Paris feel the pressure but clinch FINAL4 berthArticle
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QUARTER-FINAL REVIEW: PSG trail by four goals in the second half before turning the tables to finish with a draw against Szeged and a three-goal aggregate win.

Paris feel the pressure but clinch FINAL4 berth

Paris-Saint Germain Handball encountered more difficulty than anticipated in the second-leg VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final at home. After winning the first leg by three goals, PSG seemed somewhat comfortable with the prospect of a home match ahead, but their Hungarian opponents were not willing to go down without a fight.

• After winning by three in Hungary, Paris snatch a draw at home to qualify for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 with a 60:57 aggregate win
• Szeged hold a four-goal advantage 20 minutes before the end of the game and look in a strong position to qualify, before PSG finally find their rhythm
• Szeged's Szolt Balogh top scores the game with eight goals

Paris-Saint Germain Handball (FRA) vs MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) 30:30 (16:17)

An away win is never a safety net in the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals – and PSG experienced that on Saturday night.

20 minutes before the end of the game, after a Luc Abalo turnover, Szolt Balogh scored a fast break to give Szeged a four-goal advantage at 21:25, at which point it seemed anything could happen.

Prior to that moment, Paris had been struggling defensively. Richard Bodo and Balogh were finding open solutions at the nine-metre line and neither of Paris’ goalkeepers could stop their opponents' shots.

Bodo, Jonas Källman and the rest of the Hungarian side continued to find the net while only Nikola Karabatic was moving forward on the French team.

Szeged take control

After a slow start the gap grew quickly in favour of Szeged and, though PSG closed the gap shortly before the break, the visitors had already made the score even on aggregate.

As they took a one-goal advantage to the dressing rooms Szeged could still think of Cologne – and the beginning of the second half made their dreams grow even bigger.

Paris experienced difficulties in offence, despite the help of their impressive fanbase. Goalkeeper Jose Manuel Sierra was having a great night and helped Szeged increase their advantage to four.

But then, with the thought of being eliminated creeping in, Paris woke up.

For 14 minutes, the French side did not allow any goals – and scored six. The score moved from 21:25 to 27:25 with shots into the empty goal making it easy for Nikola Karabatic and his teammates.


PSG find rhythm when it counts

Juan Carlos Pastor tried everything, including playing with seven field players, but Paris had locked everything up and thrown away the key.

“We didn't panic but at some point, we had to wake up. The fans helped us, they pushed us along the whole game,” said PSG wing Luc Abalo. “Szeged played very well. We knew these guys are almost better away than they are at home.

“We didn't settle defensively until the last 15 minutes but, luckily, we managed to do it in the end.”

The 30:30 draw is the best result a Champions League team has achieved in Paris, but that didn't make the elimination any easier for Szeged coach Juan Carlos Pastor:

“Paris are a very impressive team, but tonight we gave an excellent performance. We lacked experience in the end, I think that's where the difference lay. But I'm proud of what my players showed today.”

PSG’s young back Nedim Remili could not be happier about going to Cologne for the first time:

“You've got to suffer to go to Cologne, haven't you? We'll go to Cologne to win of course, even though we know it's going to be really tough. We're not favourites – I think everybody has the chance to win there.”

TEXT: Kevin Domas / cg