Underdogs bark loudly in the Last 16Article
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TALKING POINTS: The knock-out stage of the VELUX EHF Champions League has begun, with plenty of room for interesting results in the first encounters. The underdogs headline the talking points this week

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Underdogs bark loudly in the Last 16

The first battles in the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League are over and the clashes did not disappoint. It was a weekend for the underdogs and they rightfully take centre stage in this week’s talking points.

Montpellier can do it again

The winners from Groups C and D had to make their way through a play-off phase to reach the Last 16, but in the first encounters, both Skjern Handbold and Montpellier HB showed they are not to be messed with.

Montpellier hoped for another upset after eliminating defending champions Kielce one year ago, when they became the first team from Group C/D to proceed to the quarter-finals. And another upset is what they got, as they beat FC Barcelona Lassa 28:25 on Sunday.

The return leg in Catalonia is going to be tough, but the French side have definitely shown that they belong among the best.

Skjern are the team of the week

Speaking of upsets, Skjern Handbold certainly pulled one off when they met Telekom Veszprém HC. The Hungarian champions endured a seven-goal loss, 32:25, but things looked much worse right before the end of the match.

Skjern are in the Last 16 for the first time in 14 years and the prospect of facing Veszprém was always going to be a major challenge. In their post-match statements, Skjern players said they surprised even themselves with the result.

Although the war is not over, the Danish side’s win in the first fight will make the second even more interesting.

The words that captioned Skjern’s team photo after the match say it all: Surreal and sensational.

Young lions fight proudly

The clash between PGE Vive Kielce and Rhein-Neckar Löwen caught the headlines before the teams even met, as the first leg overlapped with a league match against THW Kiel in Germany.

Many thought the battle was over before it started, as Löwen sent their second squad to Poland. Despite a brave fight, Kielce were just too much for their visitors, and became the first team this season to score more than 40 goals as they claimed a giant 41:17 win.

The younger Mannheim Lions made the team proud, as did another young player in Kielce. 16-year-old goalkeeper Milosz Wallach had his chance towards the end and saved a penalty, and his emotional reaction clearly showed how much the moment meant for him.

Paint the town orange at historic times

IFK Kristianstad played their first-ever VELUX EHF Champions League knock-out match when they took on SG Flensburg-Handewitt on Saturday. With the support of a vocal orange wall in the stands, the Swedish champions lost by four goals, 26:22, but hope to turn the tables in the second match in Germany.

Kristianstad captain Olafur Gudmundsson found the atmosphere in the town leading up to the clash as amazing, and the fans did not disappoint. It is no surprise that the Swedish supporters were chosen as the fans of the week – not for the first time.

TEXT: Andri Yrkill Valsson / cg