Kielce turn nine-goal deficit into first title on penaltiesArticle
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FINAL MATCH REVIEW: The most thrilling VELUX EHF Champions League Final ever ends with a shocked Veszprém side and cheering Poles.

Kielce turn nine-goal deficit into first title on penalties

What a thriller, what a rollercoaster, what an atmosphere in LANXESS arena. In one of the most remarkable EHF Champions League Finals, KS Vive Tauron Kielce not only took their first ever trophy, but also became the first Polish Champions League winners as well as the first team to win a final of this competition after a penalty shoot-out.

At 45 minutes Kielce were down by nine goals, before they cheated the gallows, closed the gap and had the chance to decide the match in regular time, but failed.

Then their goalkeeping duo of Slawomir Szmal (against Mirsad Terzic) and Marin Sego (against Gasper Marguc) saved two crucial penalties in the shoot-out, before Julen Aguinagalde hammered the deciding penalty in for the final score of 39:38 – making the yellow army in the stands go wild.

"Veszprem got better into the game. Their defence and offence were just better than ours," said Krzysztof Lijewski after the historic win. "But they forgot that my club is always playing until the end no matter what."

"It put the cherry on the cake. I'm very proud of my team, my club and myself. I waited for so long for this title."

Thus, Talant Dujshebaev is the second coach ever to win the EHF Champions League with two different teams after steering Ciudad Real to three titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009. It is the first time he has claimed the trophy at a VELUX EHF FINAL4 event however, in his fifth appearance at Cologne.

Kielce’s win earns Uros Zorman his fourth title after 2004 (Celje), 2008 and 2009 (Ciudad Real).

After winning this trophy with Kiel in 2010 and 2012, Tobias Reichmann not only takes his third Champions League title, but crowns a brilliant season in which he also became EHF EURO champion with Germany in January.

For Veszprém it is a disappointing third loss of three Champions League Finals since 2002 and 2015. They continue the unlucky story of Hungarian EHF Champions League finalists this season, as Györi Audi ETO KC also lost the final of the women’s competition in a penalty shoot-out, against CSM Bucuresti earlier in May.

Final: KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) vs MVM Veszprém (HUN) 39:38 (13:17, 29:29, 35:35)

In a combative defensive battle through the first half, the Hungarian side beat their opponents using their weapons most effectively, including a rock solid defensive wall backed by goalkeeper Roland Mikler.

Coach Talant Dujshebaev replaced semi-final hero Slawomir Szmal quite early with Marin Sego – but the goalkeeping position remained Kielce’s weakness before the break.

After an initial lead of 3:0, Veszprém extended the distance to four goals at 11:7 (minute 19) for the first time. The Hungarian record champions were better in all departments early on, including support from their fans, who made it almost a home-match atmosphere for their team.

Intermediately Kielce managed to reduce the gap to 12:13, but the difference was again four goals at the break after centre back Aron Palmarsson netted inside the last 10 seconds of the half.  

The Polish champions tried everything when the second period began, but could not break their opponents’ defensive wall.

Kielce were hit still harder when Lijewski had to leave the court with a thigh injury – their second injured right back after Denis Buntic was ruled out for the whole FINAL4.

At 21:15 the distance had increased to six goals, and Dujshebaev was forced to take a time-out after only nine minutes of the half when Veszprém profited from two more turnovers to pull ahead 23:16.

It seemed as though the resistance of Kielce’s players was broken, while Veszprém fans had started singing their winning chants with 15 minutes still left on the clock and their team leading 28:19.

But then, when all seemed to be said and done, Veszprém lost their rhythm, their faith, their confidence – simply everything.

"I am in quite a shock, feeling so mad, so sad," said Palmarsson. "[I] can’t believe what happened. We had already won that match and everybody knew we won it. But then – I cannot describe what I feel."

Szmal started to make more saves and the Polish side scored four consecutive goals to decrease the score line to 23:28, and their fans responded as Veszprém became nervous.

When Zorman netted to close the gap to just one goal at 27:28, the arena was a madhouse. Karol Bielecki scored the ninth straight Kielce goal for the equaliser at 28:28, and all the momentum was behind the team in yellow.

Only goalkeeper Mirko Alilovic kept their hopes alive by saving two penalties, off Bielecki and Manuel Strlek.

When Laszlo Nagy scored for 29:28 – Veszprém’s only goal in the last 16 minutes – the gate to a Hungarian team victory was ajar again.


But with a buzzer beater from Lijewski, who returned to the court for the dying minutes, the stage was set for the second ever extra time in a VELUX EHF FINAL4 Final – and the second in the 2016 edition after the Veszprém-Kiel semi-final on Saturday.

After the first period of five minutes Veszprém were ahead 33:32, then Kielce turned it around, leading 35:34, before Cristian Ugalde equalised again, sending the match to a penalty shoot-out.

In the penalty shoot-out, only Ivan Cupic missed for Kielce when his compatriot Alilovic saved his shot. Both Marguc and Terzic failed for Veszprém, handing the trophy to the Polish team.

TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / cg