Long-awaited CL action returns with a bangArticle
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TALKING POINTS: Finally, a new season of the VELUX EHF Champions League has started – and the first matches did not disappoint! Let’s look at some of the highlights of the first round
»2018-19 Men's News

Long-awaited CL action returns with a bang

It has been a long summer of building anticipation, but the VELUX EHF Champions League has finally thrown off again – and what a start! The first round of the group phase, where we saw the best teams back in action on the biggest club handball stage, was truly enjoyable.

There is plenty to talk about and undoubtedly being discussed in the coffee corner of every workplace – and here are the highlights.

Can we open with this clash every year?

For the second season in a row, we enjoyed a brilliant encounter between Rhein-Neckar Löwen and Barca Lassa in the first round of Group A. After the famous 34:34 draw one year ago, there was no less drama this year. It was the Mannheim ‘Lions’ who managed the extra goal this time, securing a 35:34 victory in a fantastic opening match.

If you think cheese gets better with age, what about Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson? The 39-year-old just keeps on going, finishing the Round 1 clash as Löwen’s top scorer.

With Sigurdsson and the likes of Andy Schmid in the mix, ehfTV.com commentator Tom Ó Brannagain wonders if the Lions can go all the way this year. And we do too.

Welcome back, Sterbik!

Speaking of maturing well, what can you say about Arpad Sterbik? He was, without much doubt, the hottest transfer of the summer, re-joining Telekom Veszprém HC – and he didn’t take long to settle in.

The best player on the court in the first Match of the Week, Sterbik was the deciding factor in the Group A thriller against PGE Vive Kielce, stopping the Polish side from taking the win in the end.

After almost two years, the party has ended in Nantes

It is unusual for HBC Nantes supporters to return home without winning smiles on their faces. It had been almost two years since their last defeat at home in the competition – the 19th of November 2016 against Motor Zaporozhye to be exact – but their run of form came to an end over the weekend.

It was SG Flensburg-Handewitt that ruined the party with a three-goal away win, 34:31, in the Group B clash between two teams who started their domestic seasons perfectly.

A perfect return to the big stage

After one season away from the big stage, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg returned in style with a comfortable win against Chekhovskie Medvedi in Group C, 39:28.

It was an historic moment, with a new high-scoring record for the Danish side in the Champions League. With the 11-goal win, Bjerringbro were also only one away from equalling their clearest victory ever in the competition.

No one enjoyed the victory more than Johan Plogv Hansen, who netted 14 times and is the top scorer of the competition after the first round.

Welcome back, Bjerringbro. How about some Danish victory chants?

Don’t underestimate the debutants

We welcome this season’s only debutants! The Finnish town of Riihimäki enjoyed its first Champions League handball match, where Cocks had a visit from Abanca Ademar Leon in Group D.

The newcomers can only blame themselves for losing their lead and finishing the match in a draw, 19:19. Cocks scored only one goal in the last quarter of the game, while credit goes to the Spanish side for never giving up.

It was not really the dream debut they had hoped for, but the Riihimäen Cocks have nevertheless earned the huge milestone of their first point on the big stage.

TEXT: Andri Yrkill Valsson / cg