Sporting qualify for play-offs after Bjerringbro win in SkopjeArticle
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GROUP C REVIEW: Sporting defeat Besiktas to clinch an historic play-off berth, TATRAN Presov suffer a heavy defeat versus Chekhovskie Medvedi and BSV take a decisive win against Metalurg

Sporting qualify for play-offs after Bjerringbro win in Skopje

A full portion of three VELUX EHF Champions League matches were scheduled for Saturday in Group C. With three teams – Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, Sporting CP and TATRAN Presov – on 12 points, Presov failed to put their opponents under pressure as they were defeated by Chekhovskie Medvedi in the first match in the afternoon.

In the second Group C match on Saturday evening, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg did not take anything for granted, grabbing two points against HC Metalurg in Skopje. The Danish side now lead the group with 14 points and are in full control of their situation.

It was all smiles are in Lisbon after the last encounter of the day, as Sporting CP became the first team from Group C qualified for the play-off with a convincing win over Besiktas.  

• Sporting CP are through to the play-offs after a win over Besiktas, no matter the results in Round 10
• It is an historical qualification for Hugo Canela’s men, as they reach the play-offs for the first time
• Presov lose the advantage over their knock-out rivals with the heaviest defeat of their season, to Chekhovskie Medvedi
• Bjerringbro-Silkeborg kill the game against Metalurg in the second half

Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS) vs TATRAN Presov (SVK) 38:26 (19:13)

The importance of the match fell too heavily on the shoulders of the visitors, who failed to step up to the occasion in the attacking phase especially. Chekhovskie coach Vladimir Maximov surprised the Slovakian team with very lively defence, often evolving into a 5-1 formation. Nerves were apparent, and Presov’s easy-flowing handball from Silkeborg was gone.

The second most effective defence of the competition suffered a massive burnout in the first half, as the likes of Dmitriy Kornev, Pavel Andreev, Maxim Kuretkov and Sergei Kosorotov all cruised past the visitors to score with ease. Even the change of goalkeepers did not bring much of improvement from the away side.  

Long effective passes up front and quick transition forward were the main attributes of the successful Medvedi attack. Coach Maximov’s men forced their opponents to make technical faults while they themselves were playing free-flowing handball. The wings effectively used the width of the court, while on the line, Andreev caused trouble for Presov’s defence.  

The second half was no different, despite the change of defence from Presov to 5-1 and attempts at seven-on-six in attack while taking out their keeper; today it was not meant to be. Medvedi punished every mistake, Dmitry Pavlenko added a series of saves with the added bonus of two empty-net goals. His heroic performance was underlined by a fair-play gesture when he helped Presov’s Jakub Hrstka, suffering spasms in his leg.

Depending on the other results in the group, Presov now need to win against Metalurg and hope for other results to play in their favour.

HC Metalurg (MKD) vs Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN) 29:33 (12:15)

Given the result from Russia, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg coach Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen knew his team would make a big step towards the play-off berth with a win in Skopje. From the first minute, they were the more dominant and efficient team in offence. The Danish side grabbed the lead and held onto it until the half-time break without significant problems.  

Metalurg were determined to fight with the giants and they very much succeeded. As Metalurg coach Danilo Brestovac stated several times during the season, the results are not the most important, but it is crucial how they approach the games and present the club in Europe.

Aleksander Spende played an important part in the game for the hosts, with seven goals. His physical attributes provided the base for the threat he presented from the back court. Together with the young Portuguese centre back Goncalo Ribeiro, Spende caused problems for the visitors’ defence.

In the second half, technical faults, BSV goalkeeper Aljosa Rezar and perhaps also inexperience halted Metalurg’s progress. The guests patiently waited for their chances, controlling the flow of the game.

Nevertheless, Brestovac’s team showed their best performance of the group phase and scored their highest number of goals so far, with 29.

Meanwhile, BSV wing Johan Hansen continued with his great form this season as he added another seven to his tally of 54. Jesper Nöddesbo came back with five following an unlucky game against Presov last week.

"We knew that this was going to be a very tough match," said BSV coach Bredsdorff-Larsen. "We also knew that we need to be at our best to win here. Of course we are happy. We rested some players. There is big fight for the first place and the play-off. I’m very happy that we visited this historic city and for the chance to play against a great team like Metalurg."

With 14 points, Bjerringbro are at the top of the group, but they need a point against Sporting CP in the final game to confirm their play-off berth.

Sporting CP (POR) vs Besiktas Mogaz (TUR) 38:24 (20:16)    

Following Presov’s slip-up and Bjerringbro’s win in Skopje, Sporting CP had the chance to secure their play-off berth with a victory – and Hugo Canela’s men rewrote the history of the club on Saturday night.

“It's a historical day for Sporting and for Portuguese handball. As a child, you always dream about something, and we are lucky today, because we can still dream with the future,” said Canela after the win.

Unlike Presov in Russia, Sporting CP turned their quality on paper into a quality performance on the court. For two-thirds of the first half, the teams were level – but from that point, Sporting had the edge thanks to a fantastic Matevz Skok in goal and the productivity of Ivan Nikcevic on the wing.

Together with the unstoppable Carlos Ruesga, Frankis Carol is the usual suspect that makes the difference from the back court for Sporting. The Spanish centre back scored eight last week against Medvedi, and on Saturday night added another seven to bring him to a total of 46 goals this season. The cherry on the cake was his in-flight goal in the 47th minute after a wonderful pass from Nikcevic.

Besiktas suffer from inconsistency throughout 60 minutes and lack of depth in the squad this season. Nemanja Pribak and Ramazan Done usually keep the flag waving and scored more than half of all the Turkish team’s goals.

But Sporting controlled the game in the second half, scoring wonderful goals while Matej Asanin and Skok made spectacular saves that fuelled the excitement in Pavilhao Joao Rocha. In the closing stages of the game, the players and fans applauded each other for a memorable night that will go into the club’s chronicle.

TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / cg