Barcelona edge closer to second place, Szeged claim late winArticle
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GROUP A REVIEW: The Spanish side had two 6:1 runs in each half to secure a 26:21 win over Kristianstad, while the Hungarian team came back against Zagreb from a four-goal deficit at half-time

Barcelona edge closer to second place, Szeged claim late win

The Spanish champions had their third win in a row in 2018 in the VELUX EHF Champions League, with a dominating performance over Kristianstad (26:21). 

Barcelona are now second in the group, putting pressure on Nantes, who are hosting Vardar on Sunday.

In the other group match Saturday, Zagreb failed to hold on to a half-time lead and lost at Szeged (30:28) and will continue to battle with Wisla Plock and Kristianstad, their opponents in the last round, for sixth place.

  • Dika Mem was Barcelona’s best scorer with five goals

  • Kristianstad will travel to Zagreb in a do-or-die game next week

  • Zagreb led for 50 minutes against Szeged but still come up short

  • Slovenian right wing Mario Sostaric scored 10 goals for Szeged


IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) 21:26 (8:11)

Fresh off their second two-game winning streak in the VELUX EHF Champions League this season, Barcelona were targeting another win against Kristianstad. But the Swedish side had everything to play for, with Zagreb and Plock tied with them for the last qualifying place.

There was no stopping the Spanish champions in the first four minutes. Barcelona were firing from all cylinders as they went ahead 6:1, scoring through five different players, as Kristianstad had no answer in defence.

Yet Barcelona had their share of troubles in attack, scoring only five times in the last 20 minutes of the first half.

However, their defence were as stout as ever, with Kristianstad limited to a 40% shot efficiency as the Swedish side cut the biggest Barcelona lead in half after 30 minutes, 11:8.

Kristianstad’s hopes were truly done and dusted after the first seven minutes of the second half. The action mirrored the first part of the game, with Barcelona taking a 6:1 partial in the first eight minutes to lead 17:9 and they never looked back.

It was the young right-side connection for Barcelona who worked out brilliantly as both 20-year-old right back Dika Mem and right wing Aleix Gomez Abello were in superb form, exploiting the gaps in the Swedish defence.

With a stout defence, that limited Kristianstad to a meagre 44% shot efficiency, Barcelona were in cruise-control mode in the second half, finishing the game with a 26:21 win, their third in a row.

The Spanish champions are now putting the pressure on Nantes, who will host Vardar on Sunday, as Barcelona hopped over the French side on the second position in the ranking, with 18 points.

Post-match statements:

Xavi Pascual, Barcelona coach: “We knew that we needed a good start and we got that. The players were very focused and I’m very satisfied with my team today.”

Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, Barcelona goalkeeper: “We played two different games. We were very focused and played well the first 20 minutes of each half and then went down in quality.”

Ola Lindgren, Kristianstad coach: “We had a lot of problems with our attacks against a good defence and a very good goalkeeper. Barcelona were stronger, faster and better today.”

Stig Tore Moen, Kristianstad right back: “We made too many technical mistakes and, on top of that, we had big troubles in scoring which made it an impossible game for us."

MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) vs HC Prno plinarsko drustvo Zagreb (CRO) 30:28 (11:15)

Last week Zagreb edged Nantes in Match of the Week for an emotional, yet extremely important win on their home court.

But that result could become meaningless if the Croatian side did not top it with another success against Szeged. Earlier Saturday, rivals Kristianstad lost against Barcelona.

With the pressure mounting on their shoulders, the guests enjoyed one of their best starts in this season’s VELUX EHF Champions League, jumping to a 10:4 lead after 20 minutes.

Experienced right wing Zlatko Horvat and left back Damir Bicanic were the main scorers for Zagreb, who led the first part of the game from start to finish, boasting a 15:11 advantage at half-time.

Soon after the break the Slovenian connection of right wing Mario Sostaric and playmaker Stas Skube saw Szeged getting back in the game. A 5:2 run in the first minutes of the second half cut the gap to just one goal, 17:16.

But the guests kept Szeged at bay, scoring at ease until a 4:1 series gave Szeged their first lead (25:24) in the match in the 52nd minute.

The Croatian side did not have the strength to go until the end. Two suspensions for Igor Vori and Damir Bicanic forced Zagreb to risk it all and the approach did not pay dividends as Szeged’s Sostaric finished the game with 10 goals.

Szeged sustained the pressure and an open goal from goalkeeper Jose Sierra Mendez sealed the deal as the Hungarian side finished the game with a 30:28 win.

The hosts remain in fifth place, with 13 points, one less than Löwen. Zagreb hope that the German side win against Plock on Sunday and the final Last 16 berth will be decided in the last round.

Post-match statements:

Juan Carlos Pastor, Szeged coach: "It was very important today to win, especially it was great how we achieved the victory. The first half was very bad but in the second we were able to have longer and better attacks."

Zlatko Saracevic, Zagreb coach: "In the first half we played better, but in the second half we did not find a solution for the connection between Bánhidi and the playmakers. The decisive moment was when we were 2 men down."

Urh Kastelic, Zagreb goalkeeper (who played on loan for Szeged: "It is always a great feeling to return to Szeged as the atmosphere is terrific. In the first half we were able to stop the shooters, but in the second we were unable to keep this level."

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew