Wolff Kiel’s hero, Aalborg take first away point
Thanks to a hard-earnt, but well-deserved 22:20 victory against Telekom Veszprém HC in their first international match of 2018, THW Kiel took revenge against the Hungarian side and are now equal with the 2015 and 2016 VELUX EHF Champions League finalists, with 13 points in their account.
In the first VELUX EHF Champions League game of 2018 Aalborg Handbold took their first away point of the season after five straight away defeats in the group phase with a 23:23 thriller in Belarus at HC Meshkov Brest.
- Kiel’s Swedish duo Ekberg/Nilsson score 14 of 22 THW goals
- Goalkeeper Andreas Wolff with a 48% saves to shot ratio
- Petar Nenadic nets in twice on his debut for Veszprém.
- Aalborg remain three points below Meshkov at the bottom of the table, but equal with Celje
- Buster Juul-Larsen tops the scoring list for Danish side with eight goals
HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs Aalborg Handbold (DEN) 23:23 (10:12)
Everything was prepared for a perfect birthday party of Anatolij Meshkov, but Meshkov Brest could not gift the club founder with two points on his 81st birthday. Before the match, the players wore special warm-up shirts for the celebration, but after 60 minutes full of missed chances on both sides, they could only take a draw against the Danes.
Fast home start, tails off
Backed by their vocal fans, the hosts had the better start - but after 14 minutes and an intermediate 7:4 advance, Meshkov’s motor got stuck and they missed too many chances as Aalborg cleverly adapted their defence and found gaps in attack.
Thanks to an 8:3 series up to the break, the Danish champions turned the tide to go ahead 12:10 at half-time with Tobias Ellebaek and Buster Juul-Larsen the key players during this strong period of the visitors.
Second half turns around
However, Brest managed to turn the tide right after the break. An early double strike for the equaliser and a clearly-improved defence including a strong goalkeeping performance from Ivan Pesic were the reasons why Aalborg lost their rhythm and did not score any goals in the first seven minutes after the break.
Brest then forged ahead to 15:13 - but this was the wake-up call the Danes needed as they managed to stop the downturn in their fortune. From 19:19 onwards the match was on edge as both sides fought for every centimetre in defence, but their lack of efficiency in attack affected them both.
With four minutes to go, the score was 22:22 - and both Brest and Aalborg missed a series of big chances to take the lead again. 90 seconds before the end, Meshkov coach Sergej Bebeshko took his last time out (23:23) but his side failed in their attack.
Then, 25 seconds before the end, Aalborg turned the ball over again, creating a last attack for the hosts, but Meshkov did not get on the scoreboard as not pressure was put on the Aalborg defence with the clock ticking.
The final buzzer sounded: Brest were shocked, Aalborg celebrated.
“We needed two points from this match,” said Aalborg coach Aron Kristjansson after the match. “We did a good job in defence and found many good solutions in attack too but Pesic made saves - we failed to convert our fast-breaks.”
His opposite number, Bebeshko, praised his team but was left frustrated at missing the opportunity to get maximum points.
“We saw few suspensions tonight, which proved that the team followed the fair play principles, but the match was of critical importance to us,” he said. “We did not manage to implement all of our ideas and I guess in the final attack the guys simply lost track of time.
“The draw helps us stay in sixth place in the table and we are three points clear of RK Celje.”
THW Kiel (GER) vs. Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) 22:20 (14:9)
An incredible performance from goalkeeper Andreas Wolff in the last 25 minutes provided THW Kiel with a highly important win and the ticket for the Last 16.
After four straight defeats against Veszprém including a 26:24 loss in the match in Hungary, the three-time Men’s EHF Champions League winners struck back.
EHF EURO 2018 effect
It was obvious that their EHF EURO 2018 silver medals were a boost for Kiel’s Swedish players, who were the stars on court before the break: right wing Niklas Ekberg netted six times for THW while left back Lukas Nilsson scored five goals before the break, including the buzzer-beating strike to make it 14:9 at half-time.
Though they had to replace several injured players such as Domagoj Duvnjak, Christian Dissinger and Rene Toft Hansen, the hosts were dominant throughout the first half, while Veszprém had extreme problems in attack, despite new player Petar Nenadic, arriving from Fuchse Berlin, making his debut.
Kiel played with an extremely solid and movable defence, leaving almost no gaps for the visitors after the 20th minute with the score at 7:7.
“Our defence was the key for success,” said THW coach Alfred Gislason after the match. “Mainly our young gun Sebastian Firnhaber, but our goalkeepers played extremely well. I am extremely happy with this victory.”
Veszprém’s coach Ljubomir Vranjes, who had his first away match at Sparkassen Arena in his new role after several duels with Flensburg there, found the right words in the locker room, as in the second half his side clearly improved.
Double goalkeeping wall
But still, Kiel’s goalkeeper duo of Niklas Landin (until the 37th minute) and Andreas Wolff were outstanding. When Kiel was shorthanded by two players with the score of 14:11, Landin shut up shop and Veszprém did not score any goals in that period, while later, Wolff stood as a rock.
The reason why Kiel did not profit more from those saves was their weak attack as they simply missed too many chances in a match in which Christian Zeitz, Marko Vujin (both Kiel) and Momir Ilic (Veszprém) faced their former clubs.
The visitors were close to levelling, but Wolff stood in their way and they always found themselves down by only one goal. Kiel had the chances to increase their advance from three to four goals with five minutes left, but also failed.
Vranjes took his final time out three minutes before the end, when his side was behind by one at 21:20 but as Nenadic and twice Gasper Marguc failed against Wolff, Miha Zarabec scored the winners’ strike with a penalty.
“We lost the match before the break,” said Ilic. “We conceded too many easy goals and in the second half we gave all we could, but it was not enough, as we never managed to equalise.
“Our heads were not ready, I guess.”