After all four first leg matches of the Quarterfinals have been played Hamburg (38:24 against Medvedi) remain the only team of the German quartet which have won. After Flensburg lost clearly against Ciudad Real , now Rhein Neckar Löwen lost on home ground against Montpellier and Kiel was defeated in Barcelona on Sunday. But nothing is decided in those two encounters, as the return matches will start each with a two goal difference next weekend.
Quarterfinals, first leg:
Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER) – Montpellier MAHB (FRA) 27:29 (12:9)
The 11.000 spectators saw a match of two completely different halves. In the first 30 minutes the Löwen were dominant thanks to in total eleven saves of outstanding goalkeeper Slawomir Szmal. In a highly intense match Löwen had initially some problems with Montpellier as they could not break through their defence. On the other side the French team had big personal problems as they had to replace Tej, Juracik and Hamed and could start in Mannheim with only line player: Luka Karabatic. But Nikola’s brother became a key player of the game. By scoring four of the first eight goals for his team he was responsible for the 8:6 Montpellier lead – but then the French motor got stuck, as Szmal closed the gate. Thanks to his saves Löwen scored five straight goals to 11:8 and kept this distance until the break (12:9).
But suddenly – and after Löwen had extended the gap to 14:10 everything changed completely: The Germans caused one mistake after the other in attack, MAHB goalkeeper Richard Stochl improved, as the Löwen could not avoid the French counter attacks. Montpellier took the profit of those Löwen unforced errors, scored several easy goals, especially by Vid Kavticnik (top scorer with in total seven goals) and took back the lead at 20:19 in minute 43. Löwen were not able to find their pace, the number of mistakes – lost balls and missed chances – arose and Montpellier had no problems to extend the lead to three goals for the first time at 25:22 in minute 50 – the first goal in his tenth attempt for Nikola Karabatic, who had a black day in attack, especially compared to his brother Luka.
But with his second and last goal Nikola Karabatic even extended the gap to 29:25, before the host scored twice to the final result of 27:29. Best Löwen scorer was Uwe Gensheimer with seven goals, Luka Karabatic and William Accambray each scored six times the same as Grzegorz Tkaczyk on the other side.
Statements after the match:
Patrice Canayer, coach Montpellier: “There was only a little difference between both teams, the match was in total on eye level. Löwen dominated the first half as we missed too many chances – and exactly this changed after the break: We were in advantage as Löwen stopped scoring. By our easy goals we put the needles into the Löwen flesh. “
Nikola Karabatic, player Montpellier: “I am satisfied with this result. But nothing is decided as the VELUX EHF Champions League is something special. We can even lose at home, as the Löwen are strong in away matches.”
Gudmundur Gudmundsson, coach Löwen: “The first half was well done by my players and the score of 12:9 was deserved and is normally a good base for the second half. But then we caused 13 technical mistakes after the break – with such a number you cannot win against a team like Montpellier. Maybe we played too risky, but in the end those faults decided the game. We conceded 20 goals in the second half – an incredible number in a home match. But we still have 60 minutes to turn the page.”
Uwe Gensheimer, player Löwen: “We have not played concentrated enough after the break as we missed too many chances and lost too many balls. Montpellier is a world class team and they punish every mistake directly. In case we reduce the number of mistakes we have a chance to win in Montpellier and qualify for the VELUX EHF FINAL4.”
FC Barcelona-Borges (ESP) – THW Kiel (GER) 27:25 (14:15)
As usually in the last decade the duel of the two Champions League titans was close to the edge for 60 minutes. It was a tough fight of the last season’s finalists in Palau Blaugrana with a deserved but close victory for the host against the reigning champion of the VELUX EHF Champions League. Two seconds before the end Dominik Klein scored the last goal of the match and reduced the distance to two goals – the worth of this final goal will be seen next Sunday in the return match in Kiel.
Thanks to in total 14 saves of goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer THW still can dream of returning to Cologne, but after the first 60 minutes the Catalans have the ace on their side in their race to the VELUX EHF FINAL4. The first half was equal but Kiel had some advantages as their defence was more aggressive. So they led 15:11, before Barca reduced to the half time score of 15:14 – but then Kiel only scored ten times in the second 30 minutes – which is a minus record for the current season. Barca extended their series 6:0 right after the break to 17:15 as Kiel did not score for in total ten minutes.
Nearly in the whole 60 minute both defence sides neutralized themselves, but Barcelona played more efficient in attack after the break. But they could only extend the gap to more than one goal in the very final stage of the match, as before everything was equal among the old enemies. Kiel had enormous problems in stopping Siarhei Rutenka who either scored or caused trouble in the THW defence. For Barcelona it was the second victory against Kiel this season after beating them in the Group Stage. Top scorer of the match was Filip Jicha with six goals for Kiel.
Statements after the match:
Xavi Pascual, coach FC Barcelona Borges: “In the first half we did not find our rhythm, because we made too many mistakes in attack. After the break our pace was perfect and we played dominant. I expect a balanced return match with the same intensity as today. Kiel know that you can change a four to five goal difference at any time. We faced the best team in Europe, the reigning champions, and it will not be easy for us in Kiel. Unfortunately both teams face already in the quarterfinals.
Danijel Saric, goalkeeper FC Barcelona Borges: “It was a tough game. Both teams have played at a high level. We could have won with a four goal advantage, but in the end it were only two, but we must be satisfied, because intermediately we were four goals below Kiel. After a weak performance before the break my defence gave me the confidence I needed in the second half.”
Alfred Gislasson, coach THW Kiel: “I think we were the better team in the first half, much better than the one goal advantage may look like. In the second half we had many problems with the Barcelona defense. Barca is a great team and you can lose here, everything remains open for the return match. I count on our frenetic spectators, which already pushed us to the limit against Hamburg.”
Jerome Fernandez, player THW Kiel: “We played a very good first half despite our final 0:3 series. In the second half we had problems. Danijel Saric has saved many important shots after the break. The game has been a constant struggle to score goals and not conceed. To lose with two goals in the endis not a bad result.”
TEXT: Björn Pazen EUROHANDBALL.COM