Bitter paves Hamburg's way to the finalArticle
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MATCH REVIEW: HSV win semi-final at EHF Cup Finals against Skjern easier than expected thanks to a great goalkeeping performance
»2014-15 Men's News

Bitter paves Hamburg's way to the final

A 2007 EHF Cup winner was the match winner for HSV Hamburg, who will fight for the EHF Cup trophy on Sunday in Berlin. Goalkeeper Johannes Bitter, a champion of the old version of the competition eight years ago with SC Magdeburg, was the key to success for the German side, saving 20 shots in the first semi-final of the EHF Cup Finals in Berlin on Saturday.

HSV's opponent Skjern Handbold could never manage to endanger the German side's lead and they will now aim to complete their European trophy collection on Sunday after winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 2007 and the VELUX EHF Champions League in 2013.

Top scorers of an unexpectedly one-sided semi-final were Kentin Mahe for Hamburg with six goals while Rene Toft Rasmussen and Lasse Mikkelsen both scored five goals for the Danes.

EHF Cup Finals, semi-final:

Skjern Handbold (DEN) vs HSV Handball (GER) 23:27 (10:14)

Hamburg were dominant right from the start,  employing more tactical alternatives while the Danes lacked means in attack. After only 13 minutes Skjern coach Ole Norgaard took his first time-out with his team down 3:7. HSV were led by brilliant playmaker Kentin Mahe, backed by the saves of Bitter (eight in the first half, 20 in total) and the goals of powerful line player Henrik Toft Hansen, who fought such hard that he even had to change his ripped jersey after 17 minutes.

The Danes made too many technical mistakes and missed passes in this stage to bridge the gap, while Hamburg even missed the chance for an earlier decision with the score at 12:7. But suddenly things changed, goalkeeper Sören Pedersen saved some important shots, HSV lacked their efficiency and suddenly the advance had melted to on two goals at 12:10.

The second half began with a shock for HSV: Johan Petterson (43 years old), who just had been signed as replacement for Stefan Schröder and Hans Lindberg, had to leave the court and later the arena with an ankle injury in minute 34. Kevin Herbst was the last remaining right wing from that moment on.

"We cannot say if he can play tomorrow, it is a achilles injury, maybe it's torn, maybe not," said HSV coach Jens Häusler.

But the turquoise coloured Hamburg fans – in constant “battle of noise” with the green clad Skjern supporters – stood as one for their team, backing the players with their chants to end the state of shock in no time.

HSV again forged ahead to their first six-goal distance at 20:14, mainly thanks to Bitter’s saves in a match, which had turned into a much more combative defensive battle compared to the first half.

"Hamburg were the clear better team, they deserved to win", said Skjern coach Ole Norgaard, while his team captain Henrik Möllgaard added: "Bitter was the difference in this match, in all situations."

Despite left back Pascal Hens also leaving the court with a face injury, HSV were clever enough to tick down the clock and to make it to the final. When it counted, brilliant Mahe took the responsibility for Hamburg, keeping the margin quite clear.

When Toft Hansen found the net to make it 27:21, HSV were secure enough with the win to chant “victory, victory” and “final, final”.

"It was a matter of preparation and Bitter was our life insurance", wetter Häusler's keys to success.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor