but Naturhouse La Rioja were the real winners of the evening without even throwing a ball.

The outcome, which cemented Kiel’s top spot in the section with an impressive 18 points from a possible 20, also sent La Rioja into the knockout stages of Europe’s premier club competition as it ensured a fourth-place finish for the Spanish side.

VELUX EHF Champions League Group A

THW Kiel (GER) vs Meshkov Brest (BLR) 33:22 (17:11)

Determined to keep alive their slim hopes of staying in the race for a Last 16 berth, Meshkov took an early 2:0 lead against one of the most fearsome teams in Europe and held their own well for 20 minutes, as Dzianis Rutenka and Nenad Manojlovic fired on all cylinders.

Although Kiel bounced back with four quick goals, Meshkov battled valiantly and matched their more illustrious rivals in all departments thanks to a string of superb saves by their Croatian goalkeeper Ivan Pesic.

However, with the score tied at 10:10 with nine minutes left in the opening half, Kiel moved up two gears and effectively sealed the match as a contest before the interval as their strong defence opened up a barrage of easy goals from fast breaks.

The one-way traffic continued in the second period and being 26:16 ahead with 15 minutes left in no way flattered the home side, who would have led by a bigger margin but for some more inspired stops by Pesic.

Kiel’s deep roster and a flowing attack, based on a quick transition as well as unselfish and intricate passing, allowed every single court player to get on the scoresheet in what became a lop-sided clash as the spirited visitors clearly ran out of steam.

Pressing on relentlessly in the closing stages, Kiel held on to their advantage rather comfortably and the result was undoubtedly embraced by Naturhouse La Rioja, who will advance as the fourth-placed team from the group no matter what they do against PSG on Saturday.

Serbia right back Marko Vujin led Kiel and all scorers with six goals while his team mates Filip Jicha and Steffen Weinhold netted four each for the German title holders. Manojlovic also had four for Meshkov.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / cor