GROUP D REVIEW: French side through to play-offs after a convincing win against Besiktas, 33:28 while Danish side TTH Holstebro beat Portuguese side ABC/UMinho 34:29.
Nantes earn play-off berth, Holstebro gain revenge
French side HBC Nantes make it through to the VELUX EHF Champions League play-offs after a convincing win against Besiktas, 33:28, while Danish side TTH Holstebro beat Portuguese side ABC/UMinho 34:29.
Thanks to a four-point advantage and tiebreaker against Besiktas with two games remaining, HBC Nantes are through to the play-offs
First-ever season in the VELUX EHF Champions League for French side
HC Motor Zaporozhye and Besiktas play next Sunday (4 December), a win for Motor could secure the final play-off berth
TTH Holstebro are now fifth in group D, one point ahead of ABC, who lost their fourth consecutive game and are bottom
Vignir Svavarsson was Holstebro’s top scorer, with eight goals, while the competition’s top scorer, Magnus Bramming, scored just five times for the Danish side
TTH Holstebro (DEN) vs ABC/UMinho (POR) 34:29 (18:13)
With nothing to play for after being eliminated from contention last week, both teams played without pressure, relying on their free-flowing attacks, while their defences - the bottom two in the whole VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase - would be tested to the maximum.
Surprisingly, ABC could not keep up with Holstebro’s rhythm from the throw-off, as the Danish side rode Magnus Bramming’s hot streak again to jump to an 8:3 lead after eight minutes.
A 48% save rate combined with a 64% shot efficiency in attack was enough for Holstebro to maintain their advantage and take an 18:13 lead at half-time, as they went after their second win in their history in the European top competition.
Never in danger for TTH
With Holstebro’s propensity for epic collapses, like the ones against Dinamo or in the away game against Besiktas, ABC hoped for a comeback and subsequently reduced the difference to only four goals, at 24:20.
But Holstebro, who received several calls to keep calm and take their defence up a notch from coach Patrick Westerholm, did just that and were never in danger.
After the best offensive performance in their history in the VELUX EHF Champions League, scoring 35 times, Holstebro proved to be too strong for ABC and leapfrogged the Portuguese side, who are now bottom of the group, with only four points.
It was also the Danish side’s biggest victory ever in the competition, tying the five-goal difference against Besiktas two weeks ago.
Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR) vs HBC Nantes (FRA) 28:33 (14:16)
The Turkish side could not forget the 33:19 drubbing handed to them in Round 2 by their French rivals, but they did not dwell on that defeat and bounced back admirably, winning seven points from their next six games.
However, there was no room for mistakes against Nantes, as their nearest rivals, Motor, won against Dinamo, before the mutual meeting in Ukraine next week.
But the French side, who were recovering from their first-ever defeat in the VELUX EHF Champions League last week, dictated the play in the first half, taking an early lead and not looking back.
As Besiktas, unbeaten at home in the tournament this season, were more focused on Nantes’ backs, the French side managed to distribute the balls to their wings and line players, taking advantage of brisk counter-attacks which brought Thierry Anti’s side up to a 9:7 lead.
Nantes rout in the second half
The Turkish side relied again on Ramazan Döne and line player Tolga Ozbahar, but could not manage to take the lead in the first half, as Nantes continued to dominate, earning a 16:14 lead after 30 minutes.
A 6:4 run at the start of the second half, with six goals scored by six different players, consolidated the French team’s advantage and underlined again their versatility and range of attacking solutions.
With Besiktas failing to find the key to Nantes’ defence and feeling the game slipping from their control, the Turkish side collapsed in the second half, as the French side jumped to an unassailable 28:22 lead, with 12 minutes to go.
Nantes had a game-high nine-goal advantage, 33:24, but Besiktas ended the game with a 4:0 run to sweeten the defeat.
The 33:28 win was enough for Nantes to claim their first-ever play-off berth, as Besiktas and Motor will face off in Ukraine next Sunday in what appears to be the ‘final’ for the runners-up, and second play-off spot.
TEXT: Adrian Costeiu/amc