Barcelona and PSG leave the rest behindArticle
«Go back

GROUP A REVIEW: VELUX EHF Champions League record winners confirm top position by winning the MOTW at Veszprém, while Paris had an easy-going task against Bjerringbro thanks to 11 Karabatic goals.

Barcelona and PSG leave the rest behind

Latest since Saturday night, the fight for the top position in Group A of the VELUX EHF Champions League is only a duel between Barcelona and Paris.

Both sides started the international year 2017 victorious - and are already seven or five points ahead of third-ranked THW Kiel.

Due to the 22:25 defeat in the Match of the Week against Barca, Veszprém are out of the race for the number 1 position.

  • Thanks to their ninth win in 10 matches, Barcelona have all aces to win this group

  • Xavi Pascual won the duel of the Spanish coaches against Javier Sabate

  • World Championship MVP Nikola Karabatic was on fire, scoring 11 against Bjerringbro

  • Thanks to their fifth win, Kiel pass Veszprém and Flensburg in the table

  • Niclas Ekberg netted seven times for Kiel to become the top scorer in Schaffhausen.

Telekom Veszprém (HUN) vs. FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) 22:25 (14:13)

A patient and focused performance in the second half was the key for FC Barcelona Lassa to take the next fortress in the Match of the Week. FCB beat Veszprém for the fourth straight time in a VELUX EHF Champions League duel. The Catalans deserved the victory, while Veszprém could not stop the downswing against the top team.

Once again, backed by the ‘red wall’ on the stands of the sold-out Veszprém arena, the hosts had the better start and forged ahead to their one and only three-goal advance before the break at 9:6. Goalkeeper, Roland Mikler, along with Laszlo Nagy and Dragan Gajic, who netted in five times each (and both ended at six), were the keys to why the hosts were leading.

But Barcelona had a good match plan. They waited patiently to score from the back court positions or struck back with counter attacks, such from team captain Victor Tomas or Valero Rivera Junior. Thus, the result was levelled and Barca eventually took the lead at 13:12 - despite a two-man disadvantage at that time and thanks to some crucial saves of goalkeeper, Gonzalo Pertez de Vargas. Finally, a buzzer-beating strike of Nagy provided Veszprém with a close 14:13 half-time lead.

Until the score of 18:18, both sides were equal. At this point, the Hungarian record champions missed three chances, while Barcelona scored a treble strike, forcing Sabate to take a team timeout with 13 minutes remaining.

But nothing changed. The record EHF Champions League winners extended the gap to four goals, while Veszprém could not shake off their nervousness in attack - and did not score a single goal for nine minutes.

The resistance had been broken; though the fans still stood as one behind their team, which was defeated for the second time on home ground this season, after the 28:29 loss against PSG. Barcelona remain on top of the table in Group A and took their first win at Veszprém since 2010.  

Rivera was best Barca scorer with five goals, while the Hungarian side now have another tough task ahead, playing at Kiel on Wednesday.

Post-match comments:

Xavi Sabate: ''Our defense was very good in the first half and Mikler was amazing; we could score fast-break goals. In the second half, we could not keep the level up. We have some key players injured, like Palmarsson and Sliskovic. Because of this, it is hard to give enough rest to Laszlo Nagy and Momir Ilic. We have to keep working. Ristovski was the key; he saved clear shots and penalties. It is a lot when you play against such a good team like Barcelona.''

Viran Morros: ''First of all, I would like to say that, it is incredible to play in this arena, especially if we win. In the first half, Veszprém could score a lot of fast-break goals, but in the second half our defense was better and we won. We are really happy for the victory, because we are still in first place in the group.''

Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) vs Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN) 32:27 (18:13)

It is sometimes enough to have a duo like Nikola Karabatic/Mikkel Hansen – each two-time World Handball Players of the Year – to win a match, like PSG proved against Bjerringbro.

Scoring a total of 17 goals, the two back court stars of PSG were, besides goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer, the key factors in a one-sided match.

After only nine minutes, BSV coach Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen had seen enough, took his time-out, as his team were already down 2:6.

But nothing changed as the star-studded Paris side, including six newly crowned world champions, took the match serious and left the Danish champions chanceless behind.

The 15:8 was the first seven-goal margin before the break; the 21:13 the only time when PSG were ahead by eight. Then the team of Noka Serdarusic decelerated, lost some concentration in defence and allowed Bjerringbro to reduce the gap to 26:22.

But the Danes never had the chance to endanger the dominant hosts, who took their fifth home win in as many home matches of the group phase.

Within six minutes, the distance was six goals again. While Karabatic had 11, the best BSV scorer was Nicolaj Nielsen with six goals.

Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) vs. THW Kiel (GER) 25:30 (13:13)

For more than 40 minutes, the new coach Petr Kukucka had a perfect debut on the Kadetten bench, but then the better alternatives and the individual class of THW Kiel decided the encounter. Thus, THW’s Raul Santos and Nikola Bilyk won the duel of the Austrian national team players against Schaffhausen’s goalkeeper, Nikola Marinovic.

Schaffhausen was not been shocked by an initial 4:1 lead of the three-time EHF Champions League champions and only needed ten minutes to equalize at 5:5. Eight minutes later, the Swiss side had taken their fully deserved first lead at 8:7.

The first 20 minutes of play were truly imprinted by the strong goalkeepers - Marinovic for Kadetten and the EURO 2016 hero between the THW posts. Kiel had enormous problems in attack, caused by too many mistakes, as they were not close enough to Schaffhausen’s attackers. Mainly the youngsters, Luka Maros and Lukas Meister, found the gaps to score and to make the fans in the BBC arena jump for joy - as they never had expected such a close match.

After the levelled half-time result (13:13), both opponents remained on eye level. But, then it took Kiel only eight minutes to take a clear lead by scoring a 7:2 series from 14:15 to 21:17 in the 44th minute. Swedish winger, Niklas Ekberg, took the responsibility in attack, while in addition, the THW defence stood like a wall, forcing Kadetten to lack precision.

When outstanding mastermind Domagoj Duvnjak netted in for the 28:22, the deal was sealed and Kiel secured their fifth group phase win to pass their local rivals, SG Flensburg, for at least 22 hours.

Kadetten remain on the bottom of the ranking despite a brave performance.

“I left Duvnjak out in the first half, as he is so tired after the World Championship, but this was not the reason for our weak performance before the break,” THW coach Alfred Gislason said. “It was our reverse gear. We allowed Kadetten to score too often in counter attacks. But, after the break things changed and apart from Duvnjak, our young guns imprinted the game. Now, we are out to take revenge at Veszprém on Wednesday.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen / tm, ew