Barcelona on top again; Kolding show signs of lifeArticle
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GROUP B REVIEW: The defending champions nearly underestimate Szeged in the final stages, while Montpellier were defeated in Denmark

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Barcelona on top again; Kolding show signs of life

FC Barcelona Lassa warded off the attacks of their hunters: After Kielce had beaten Löwen on Saturday to keep up with the Catalan side, the defending VELUX EHF Champions League champions struck back against Szeged on Sunday.

Barcelona top the group again with a two-point cushion ahead of Kielce and four points ahead of Löwen and Szeged.

Besides, Kolding took their second win in the group phase, shattering Montpellier’s hopes of an earlier ticket for the Last 16.

FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) 30:25 (19:14)

Four Spanish players and a Spanish coach are part of Szeged’s squad - so any match on Spanish ground is something special for them.

Sunday’s duel even had a huge significance as after Saturday’s results of Group B, the Hungarian side could have caught up with the Catalan side and Kielce in the race for the top position.

Coach Juan Carlos Pastor, who had led Spain (including current Barca centre back Raul Entrerrios) to their first World Championship trophy in 2005, did not see his dreams become a reality.

Already at the break the deficit was five goals, as Barcelona stayed constantly ahead in the first 30 minutes - in a comeback match of formerly injured left back Filip Jicha.

Thanks to the goals of Wael Jallouz and the saves of goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, Barcelona had their first five-goal advantage at 9:4, before Szeged intermediately reduced to 9:11 - in the strongest period of their great playmaker Dean Bombac.

However, when left wing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson and right back Kirl Lazarov had started their engines, the gap increased to 20:14.

Though they missed their tall Croatian expert Marko Kopljar, Barcelona stood strong in defence, the only chance Szeged had in terms of scoring was in counter-attacks.

With Sigurdsson still on fire and a low number of turnovers, Barcelona decided the match early, forging ahead to 24:16 in the 37th minute.

But Szeged did not surrender, but were close to turning the match around at 25:22 and 28:25, when their top scorer Bombac netted for the sixth and last time seven minutes before the end.

Finally, the gap was too big even though Barcelona took their foot off the gas for the final stages of the tie.

Jallouz, Lazarov (now on an overall of 83 goals) were the top scorers for the victors, who can make a huge step towards winning the group and skipping the Last 16 with their Round 13 tie at Kristianstad.

Xavi Pascual head coach of Barcelona spoke after the match: “I'm so happy with our players and fans today. It was a great game for us. Szeged are a great team; they can score goals from anywhere but we had a super performance in defence today.”

KIF Kolding Kobenhavn (DEN) vs Montpellier HB (FRA) 27:26 (14:12)

The battle for the section’s last remaining knockout stage berth is set to go down to the wire after Kolding, who are still bottom of the group, edged Montpellier in the most dramatic fashion.

Lukas Karlsson scored the winner with only a few seconds remaining, after Bo Spellerberg drew two defenders on to himself and found his teammate unmarked on the six-metre line.

Vid Kavticnik’s last-ditch shot was easily stopped at the other end on the buzzer, and the home fans were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief after Kolding had thrown away a three-goal lead in the closing stages.

Spearheaded by Aymen Toumi, the visitors thrived in the opening quarter of a fast-flowing game and took an 8:6 lead, which turned out to be short-lived.

The home side responded with an 8:4 run which allowed them to take a two-goal advantage into the dressing room at half-time, setting the stage for an equally entertaining second period.

Kolding held on to their lead and extended it to 24:21 before a lapse in concentration enabled the visitors to draw level at 26:26, before they missed a chance to take what would have been a decisive lead.

Instead, it was the home side who benefited in the final 30 seconds thanks to Spellerberg’s unselfish hard work and Karlsson’s clinical finish at crunch time.

Russian Konstantin Igropulo and Tortsen Laen led Kolding with six goals apiece, Spellerberg and Kasper Irming Andersen chipped in with four each and Karlsson added three.

The outstanding Toumi rifled in a game-high seven goals from as many shots for Montpellier, who are now being chased by Scandinavian duo IFK Kristianstad and Kolding for the group’s last remaining knockout stage berth.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic & Björn Pazen / bc