Barcelona edge closer to top spot as Kristianstad bow outArticle
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GROUP B REVIEW: VELUX EHF Champions League title-holders, FC Barcelona Lassa, celebrate an emphatic win at the competition’s debutants, IFK Kristianstad, in an entertaining match.

Barcelona edge closer to top spot as Kristianstad bow out

Reigning champions Barcelona proved their worth in no uncertain terms at Kristianstad, taking a step closer to securing the top spot, while they also extinguished the Swedish side’s hopes of reaching the knockout round.

Group B  
IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) 24:31 (12:19)

The defending champions, FC Barcelona Lassa, demonstrated they are in no mood to relinquish the coveted trophy with a classy performance at IFK Kristianstad, who can no longer reach the knockout stage of Europe’s elite club competition.

The emphatic victory left Barcelona top of the group, four points ahead of their closest rivals, KS Vive Tauron Kielce, who can only overhaul them if they win both remaining fixtures and the Spanish giants lose their last game at home against the Rhein-Neckar Löwen.

Barca took a stranglehold on the game from the offset, racing into an 8:3 lead, which soared to 12:5, as backs Jael Wallouz and Kiro Lazarov rifled in a barrage of unstoppable long-range shots. Tearing into the Kristianstad defence with quick transitions of the ball along the nine-metre line, the visitors continued to create space for the dynamic duo, who scored 10 of their team’s opening 12 goals.

The home team’s spirited fight appeared briefly to pick away at the deficit, before Barcelona’s Icelandic winger, Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson, netted his milestone 500th Champions League goal and his first of the match, to make the score 14:9.

The irrepressible Lazarov shone in the closing stages of the first half, bagging seven goals in the opening period to draw an applause from even the most passionate sections of the orange-clad home crowd, who packed the arena wearing the club’s traditional shirts.

The pattern continued in the second half, as Barcelona kept grinding down their opponents, who showed flashes of inspiration in front of their noisy fans, creating a superb atmosphere. Playmaker Raul Entrerrios made his versatility count throughout the fast-paced contest, dishing assists almost at will, while he also scored several pivotal goals as Barcelona built their lead.

Kristianstad’s top scorers struggled at the other end, notably Norwegian winger Kristian Bjørnsen and Iman Jamali, the latter scoring only three goals from his opening 11 shots.

Barcelona goalkeeper, Danijel Saric, pulled off a string of excellent saves and marshalled his defence, who left preciously little room for Kristianstad to exploit in front of goal.

The tempo dropped a little bit in the closing stages of the game and the home-side made the extra effort to bow out of the VELUX EHF Champions League with their pride intact, keeping the score respectable against the envy of Europe’s club handball.

Lazarov finished with a game-high of nine goals, while Jerry Tollbring scored four to lead Kristianstad’s effort, aided by three goals each from four of his teammates.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic/tm