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10.11.2016, 20:40◄ last page     

GROUP B REVIEW: Rhein-Neckar Löwen ground out a 25:24 home win over Croatian title holders HC PPD Zagreb to go top of the section after the visitors came up short with a late rally.

Löwen scrape past battling Zagreb to go top

German title holders Rhein Neckar-Löwen went top of Group B on Thursday with a hard-fought 25:24 win over HC PPD Zagreb, after the Croatian side missed a chance to snatch a draw.

  • Rhein-Neckar Löwen go top of group before this weekend’s other three games

  • Schmid and Steinhauser excel with seven goals apiece; Mandalinic shines with nine for Zagreb

  • Visitors miss chance to tie the game on the buzzer

Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) vs HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) 25:24 (14:10)

Rhein-Neckar Löwen got some measure of revenge against Zagreb for last season’s elimination by the Croatian side in the Last 16, but only after surviving a late scare in a match they dominated.

The home side led throughout the contest but a late onslaught by Zagreb almost produced a share of the spoils, as visiting line player Igor Vori hit the wall with a free throw on the buzzer.

The result left Löwen top of the group with nine points from six games, one ahead of KS Vive Tauron Kielce and Vardar who clash in the VELUX EHF Champions League Match of the Week on Saturday.

Superb Schmid takes charge

Zagreb held their own early on and were level 3:3 in the opening exchanges, but the home side quickly took the game by the scruff of the neck as their top performer Andy Schmid started to run the show.

The Swiss back scored five goals in the first half, propelling his team to an 11:6 lead which was briefly slashed to 11:8 after Zagreb converted two fast breaks when they had a player suspended for two minutes.

Schmid responded with a double strike which ensured Rhein-Neckar Löwen a formidable four-goal lead (14:10) going into the dressing room at halftime.

Magnificent Mandalinic responds

Despite an admirable effort by Zagreb’s youthful team to stay in touch, the home side looked in cruise control after winger Marius Steinhauser joined the scoring party to help Rhein-Neckar Löwen carve out a 21:15 advantage midway through the second half.

Mandalinic had other ideas, though.

The tall and athletic left back rifled in one spectacular long-range effort after another to close the gap to 24:22, before Steinhauser netted the home team’s final goal with 90 seconds left on the clock.

Another goal by the effervescent Mandalinic and a strike by line player Igor Vori set up a dramatic finish, as Schmid threw away the home side’s final possession.

Vori then had to take a difficult free throw on the buzzer and his shot rebounded off a wall of Rhein Neckar Löwen hands.

Post-match statements

Nikolaj Jacobsen, Rhein-Neckar Löwen coach: "I am satisfied that we won. It was a fortunate but deserved win for us."

Silvio Ivandija, Zagreb coach: "We never gave up and tried our best to secure a piont. We will soon meet in Zagreb and then try again to win the game."

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / ew

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