Nantes stay in the driving seat, Holstebro enjoy maiden victoryArticle
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GROUP D REVIEW: HBC Nantes complete their double over Dinamo while Holstebro win their first VELUX EHF Champions League game of the season after defeating Besiktas.

Nantes stay in the driving seat, Holstebro enjoy maiden victory

Nantes stayed firmly on course to reach the knock-out stages of Europe’s premier club competition in their debut VELUX EHF Champions League season after a comfortable home win over Dinamo Bucuresti sent them four points clear at the top of the group.

TTH Holstebro earned their first win of the Champions League season, derailing Besiktas’ bid to reach the round of 16 somewhat as the Turkish side now have some pressure to do so in the last four games.

•    David Balaguer Romeu shines with nine goals as Nantes defeat Dinamo
•    Dinamo lose ground in the battle to reach the Last 16
•    TTH Holstebro avenge their Round 5 defeat by Besiktas, beating the Turkish side by four goals
•    Magnus Bramming nets nine goals for the Danish team

HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) 26:24 (12:12)

Nantes went four points clear at the top of the group after beating Dinamo Bucuresti in a high-quality encounter garnished by spectacular goals and superb saves.

The outcome left Dinamo’s hopes of making the knock-out round hanging by a thread, as they remain fourth in the group with just four points from six games.

It looked like the French side would coast to victory after taking an early 5:2 lead, but the visitors proved a tough nut to crack as they turned the match on its head in the opening period.

"I think it wasn’t easy to say who was going to win until the last 10 minutes," said Dinamo's Pierre Yves Ragot. "We led by three goals but right after, Nantes scored six goals in a row and we couldn’t do anything to come back in the game. In Champions League, when you do that, you can’t win."

Struggling in attack

Nantes started to have problems in attack as Dinamo closed leaks at the back, taking a 9:8 lead over the hosts in the final stages of the first half.

Dinamo’s Iranian shooter Sajad Esteki was unstoppable and the Romanian outfit looked poised to take a one-goal advantage into the dressing room at half-time, but Nantes drew level on the buzzer to set up a fascinating second period.

Balaguer lights up the contest

Dinamo continued to press after the break and quickly turned a 12:13 deficit into a 17:14 advantage thanks to rock-solid defence, with Esteki still doing the damage at the other end.

But Nantes, driven by their irrepressible Spaniard David Balaguer, forced another twist as the game kept swinging like a pendulum.  

The French side replied with a 6:1 run which gave them a 20:18 lead and from there there was no way back for the visitors, who trailed 21:25 heading into the home straight.

Balaguer finished with a game-high nine goals for Nantes, eight of them in the second half, while Nicolas Claire added five from 10 shots. The excellent Esteki had eight goals from 10 shots for Dinamo.

TTH Holstebro (DEN) vs Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR) 29:25 (14:14)

Holstebro celebrated their first win in this season’s VELUX EHF Champions League after a fine second-half performance enabled the Danish side to overpower Besiktas on the home court.

Holstebro still have only a slim chance of reaching the knock-out stage, but Sunday’s outcome dented the Turkish side’s hopes of advancing to the round of 16 as they are now under pressure to deliver in the last four group phase matches.


Bramming takes the visitors to the cleaners

Holstebro dominated the opening 15 minutes as Magnus Bramming pierced the visiting defence almost at will, as the home side romped to a 10:6 lead.

However, Holstebro were undone by their own torrid pace, as Besiktas came back into the game thanks to fine attack from their top-scoring trio of Faruk Vrazalic, Mehmet Demirezen and Predrag Dacevic.

Vrazalic, Demirezen and Dacevic, together with Ramazan Döne, netted all their team’s goals in the opening half, as Besiktas clawed their way back into the contest and drew level on the first-half buzzer with a penalty converted by Döne.

Kildelund inspires Holstebro in rollercoaster

A spectacular goal by Kasper Kildelund, when he turned in mid-air and beat the goalkeeper with a behind-the-back shot, gave Holstebro a 17:15 advantage early in the second half and drew a standing ovation from the home fans.

Besiktas replied with a 4:1 run that allowed them to nose ahead before the home side hit back with five unanswered goals, which propelled Holstebro to a 23:19 lead from where they never looked back.

With Kildelund on fire as he scored another breathtaking in-flight goal, Holstebro stayed in the driving seat through the final 10 minutes, though Besiktas fought hard to force a final twist.

But it never happened. Holstebro goalkeeper Rasmus Lind produced a string of superb saves in crunch moments, allowing his team to keep a four-goal cushion until the final whistle.

Bramming led all scorers with a game-high nine goals and Kildelund added six for Holstebro. Demirezen netted six for Besiktas, while Dacevic and Vrazalic chipped in with five each.  

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / cg