|16.06.2016, 16:00||◄ last page|
DOMESTIC LEAGUES: VELUX EHF Champions League finalists claim domestic glory, while Rhein-Neckar Löwen finally get their hands on the title
National champions of Europe - Men part 3: Central Europe
All domestic leagues have come to an end and we now approach the draws of the 2016/17 European season. In six parts, the spotlight is shone on each of the national champions and their path to glory. The third part of the men's series consists of teams from Hungary, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
This was the best season in the history of Vive Tauron Kielce. The Polish champions earned gained a triple crown, winning everything on offer: Polish Championship, Polish cup and the Champions League over the space of three weekends in a row, showing enormous physical and mental resilience.
In the Polish Championship, after taking two easy victories at home in the final of the play-off stage against Orlen Wisla Plock 35:29 and 33:26, the third game appeared to be a formality.
However, the Oilers lead and looked like they could have extended the duel to a fourth match, but Kielce finished the contest in the third game with a score of 27:25.
Veszprém are once again champions of Hungary. The VELUX EHF Champions League finalists edged MOL-Pick Szeged for the title in a tightly contested play-off.
They had to work hard against their domestic arch rivals. The champions did not compete in the regular season of the Hungarian league as they competed and won the SEHA League instead and joined the competition in the play-offs.
As opposed to previous years there were no finals held in 2015/16 and it had been evident that the clashes between Veszprém and Szeged would determine the outcome of the national championship. Veszprém beat Szeged by a one-goal margin at home, which gave the best chance for Szeged to win the title in a long time.
Following 34 wins in 37 league matches, the first team to win the treble of league, cup and super cup and a mega-talent on the way to THW Kiel, it was quite a season for the Fivers from Vienna.
The team of coach Peter Eckl including young superstar Nikola Bilyk ended the series of Alpla Hard, who had won the last four league trophies in Austria.
The Fivers had lost seven finals since 2005, but this year, they had decided the best-of-three series after two wins against Bregenz - a 31:29 after extra-time on home court and a 24:18 away victory, including eleven Bilyk goals.
However, it was not the young gun, but experienced Fivers playmaker Vytas Ziura who was awarded Austrian player of the year for the fourth straight season.
They finally did it. After THW Kiel had snatched away the trophy in the two last years on the last match day, Rhein-Neckar Löwen had their day in the sun.
Thanks to an away win at Nettelstedt in the final league match, Löwen remained on top and secured their first ever German trophy. In the end, the Mannheim based team was one point ahead of SG Flensburg-Handewitt.
Löwen were beaten by Kiel two years ago by two goals, last season by one point, and this season they failed once again to win the German Cup for the first time, losing the semi-final to Flensburg.
The German championship was the perfect farewell for Uwe Gensheimer, who left Löwen after 13 years for Paris Saint-Germain.
The only title Löwen had won previously was the EHF Cup in 2013. The 2015/16 season was historic in another way, as THW Kiel failed to lift a trophy for the first time in 13 years. Kiel finished third in the league ahead of Melsungen.
The Slovakian Champions are once again from Eastern Slovakia. The season had not started well for Tatran Presov, as they finished bottom of Group C in the VELUX EHF Champions League, but Rastislav Trtík’s proved their dominance on domestic soil.
Presov won their tenth double in a row and 12th title overall after beating Spota Hlohovec in their best of five matches series.
Hlohovec fought hard and the matches were dramatic (36:21, 29:26 and 24:20), but quality prevailed. To underline the dominance of Presov, four players were included in the league’s all-star team – left winger Radoslav Antl, left back Oliver Rabek, right back Lukáš Urban and line player Michal Kopčo.
Plzen is a sports-mad city. Not only did they win the Czech handball league, but they were also crowned football champions.
Talent M.A.T. Plzen were only formed in 2010, but since then they won the Czech title three times in the last three years. Despite struggling in the regular season, they finished in third place and showed their dominance in the play-offs.
In the quarter-finals they eliminated Lovosice, Hranice were disposed of without dropping a single match, winning 3-0 in the best of five series.
Plzen started the final against Dukla Praha away from home and came out on top 23:22, they lost the next day 21:25, but were crowned domestic champions a week later following two very convincing home wins, beating Dukla Praha 27:17 and 24:19.
Zlatorog hall witnessed a true renaissance this season, as 5,000 loud fans flood the arena at each Celje Pivovarna Lasko match. The VELUX EHF Champions League outfit enjoyed a good season in all competitions, which saw the emergence of the home-grown talent Blaz Janc as one of the team’s leading figures.
As usual, Celje’s title push encountered little resistance from other Slovenian sides, aside from the three-time champion and bitter rivals Gorenje.
The Velenje-based club even lead the league table, ahead of their away duel with Celje in the ultimate round of the championship; however, Branko Tamse’s side cleared any doubts from the very first minute, which was the only time Gorenje lead in the match.
The final result has put Gorenje as runners-up for a third time in a row, while Celje claimed their milestone 20th Slovenian champions title, alongside their 19th domestic cup glory.
TEXT: Nemanja Savic, Björn Pazen, Magda Pluszewska, Tomas Cuncik, Bence Martha / cor