Kiel’s problem between the postsArticle
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NEWS FEATURE: Sjöstrand still out, Palicka hopes to return against Szeged in the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals second leg

Kiel’s problem between the posts

THW Kiel’s chances of qualification for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne are in danger after a 29:31 defeat in the first leg of their quarter-final at Pick Szeged last Sunday. Despite their seriously impressive record of undefeated matches on home court, the goalkeeper position is proving to be a huge problem for the three-time champions ahead of the return leg.

Andreas Palicka has been on the sidelines with a torn tendon in his thigh since March, while Johan Sjöstrand has suffered a virus infection for two weeks. Even the late entry of 42-year-old Norwegian Steinar Ege, who was only supposed to replace Palicka, could not end the sorrows of the German record champions.

In the previous three games, including the match in Szeged, young Dane Kim Sonne-Hansen has taken the leap from number three in goal to number one. He was discovered by coach Alfred Gislason during a coaching course in Denmark, while playing for Skive FH.

The 22-year-old keeper signed a contract with THW last summer, ending his apprenticeship as a physiotherapist for the “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. “I want to learn at Kiel, and did not expect to be in such focus already. I try to keep cool in all situations and so far it was quite good.”

He gained widespread attention in the top of the table Bundesliga encounter against Rhein-Neckar Löwen (including future THW goalkeeper Niklas Landin), in which Sonne helped earn a draw for the Zebras.

Sonne-Hansen’s recent good form has done little to affect his humble attitude: “Nobody knows what my future exactly will bring. I have to fight and hope.”

Next Sunday, when Kiel host Szeged for the rematch, the situation already might be a bit different: “Although the doctors said that I need two more weeks of recovery, I plan to make my comeback,” Andreas Palicka said. Due to his ever-present fever, Sjöstrand will definitely miss the second leg.

“We have to play a more aggressive and focused defence if we want to beat Szeged on home ground,” Palicka said, to which Steinar Ege added: “We need to improve on the goalkeeper position, regardless of who is on court, but we will get extra power from our fans on Sunday.”

The last time THW lost a home match in the VELUX EHF Champions League was in October 2011, when Montpellier took a 24:23 victory in the group phase. In May 2011 Kiel lost their last knockout stage match at home, the 33:36 defeat to Barcelona was they last time they failed to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor