No chance to retain the trophy as Montpellier shine in KielceArticle
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LAST 16 REVIEW: Montpellier eliminate the 2016 champions and become the first Group C or D team to qualify for the quarter-finals.

No chance to retain the trophy as Montpellier shine in Kielce

Despite the five-goal advantage from the first leg, Montpellier HB were not the favourites for the return VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 clash – but the French side proved they are one to watch by defeating 2016 champions KS Vive Tauron Kielce 28:26 in their own hall and sealing their victory from last weekend.

•    Montpellier HB win the Last 16 clash with an aggregate score of 61:54 after the 33:28 win in the first leg
•    Kielce are the second defending champions eliminated in the Last 16 after HSV Hamburg in 2013/2014
•    Kielce’s elimination means that once again, there is no chance for the winners of the previous season to retain their VELUX EHF Champions League title – as has been the pattern since the introduction of the FINAL4
•    Montpellier reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010/2011, and will face Telekom Veszprém in the next stage

LAST 16, SECOND LEG                       
KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) vs Montpellier HB (FRA) 26:28 (15:11)

On Sunday Kielce faced the most difficult task in the history of their European cup participations, as they have never made up for more than four goals lost in the first leg.

But following their breath-taking chase after Veszprém in the Champions League Final last year, where they caught up with nine goals in a quarter, five goals in an hour seemed like a piece of cake. In fact, it was not.

"We are very happy. We played against the European champions and we were not favourites," said Montpellier's Jure Dolenec.

"We played two amazing games on a high level. We showed that we are able to fight against the bests on the domestic field against PSG, but until now we couldn’t prove it in Europe. I’m very happy that this year we succeed."

The French side began with strong defence, which made it hard for the hosts to find a firm position for their shots, and took an early two-goal lead.

Series of goals from both sides

Led by Krzysztof Lijewski, the Polish champions tried to narrow the gap just as Montpellier’s Ludovic Fabregas received a two-minute suspension – and within five minutes Kielce scored as many goals to take an advantage at 7:4.

The guests answered with similar power and the game stayed level until the last few minutes of the first half. At that point the French side started to commit mistakes, throwing over Filip Ivic’s goal or hitting its posts.

Kielce took advantage and, with another impressive series of goals, created a half-time lead of 15:11.


Montpellier dominate to the final whistle

Eight minutes into the second half Kielce finally reached the magic score line of five goals at 19:14 – but it was far too early to celebrate.

Diego Simonet and Mathieu Grebille reduced the gap to three, and their actions were quickly followed by another two counter attacks each from Dolenec and Arnaud Bingo, which put Montpellier back in the lead at 21:20.

The hosts consistently lost the ball or sent it straight to Montpellier keeper Vincent Gerard, allowing the French team to slowly build their advantage.

With six minutes remaining until the final whistle Lijewski drew Kielce level at 23:23, and the stands woke up – but the Polish side’s players did not.

Everything was clear and the rest of the game was controlled by Montpellier, with the final score of 26:28 earning them their first quarter-final berth since 2010/2011.

"In these two games they were better than us. We are unsatisfied because of the loss, but I want to thank my players for their fight. To win the Champions League one time, it costs five or six times to try to win it," said Kielce coach Talant Dujshebaev.

"Today it’s a lesson for us: How to lose a game after having a four or five-goal advantage in the middle. If we draw conclusions for the next season, I will be happy."

TEXT: Magda Pluszewska / cg