Bregenz and Braga to clash for Group D spotArticle
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GROUP 2 REVIEW: Near Lake Constance, Bregenz Handball pulled away after a disappointing start and powered to a 39:31 win in the early game of Group 2

; Pomeranz's huge goal tally wasn't enough for the Isreali side as Braga move to the decider

Bregenz and Braga to clash for Group D spot

Bregenz inch one step closer to the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase by winning their tie against Belgian side Achilles Bocholt; they now move onto their deciding match on Sunday against ABC/UMinho of Portugal who won their tie in flattering fashion.

• Chen Pomeranz was the day's top scorer with 12 goals
• Achilles Bocholt & Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv will play for 3rd spot and an easier EHF Cup route
• Marko Buvinic was Bregenz Handball's top scorer with eight goals
• Bregenz are only one win away from ending a seven-year VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase drought


Bregenz Handball (AUT) vs Achilles Bocholt (BEL) 39:31 (20:17)

The Austrian side took advantage of their home court, taking what looked like in the end a straightforward win. However, it wasn't always plain sailing for them.

Early shock for Bregenz

There was no shortage of goals during the first part of the game, with both teams having their defenses exposed by the opponents’ fast combinations. Surprisingly, it was the Belgian side who took the early control of the game, leading until the 9th minute (6:7). But that quickly changed. As the Austrian side upped the tempo, Bocholt found themselves trailing, between the 14th and the 24th minute the Austrian side scored seven to Bocholt's three that helped Bregenz pull away.

Kedziora: the only bright spot for Bocholt

Their defence did not improve as the time passed. Therefore, it was no surprise that the half-time score was a no-nonsense 20:17 in favour of the hosts.

The Belgian side relied too heavily on Damian Kedziora’s goals, as the Polish-born Belgian wing proved to be less than enough for Bocholt, even if he scored nine times throughout the tie.

Rest in the second part

Therefore, it was no surprise that Bregenz even tried to rest their main players in the second half, having tomorrow's showdown in mind. But the result was in no way affected, as the hosts continued their stroll to a 39:31 win. This performance improves their chances of making their comeback to the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase after a seven-year hiatus.

Bart Lenders, head coach of Achilles Bocholt touched on his teams lack of Champions League experience: "Bregenz has more experience than us in playing such games. We have a very young team. Considering this, the game was OK. We made some mistakes and Bregenz had a good large bench to choose from."

Bregenz Handball's coach Robert Hedin said post-match: "Thanks to Bocholt for a good and fair game. We were well prepared for today. They were very good and put us under a lot of pressure. We had to fight for 60 minutes. In the second half, we played a bit better in the defense and that was key."

ABC/UMinho (POR) vs Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv (ISR) 34:27 (16:16)

Chen Pomeranz’s stellar game was not enough for Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv’s first win in the VELUX EHF Champions League, as the Israeli team was defeated by a sturdy Portuguese side.

Strong start for the newbies

With FC Porto’s strong outing last season, ABC/UMinho was hoping to continue the Portuguese tradition in the European premium competition.

However, the first hurdle was a tough battle against a hopeful Israeli side, who played their maiden game in the competition.

While Maccabi were newbies, they surely did not play like ones, taking an impressive 11:8 lead after 18 minutes

ABC comeback

However, it was nearly impossible for Maccabi to continue at the pace they were exhibiting, hitting 79 per cent of their shots. Therefore, it was no surprise that the Portuguese side balanced the game out with some hefty defensive skills; the first half wound down to a 16:16 draw.

Full gas in the second half

No matter the importance of tomorrow's final, ABC went full gas in the second half and quickly established an great lead. While the final difference, a seven-goal win, 34:27, flatters the winning side, Maccabi's consolation was a competitive outing in their maiden game in the Europe's top league.

Therefore, tomorrow's final, which will be played at 16:30 local time in Bregenz, will feature the two favourites, the home side and ABC/UMinho.

The top scorer of the day, Pomeranz, wasn't too down after the game commenting: "We are here for the first time in Champions League qualification. We see that experience is a big thing. We started the game well and surprised them, but I think we lack a deep squad."

Carlos Resende, head coach of ABC/UMinho stated after the game: “It was really tough! We lost some duels in defense and also had some bad issues in the attack in the first half. In the second we tried to solve the problems in the defense. I think we managed to do that pretty well. We know that it will be difficult tomorrow, but we’ll stay focused on making it to the Champions League Group Phase."

PHOTOS: Walter Zaponig

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / bc