FC Barcelona claim eighth titleArticle
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MATCH REVIEW: An impressive all-round display saw the Catalan side beat Veszprem in the final

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FC Barcelona claim eighth title

FC Barcelona dominated Veszprem to secure a 28:23 victory and crown their second VELUX EHF FINAL4 triumph in Cologne - and their eighth title overall.

The Catalan side left their Hungarian opponents behind in front of a 20,000-strong crowd, which rose to its feet to honour the 2015 champions 30 seconds before the final whistle.

Barca are the second club to win the trophy for the second time in Cologne, after THW Kiel (2010 and 2012), extending the run of victories in this competition for Spanish and German clubs, which stretches back to 2004.

Barcelona had lost two finals, in 2010 and 2013, before reclaiming the trophy.

Siarhei Rutenka became the fifth player in history to win the EHF Champions league six times. His teammate Kiril Lazarov secured his first trophy, but missed out on the golden ball awarded to the competition's top scorer of the season.

That honour went to Veszprem's Momir Ilic, who scored five goals to finish on 114 goals, eight ahead of Lazarov's final tally.

Icelander Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson ended his “Cologne-curse” by winning the Champions League trophy for the first time at the fifth attempt, with a fourth different club.

"I often left this arena very disappointed. Therefore I am very very happy about this victory. It is unbelievable to win this title," Sigurdsson commented.

Nikola Karabatic was Barcelona's top scorer with six goals, like Sigurdsson, and not only won his third EHF Champions League with a third different club (Montpellier 2003, Kiel 2007), but, like Cedric Sorhaindo now holds all four major titles - Champions League, World Championship, EHF EURO and Olympic Games - at the same time.

“Winning the Champions League was my main goal in this season. I’m very proud of winning this one here in Cologne. I think the FINAL4 in Cologne is something like the Holy Grail in handball. Actually there was a great pressure on my team to win the final this time. I’m especially proud of winning the title today because it is the first time for me to win it here in Cologne,” Karabatic said.

On the other hand, Veszprem captain Laszlo Nagy missed out on his third title after winning the trophy twice with Barcelona – despite his eight goals in the final. And Veszprem could not take the opportunity to become the first Hungarian club to hold Europe's top trophy.

Veszprem's coach Carlos Ortega commented on the match: "They were better than us. We could never stop in any moment Nikola Karabatic. They were much better than our attack. A few of our players maybe they were too tired after the match of yesterday. But our season is amazing, we did only lose three matches over the whole season."

Final: FC Barcelona (ESP) vs. MKB-MVM Veszprem (HUN) 28:23 (14:10)

Like in the semi-final against Kielce, goalkeeper Saric and the unstoppable World Handball Player of the Year, Karabatic, were the keys to Barcelona’s four-goal advantage at the break.

After an even opening 15 minutes, the record winners took control, extending their lead to 9:6 in the 21st minute.

On Veszprem’s side only Ilic and team captain Laszlo Nagy managed to break through the Barcelona defence, which brilliantly adapted to all potential plays from the Hungarian champions.

Saric made eight of his in total 14 saves before the break and was clearly stronger than the Veszprem duo of Alilovic and Mikler. And despite being without the former Champions League top scorer Kiril Lazarov, and Siarhei Rutenka, for the first half because of minor injuries, Barcelona forged ahead to a 14:10 half-time lead.

After the break Veszprem’s coach Ortega tried everything to turn the match around, including changing the goalkeeper again, back from Mikler to Alilovic. But the Barcelona defence, most notably Saric, continuing to stand firm, building the base to maintain a constant comfortable three to five-goal lead for the Catalans.

Still Veszprem never surrendered. Nagy began to fire on all cylinders and the match turned into a defence-orientated battle.

But when Veszprem’s playmaker Chema Rodriguez had to leave the court due to an injury, the gate was open for Barcelona and they showed no mercy.

A 5:1 scoring sequence took the score from 19:17 to 24:18, which allowed the Catalans to cruise to another famous success.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / jh