Kiel in a galaxy far away from FlensburgArticle
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BLOG: ehfTV commentator Tom O Brannagain saw the defending champions flying and falling on Icarus wings last Sunday as they were steamrolled by Kiel in the first leg of the Last 16.

Kiel in a galaxy far away from Flensburg

You have to have a certain sympathy for Flensburg after yesterday's game, but you must temper it with an admiration with the way Kiel went about their business. They were simply awesome.

They were in a galaxy far, far away from Flensburg. Their interplay in offence coupled with a strategic 3-2-1 defence, meant that the home team were living off scraps for the entire match.

It all seemed such a light year away from the confidence there was at the start of the afternoon for Flensburg. They imagined and craved a victory to take back to Kiel next week. After 15 minutes of the game, it seemed like a forlorn hope.

That's not to say they didn't ask questions of the Kiel defence, but they, to their credit, had all the answers. And when they didn't, Flensburg found an inspired Palicka in goal. You can appreciate a good save from a keeper, but he had at least three, that would be a 1,2,3 all on their own in top 5 of the week.

This Kiel squad is like an American football team. They have enough players that they can replace an entire team with an equally talented alternative.

Imagine Flensburg facing up to an attack of Duvnjak, Canellas and Weinhold only to see Palmarsson, Jicha and Vujin when the time demanded it. Even the very harsh red card for Toft had no bearing on a game that had every Flensburg fan tearing out what little hair remained.

The extremely well prepared Kiel team exacted a measure of revenge for a final loss last season and an early season defeat in their home league. They just tickled Flensburg into believing there were spaces in their defence only to close a wide open barn door and then break almost uncontested.

In Greek mythology, Icarus flew too close to the sun and had his wings damaged. The analogy is true for Flensburg at the moment. The dizzy heights of last year have been mirrored by a plummet to earth this. The difficulties are injury driven, of that there is no doubt, but there were times on Sunday when the hunger of last year looked sadly lacking.

Kiel sapped all the confidence and legs from their rivals and while as a neutral you can bask in the complexity and simplicity of what they do, you have to feel for the home team. They are on course for the quarter-finals and will want to finish the job completely next week. Ljubo was outfoxed in the first leg by the wily Gislason, but he will want a better showing next week.

On this form it is my opinion that only Barcelona can rival Kiel, with Veszprém biting at their heels. On Sunday night Kiel ate at the top table, while Flensburg fed off crumbs.

TEXT: Tom O Brannagain, ehfTV commentator