First loss for Nantes opens Group DArticle
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GROUP D REVIEW: A high-octane game that saw 66 goals ended with Nantes’ first VELUX EHF Champions League loss – 32:34 against Motor.

First loss for Nantes opens Group D

As the only unbeaten team in the VELUX EHF Champions League, Nantes expected a tough game against HC Motor Zaporozhye – particularly after the two teams drew 26:26 in the opening round.

The French side led by as much as three goals in the second half of the Round 7 clash, but ultimately failed to prevent their first loss of 32:34, which broke open the group.

“They were better than us in the 10 last minutes, they were very strong in defence and attack,” said Nantes’ Theo Derot after the match. “They deserve their win, but it’s not the end for us. We are still ahead and we are determined to get as many points as we can until the end of this group phase. The team is ready to do it and can do it. We’ll see after the next three games.”

Nantes are still on top of the table with 11 points, while Motor and Besiktas are both tied on nine points fighting for second place after the Turkish champions won against ABC.

•    After six consecutive unbeaten games, Nantes lose at home against Motor, but remain group leaders
•    Besiktas increase their chances of progressing to the play-off phase as they steer two points clear of Motor ahead of their decisive clash in Ukraine on December 4
•    Veteran Ramadan Döne scores 11 times for Besiktas, with nine of those goals coming in the second half
•    ABC have little to no chance to qualify for the Last 16 as they are five points behind Besiktas and therefore have to win their last three matches

HBC Nantes (FRA) vs HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) 32:34 (19:16)

Both Nantes and Motor eyed the win and began with guns blazing. The Ukrainian side took an 8:5 lead after eight minutes with 100% shot efficiency and the ball shared consistently by all players, with six different scorers early on.

But a 6:1 partial from Nantes, inspired by Theo Derot and Eduardo Gurbindo, saw the game turn on its head. The French side claimed a 11:9 lead that the Ukrainian champions would not challenge until much later.

There were no signs of either side slowing down, but shot efficiency became a clearer factor as Nantes posted 79% and Motor recorded 76%. That difference translated into a 19:16 lead for the hosts at half-time.


No solution for Nantes

It took only 10 minutes for the Ukrainian side to stage their comeback and level the game at 24:24 thanks to a powerful shot from Lithuanian playmaker Aidenas Malasinskas.

It was no surprise that the last 20 minutes became a cat and mouse game, with Nantes scoring first and Motor replying instantly.

The pattern repeated until Barys Pukhouski took Motor to a 27:26 lead, at which point it became clear the Ukrainian side were ready to end Nantes’ unbeaten record in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Motor continued to dictate the tempo as Artem Kozakevych and Gleb Kalarash, both with a total of six goals, proved decisive in securing the incredible win for the Ukrainian side.

ABC/UMinho (POR) vs Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR) 27:28 (14:13)

An unbeaten streak that brought Besiktas five points came to an unexpected end last week when the Turkish side lost against Holstebro.

There was therefore no room for error for the ‘Eagles’ on Saturday if they hoped to continue on the path to earning a play-off berth for the first time in their history.

ABC were also on the brink of elimination, with their future relying on the result against the Turkish side.

An ABC-oriented first half

The two teams started to trade goals in the first seven minutes, before a 3:0 partial sparked by Hugo Rocha took the home side to a 6:3 lead after 10 minutes.

An aggressive defensive system, which shapeshifted between 5:1 and 4:2, helped the Portuguese side maintain that lead as Besiktas relied heavily on Tolga Özbahar and Ramazan Döne.

But ABC’s main weapon, their offensive prowess, started to fade as the clock wound down. The relentless Besiktas side took full advantage and managed to cut the gap to only one goal at half-time.

Besiktas refuse to look back

With everything to play for, Besiktas took a 3:0 partial from the first half into the second one and grabbed the lead for the first time in the 31st minute at 16:15.

Döne continued to be the decisive factor for Besiktas, as the Turkish playmaker scored three of his side’s five goals in the second half, putting the ‘Eagles’ ahead 20:18 after 41 minutes.

ABC tried to mount a comeback, but the Portuguese side ultimately fell short after a flurry of technical faults saw the hosts lose crucial attacks.

The home team lost a total of 15 attacks due to technical faults, as Pedro Spinola, Rocha and even their top scorer in the competition, Nuno Pereira, failed to find ways to unlock the Turkish squad’s defence.

On the other hand, 35-year old veteran Döne was the key to Besiktas’ hard-fought win with 11 goals.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cg