Michal Jurecki leads Kielce to second VELUX EHF FINAL4 in a rowArticle
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QUARTER-FINAL REVIEW: Polish side defeat Flensburg by the smallest of margins.

Michal Jurecki leads Kielce to second VELUX EHF FINAL4 in a row

After their 28:28 draw in Germany in the first leg, both KS Vive Tauron Kielce and SG Flensburg Handewitt played out another tight game but the Polish hosts were the ones celebrating at the final buzzer.
Their victory on the night and on aggregate gave them a place in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 for the second time in a row and third time in history as the players of Talant Dujshebaev squeezed through by the tiniest possible advantage – one goal.
VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-Final Second Leg

KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) vs SG Flensburg Handewitt (GER) 29:28 (14:13)
Kielce wins 57:56 on aggregate

Both teams started this winner-takes-all clash dynamically and fans packed inside the Hala M.O.S.I.R. - Legionów could have got neck injuries caused by the speed of play backwards and forwards from one end to the other.

As Kielce goalkeeper Slawomir Szmal underlined before the game, it was obvious that no one would break their concentration and it seemed that way early, especially the goalkeepers, who watched their goals like lions who have just caught their prey.

Both Kielce’s Marin Sego and Mattias Andersson for Flensburg saved the first penalties they faced and after 11 minutes, with numerous stops for foul play and subsequent two-minutes on both sides, the game was all-square at 4:4.

Lasse Svan, the Danish right-wing for Flensburg, seemed to take his recent nomination to the VELUX EHF Champions League All Star Team shortlist to his heart as he struck the first three goals for his team.

Eventually Kielce let the pressure affect them, with nervousness creeping into their game and every mistake or reluctance in defence were punished by the fast breaks and counter attacks of their opponents.

Coach Dujshebaev, having recently overseen his Polish national side qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, shuffled his defence around to find the right blend; they played flat in a 6-0, the 5-1 and then with Mateusz Jachlewski and Krzysztof Lijewski hanging around high like satellites orbiting in space, protecting earth from the meteoroids of Flensburg’s punishing attack.

Ljubomir Vranjes stayed loyal to the one-line defence with line giants Tobias Karlsson and Henrik Toft Hansen in the space around nine metres threatening Kielce’s Uros Zorman and his squad.

The big achievement of the home side was stopping the dangerous Holger Glandorf, who scored 11 goals in the first leg, and was restricted to just two today – both in the second half.

After an amazing goalkeeping exhibition from Sego in the 23rd minute, the 4,200 home fans screamed as one in ecstasy as he helped his side go on a 3:0 run to go 11:9 up, but the German side came back before the break to pull it back to just one goal difference in favour of the Polish side, 14:13.

After the break it seemed that Glandorf’s ambition would not let him remain without a goal and with his throw the German gave his team a 15:14 lead. On Kielce’s side Tobias Reichmann decided to join the battle against Svan for the best right winger place in the All Star Team as he stepped up to the occasion.

After a series of three shots started by the player, Kielce again moved in front by three goals (19:16), which was enough for Vranjes who took the time out for his team as he calmed down his troops and got them to focus on the job in hand.

And they did as five minutes later Flensburg caught up with the hosts (21:21) forcing Dujshebaev to request his time out.

But knock-out games are all about heroes and taking responsibility and Michal Jurecki was that man. He helped his team with scoring (nine in total to top score in the game), causing penalties and working in defence. His shot three minutes before the end gave Kielce a 28:26 advantage.

Despite a strong performance from Flensburg, led by the prolific Rasmus Lauge Schmidt, who scored eight (top scorer for his side alongside Svan) their fight was not enough and Kielce, with their toughest game of the season so far saw out a final last-second attack with Sego pushing the ball wide and the scoreboard saying 29:28 to guarantee that ticket to Cologne for his team.

Down the opposite end, Mattias Andersson was distraught at getting so far only to fall at the last hurdle. “Andersson was the best goalkeeper in the world tonight,” said Dujshebaev about the Flensburg shotstopper at the end whilst his player Krzysztof Lijewski added “Talant counted all the saves one of Andersson against us - it was 16, so let's think what the score would have been if we taken 10 of them.”

Even though there was high praise for the Swedish goalkeeper, it meant nothing at the end. “Our failure hurts,” Andersson said simply at the end.

“We didn't lose the faith in any moment,” continued Lijewski. “Talant warned us that the game may look like this. Look at how tired I am, I barely can breathe, it's hard for me to think.”

But think they can as top-scorer was quick to praise the home fans for being the eighth player on court.

“We knew that our fans would be with us,” he said. “They can create a cauldron that world has never seen before, but I'm so, so tired but still I can find the energy to be happy.”

TEXT: Magda Pluszewska/amc