Things we know with the FINAL4 loomingArticle
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TALKING POINTS: The first leg of the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final provided us with a lot of drama as the race to Cologne for the eight remaining teams has now been reduced to one match
»2017-18 Men's News

Things we know with the FINAL4 looming

Only one round of matches separates us from the VELUX EHF FINAL4 on 26 and 27 May. The first leg of the quarter-final is behind us and Cologne is moving closer fast.

The second leg will be played on Saturday and Sunday, 28 and 29 April, and after that we can divert our attention to Cologne.

For now, let’s have a look at the talking points from the first leg.

Nantes lead in the competition for history

HBC Nantes have a six-goal lead against Danish side Skjern Håndbold after their 33:27 win at home. That means that Nantes have gone unbeaten at home through the entire VELUX EHF Champions League 2017/18 season.

It was the first time that these teams met at this level as neither Nantes nor Skjern had ever reached the quarter-finals before.

There is no reason for Skjern to put their heads down, remembering their magnificent 32:25 win at home against Telekom Veszprém in the Last 16.

The fight is not over before one of the biggest games in both Nantes’ and Skjern’s history – which team will take part in the FINAL4 for the first time?

Unusual defeat at home forces Kiel to attack

It was top-class drama as THW Kiel met HC Vardar. The reigning champions, coming back into the competition after skipping the Last 16, went back home with a one-goal advantage (29:28).

The match could not have been any closer as Kiel were two goals ahead (28:26) with less than three minutes to play. However, the last three goals, and the last two in the last 30 seconds, were scored by Vardar. The drama does hardly get any better than this.

It was the first time since 2011 that Kiel lost a quarter-final match at home, but as only one goal splits the teams, the second leg is bound to be exciting.

PSG far from rusty after their break

Just like Vardar, PSG leapfrogged the Last 16 and went straight into the quarter-finals. The rest did not make the French side rusty as their six-goal win (34:28) against PGE Vive Kielce in Poland underlined.

The two teams were together in Group B where PSG won both matches - 33:28 at home and 30:29 in Poland - so the history of the season was not in favour of Kielce.

However, what gives the 2016 champions a lifeline is how they managed to cut back PSG’s lead from 12 goals (22:10) to just six in the second half.

Kielce will hope for Alex Dujshebaev to recover in time for Saturday’s return game in France after he got hurt in a clash with Nikola Karabatic. For the Polish side, everything needs to go their way in Paris if they want to get a chance to go all the way again in Cologne.

Montpellier fans eye historic trip

The quarter-final was opened by SG Flensburg-Handewitt and Montpellier HB playing to a draw (28:28) in their midweek match in Germany, setting up a very interesting returning leg in France, which will be the Match of the Week.

The French supporters are likely to be more excited than their German counterparts as Montpellier have not yet made it to a FINAL4.'

After throwing out FC Barcelona Lassa in the Last 16, Montpellier now have only one game left between them and Cologne.


TEXT: Andri Yrkill Valsson / ew