Six reasons why we love to have the Champions League back
The first round in 2018, and the 11th round overall, of the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase is behind us, and we take a look at the first talking points of the new year.
It has been two weeks since the end of the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, and a lot of the stars from that event have now gone back to action with their clubs in Europe’s premier competition.
And as our talking points suggest, there is a reason why we love to have the Champions League back.
Battle of the golden boys
The Match of the Week was no let down as FC Barcelona Lassa hosted the reigning champions HC Vardar in a thriller with the Catalonian side coming out on top, 29:28.
World class goalkeepers Gonzalo Pérez de Vargas and Arpad Sterbik were up against each other only two weeks after celebrating the gold at the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, where veteran Sterbik came in towards the end.
They underlined their qualities with many brilliant saves but this time De Vargaz was the only winner among the two.
United for Spain in their nation's first @ehfeuro triumph, divided in the #veluxehfcl #motw! Arpad Sterbik and @PerezdVargas are putting on quite the show as @HCVardar take on @FCBhandbol in Palau pic.twitter.com/rSHJEXBtBe— EHF Champions League (@ehfcl) 10 February 2018
The Lions are wounded
German champions Rhein-Neckar Löwen went to the history books for all the wrong reasons after a defeat at home against MOL-Pick Szeged in Group A on Sunday, 37:35.
Löwen is now on a five-game run without a win, losing three games and drawing two, which is a new record for the Mannheim Lions – and one they did not want to break.
To rub some salt in the wound, it was also their second-worst performance defensively in the VELUX EHF Champions League, only one goal less than the 38 goals conceded against Barcelona in 2011.
Swedish influence in front of the wall
The silver medal from the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia must have lid a spark within THW Kiel’s Swedish players, right wing Niklas Ekberg and left back Lukas Nilsson.
They netted seven times each as Kiel earned a highly important victory against Telekom Veszprém HC in Group B, 22:20. It was especially pleasing for Alfred Gislason’s side after four straight defeats against the Hungarian champions.
They couldn’t have done it without their magnificent fans however, as the black and white wall truly deserves the title ‘Fan of the Week.’
Watch the 'Fan of the Week' video on ehfTV.com.
PSG and Gensheimer expand the lead
Paris Saint-Germain Handball topped the EHF journalists’ ‘Power Ranking’ before the round, and in a hard-fought win in Group B against Celje Lasko, 31:26, they showed why.
It was the 10th win from 11 group matches for PSG this season and the French giants have a five-point lead at the top of the group with only six points left in the pot.
After his seven goals in the game, Uwe Gensheimer has an even bigger lead at the top of the goal scoring chart with 75 goals; 13 clear of Mate Lekai from Veszprém.
And it’s not quite the first time that Gensheimer has made it to the team of the week.
Danes ruined the party
It was a memorable round for Danish champions Aalborg Handbold as they earned their first point away from home in Group B this season with a draw against Meshkov Brest, 23:23.
The Danes ruined the 81st birthday celebration of Anatolij Meshkov, Brest’s club founder. It’s unlikely that gave them a sleepless night especially as their position in the group improved drastically.
Aalborg are now alongside Celje on five points at the bottom of the group, but they are three points behind Brest and four behind PGE Vive Kielce, so the fight is not over with the final stretch of the group phase coming up.
Watch the highlights of Brest vs Aalborg on ehfTV.com.
Behind the scenes before throw-off
EHF Marketing entered new territories at SG Flensburg-Handewitt against PGE Vive Kielce on Sunday, being the first to produce a Ultra HD (4K) signal for the broadcast of a handball match.
In fact, there is so much more to staging a VELUX EHF Champions League match than just putting up some cameras. On match day, many hours before the actual throw-off the preparations are already in full swing.
The final details regarding security are being cleared, the playing arena is been given the right look and feel, up to eight TV cameras are being set up... well have a look at this revealing behind-the-scenes video:
Author: Andri Yrkill Valsson / ew