Velenje dream big, Leon still in the race for play-off berth
Rk Gorenje Velenje recovered from two consecutive losses to stroll to a 30:21 win against Elverum Handball in Round 6 of the VELUX EHF Champions League on Saturday night, halting a three-game winning streak for the Norwegian side.
While the Slovenian team boosted their chances of earn a play-off berth, Abanca Ademar Leon’s attempt to come back into the race for the group’s places in the next stage was helped by a 32:29 win against Dinamo.
A do-or-die clash is expected on Sunday, as Skjern meet Kadetten Schaffhausen, with the winner to join Velenje at the top of the group.
• Velenje take their clearest win of the season, versus Elverum, and maintain their 100% home record
• The Slovenian side climb to pole position in the group after what was their 30th victory in the Champions League
• Juan Jose Fernandez top scores for Leon with nine goals, leading them to a three-goal win versus Bucuresti
• Dinamo’s chances for a play-off berth remain theoretical, as the Romanian side have one win from six games
Rk Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs Elverum Handball (NOR) 30:21 (14:12)
Rk Gorenje Velenje prevailed against Elverum to take first position in Group D after a nine-goal win.
"They prepared well for us, so it was a really hard to play here in the red hall," said Elverum coach Michael Apelgren. "Also the home goalkeeper played very well. They controlled the rhythm of the play and they were smart."
It took little over 10 minutes for Zeljko Babic’s team to adapt to the game conditions and the aggressive approach from Elverum. The 6-0 defence from the Slovenian side worked against the Norwegians, making it hard for Tine Poklar & Co. to find the gaps in the back court.
Both coaches – though perhaps more Michael Apelgren – used an extra player in many situations, with the risk of leaving the goal empty, with mixed success.
The Ovnicek show
As per tradition, the biggest attacking threat for Elverum came from Andre Lindboe on the left wing. For Gorenje Velenje, it was centre back duo Zarko Pejovic and Rok Ovnicek who made the biggest impact.
22-year-old centre back Ovnicek finished the game with seven goals in his tally, making him top scorer of the match.
Velenje coach Babic spread the responsibility throughout his wider squad, as 10 players scored at least a goal each.
Michael Apelgren’s time-out in the 39th minute was intended to stop the attacking avalanche from Velenje however, the Slovenian side rolled on to increase the lead throughout the second half. The physical aspect of the game was apparent in the final minutes, in combination with obvious motivation from the hosts.
Sour match for Poklar
It could have been a special match for Slovenian-born Poklar, but the 27-year-old right back will not have great memories of the clash. After scoring only two goals, he was sent off in the 37th minute.
Abanca Ademar Leon (ESP) vs Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) 32:29 (18:15)
Both teams needed a win to stay in the race for a play-off spot. But it was all Leon in the first half, as the Spanish side boasted an impressive 72% shot efficiency to power to a 18:15 lead after 30 minutes.
Hosts rely on team attacking effort
While Dinamo relied heavily on Sajad Esteki’s powerful shots, Ademar’s attacking power came from a mix of players.
The Spanish side combined fast breaks, passes to the line player and nine-metre shots from Federico Vieyra and Juan Jose Fernandez, while Dinamo had no answer in defence.
Bucuresti attempt comeback
A 4:2 partial to throw off the second half saw the Romanian champions attempt an impressive comeback, 21:20, but Ademar shrugged off the four-minute hiatus without a goal.
A 6:2 run looked to seal the deal for Ademar, as Dinamo’s defence failed to stop Leon’s fast breaks. But the Romanian side found unexpected motivation to make life hard for the hosts toward the end of the match.
"The first 15 minutes were the most important, where we could stop the connection with the pivot. From that moment we could play better and control the game," said Ademar coach Rafael Guijosa. "They are a good team and they put us in trouble in the second half, but I am happy for the game because we knew how to wait for our moment and end up winning."
Vadim Gayduchenko was virtually unstoppable and helped Dinamo cut the lead to one goal, 29:28, with two minutes left, before Sebastian Simonet scored a tricky shot to secure the victory.
The 32:29 win for Ademar was not a convincing one, but keeps the Spanish side in with a shot for the play-offs, while Dinamo are nearly out of contention, needing a miracle to earn a berth in the next phase.