Favourites make deciding match in PresovArticle
«Go back

GROUP 1 REVIEW: It wasn't an easy afternoon at times for the two more experienced sides as the Slovenian and Slovakian sides edge their ties in VELUX EHF Champions League Qualification Group 1

Favourites make deciding match in Presov

RK Gorenje Velenje opened the VELUX EHF Champions League Qualification Group 1 with a win over debutants from Finland Riihimäki Cocks. The Slovenian side will play the TATRAN Presov in the decider on Sunday at 16:15 local time.

• Cocks debut in the VELUX EHF Champions League
• Slovenian runners-up bid for the European elite after missing out the past two seasons
• New Velenje signing Luka Mitrovic leads the scoresheet with 7 goals
• Presov are playing for their second consecutive appearance in VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase after finishing bottom of Group C
• Differdange returned to VELUX EHF Champions League for the first time since 1999


RK Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs Cocks (FIN) 28:25 (16:14)

Gorenje Velenje proved their status as favourites in the opening match of the new season in Europe’s premier club competition. Cocks made it extremely difficult for them and proved Finnish handball is on the rise, providing us with a dedicated and defensively admirable performance.

The Finnish outfit fight hard

The Slovenian side had to work hard in the first half to stay in the lead. Velenje changed their defensive formation from 6-0 to 5-1 in order to make life more difficult for Cock’s back court. Rok Golcar gave Velenje a two-goal lead for the first time around the 20-minute mark. With the Finnish team showing great team spirit keeping the game close with their aggressive and disciplined performance.

Maestro Mitrovic

Luka Mitrovic scored 57 goals in the VELUX EHF Champions league for Elverum last season, and he proved his class in his new club as he was the the go-to guy for Velenje today together with the captain Niko Medved on the left wing. Medved, felt after the match that "some of our players are playing at  international level for the first time. Maybe that's why we had some difficulties in the first half. We played quite well in attack but we had some problems in defence.

Second half thriller

Bachko pulled it level (19:19) with the clock on 37 minutes, but Velenje always had Mitrovic to count on. Cocks were able to keep up with the Wasps until the 47th minute. Then they had an eight-minute dry spell, which saw the Slovenian runners-up decide the tie with plus three goals in their favour.

Gintaras Savukynas, coach of Riihimaki Cocks spoke after the game of their fighting spirit and some missed chances: “It was an equal game today. Unfortunately, when it was 23:22 for Gorenje, we missed our chance and Slovenians used this situation and increased their lead. When we were four goals down, Gorenje were confident and controlled the game until the end. In general, I am very happy about the team spirit and the way we fought. I hope we will maintain this level for the rest of season.”

TATRAN Presov (SVK) vs Red Boys Differdange (LUX) 38:32 (19:17)

TATRAN Presov have booked a place in the qualification group 1 deciding match against RK Gorenje Velenje after high-scoring win against the Luxembourg champions Red Boys Differdange. The Red Devils showed there are no handball minnows nowadays at this level.

Rastislav Trtik returns

After being hit by appendicitis Rastislav Trtik returned to his coaching seat. His usual tactical approach, including very fast-flowing handball with a focus on team spirit led again to a win for the Slovakian side. Yet, some errors need to be corrected should his team want to topple Velenje.

In control

It took six minutes for Presov to take the lead for the first time. In the 21st minute Stefan Jankovic, a new singing from Banja Luka, made it 15:9 for hosts, but things were not that easy. Yann Hoffmann kept the score tight at the end of first half, but Oliver Rabek from the back court and Jakub Hrstka on counter attacks stole the show for the hosts after the break.

Czech winger on fire

Jakub Hrstka, was the biggest surprise in Presov's squad. Last season he scored 40 goals in Champions League Group Phase, today he showed his ability to score on a regular basis and in crucial moments to keep Presov ahead; Oliver Rabek added same number (nine goals). Their performance tomorrow against RK Gorenje Velenje will be key.

After the match the coach of Red Boys Differdange Goran Vukcevic said: “It was really great experience for us to play against Tatran because they play  in the Champions League often. We are quite satisfied with the result because a six-goal loss is not too much. Their fast breaks and defence was the main problem for us today. In the last 10 minutes we played with players from bench because tomorrow we have an important game for third place that could secure us participation in the 3rd round of qualification for the EHF Cup. This is our goal now!”

Rastislav Trtik (coach of Presov), on the other hand, felt they "played quite a good game today. We have some health issues in the squad at the moment so it was good we could make up for them; we are looking forward to the final match tomorrow.”

TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / bc