Klein and Landin keep Kiel’s flame of hope burningArticle
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QUARTER-FINAL REVIEW: THW win the giant’s duel of former Champions League winners against Barcelona 29:24

Klein and Landin keep Kiel’s flame of hope burning

THW Kiel were the one and only victorious home team of the first leg matches of the 2016 quarter-finals after Vardar and Zagreb had lost and Flensburg tied.

Thanks to one of their best performances of the current season, the three-time EHF Champions League winner tamed defending champions FC Barcelona Lassa 29:24.

It was the second straight defeat on German court after losing to Rhein-Neckar Löwen in the first group match - now the Catalan side are under pressure, if they do not want to continue the series of defending champions which miss the ticket to Cologne after Hamburg and Flensburg (both eliminated in the Last 16 in 2014 and 2015).

On the other hand, Kiel have their fate in their own hands, thanks to nine goals of left wing Dominik Klein and 14 saves of goalkeeper Niklas Landin.

“It was a brilliant night. A night to remember for all of us,” Klein said. “We have a good base. I never, never would have expected to beat them by five goals,” Landin added.

On the other hand, former THW captain Filip Jicha, who scored only twice from seven attempts for Barcelona, was truly disappointed: “We could not cope with Kiel’s defence. The five-goal deficit reflects the run-down of the match and the performance of both team. Personally, it was really tough for me to play here.”

In total, the three former Kiel players in the Barca squad - Jicha, Wael Jallouz and Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson each netted two times, while Kiril Lazarov scored six times.

“Maybe the expectations were too high for me, it was strange,” Jicha said.

Quarter-final, first leg:

THW Kiel (GER) vs FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) 29:24 (16:12)

In his last big match for THW in Sparkassenarena, Klein was on fire. The left wing, who will transfer to HBC Nantes after this season, scored seven goals from seven attempts in the first half - and was Kiel’s one-man show in attack before the break.

On the other hand, Barca showed an unusual nervousness, causing eight turnovers and four more technical mistakes in the first 30 minutes. Mainly from Kiel’s former left back Jallouz and Jicha were below their usual level. In addition, Lazarov missed several shots against Landin.

Starting with an extremely high speed, the general number of mistakes was higher than expected in the 20th clash of those handball titans, in which Kiel’s line player Patrick Wiencek had his comeback after a six-month injury break (torn ACL).

Thanks to their strong defence, Barcelona managed to keep up with Kiel in the first 25 minutes, which included an incredible Kempa goal of former THW wing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson and Lazarov’s 100th season goal in the VELUX EHF Champions League making it 8:9.

Kiel made their 10,385 fans in the sold-out arena jump for joy time and time again as Klein looked like he turned back the clock.

But Barcelona managed to stop the downswing intermediately. Goalkeeper Perez de Vargas saved some important shots, the defending champions forced Kiel to cause some mistakes - and after ten minutes the Catalan side were down only by one (17:18).

Kiel coach Alfred Gislason took his time-out, and the roller coaster turned around again. As Barcelona in that period were focused on Klein, his team mates Domagoj Duvnjak, Ilja Brozovic and Joan Canellas had more space - and they grabbed their chances: netting for the sixth individual time, “Dule” Duvnjak scored marking the first five-goal gap at 24:19 with eleven minutes to go. The Sparkassenarena was a pure lion’s den.

This giant’s duel included everything you want to see: fight, passion, emotions and thrill. And saves by Niklas Landin.

The Dane, who had to experience that a 38:31 home win in the quarter-finals against Barcelona is not always enough (with Löwen two years ago, when they lost the away match 24:31), was the key figure in the 27:21 gap four minutes before the end.

Barcelona found the solutions to reduce it to five goals - and the Spanish outfit can hope for another sensation at Palau Blaugrana, while Kiel have their fate in their own hands.

“This result is like a dream coming true for us,” Gislason was proud of his squad, but is warning everybody: “Despite this advantage, we are still the underdogs. Everybody who had played at Palau Blaugrana, knows what I mean. This quarter-final is anything but decided.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc