|19.02.2017, 21:30||◄ last page|
GROUP B REVIEW: Defending European club champions KS Vive Tauron Kielce suffered a shock defeat at Celje while German title holders Rhein-Neckar Löwen earned two valuable points at Kristianstad.
Löwen enjoy pivotal away win as Celje stun Kielce
Sunday’s doubleheader produced a pair of classics as Rhein-Neckar Löwen won at IFK Kristianstad in the MOTW fixture while Slovenia’s RK Pivovarna Celje Lasko stunned defending champions KS Vive Tauron Kielce.
The results left Vardar top of the group with 16 points from 11 matches, one more than Löwen and three ahead of Kielce, who now face an uphill task of securing an automatic quarterfinal berth.
IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) 29:31 (16:15)
Rhein-Neckar Löwen kept alive their hopes of winning the group and steamrolling into the last eight after a mature performance propelled them to a well-deserved win at gritty Kristianstad.
The elite club competition’s match of the week fully lived up to its billing as the home side gave the more fancied visitors a good run for their money, but succumbed in the last quarter of a fast-paced contest.
Driven by unstoppable right back Albin Lagergren, who scored seven goals from eight shots in the first half, IFK came out on top in a rip-roaring opening period as the lead changed hands time and again.
Goalkeepers at both ends pulled of several stunning saves, notably Kristianstad’s Nebojsa Simic, while the home team’s speedy winger Jerry Tollbring made the most of fast breaks.
At the other end, Spanish line player Rafael Baena Gonzales and winger Patrick Groetzki thrived on incisive passing by Rhein-Neckar Löwen’s majestic Swiss playmaker Andy Schmid, who dished out assists like confetti while he also tormented Simic with long-range efforts.
Appelgren saves pivotal
Icelander Olafur Gudmundsson took over the mantle from Lagergren in the second half and it seemed IFK would pull off what would have been a sensational upset when they nosed ahead 22:20 midway through the period.
However, Lagergren and Tollbring had ran out of steam by then and with Gudmundsson left to his own devices, the visitors found another gear and turned the tide in the last 15 minutes.
With Rhein-Neckar Löwen’s Swedish goalkeeper Mikael Appelgren making several key saves after replacing Andreas Palicka, the German side pulled away and forced a decisive twist by taking a 31:27 lead in the closing stages.
IFK scored a pair of late consolation goals but with their defence unable to contain Schmid and Baena Gonzales, they fell short of earning a point they badly needed to boost their hopes of making a step towards the VELUX EHF Champions League knockout stages.
Baena Gonzales led Rhein-Neckar Löwen with eight goals from as many shots, the versatile Schmid added seven while Groetzki chipped in with five.
The relentless Gudmundsson rifled in a game-high 10 goals for IFK, Lagergren netted eight and Tollbring finished with five.
RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) 34:33 (16:19)
The outcome of this enthralling encounter will long live in the memory of Celje fans who witnessed one of the best performances by the Slovenian champions in recent years.
Down by four goals in the latter stages of the second half, the home side staged an amazing comeback to sink the competition’s holders thanks to a goal from winger Luka Zvizej on the buzzer.
The scenario looked unlikely for much of the contest as Kielce seemed to be in cruise control from start to finish, not withstanding a brief spell in the first half when Celje erased a three-goal deficit.
The home side quickly fell behind again to a potent Kielce attack as their Slovenian playmakers Uros Zorman and Dean Bombac took turns in orchestrating a fast-paced offence against their compatriots.
The second half produced more of the same as Karol Bielecki, Spanish pivot Julen Aguinagalde and Michal Jurecki engineered a 29:25 lead for the visitors with the match heading into the home straight.
Kielce still looked comfortable when they were 30:27 ahead, but were then swept away by an inspired home side whose magnificent effort was driven by Zvizej, left back Borut Mackovsek and skilful playmaker Miha Zarabec, whose ingenious solo runs overshadowed the skill and experience of Zorman and Bombac.
Kielce thought they would settle for a draw when Celje equalised with barely 30 seconds left, but the visitors then committed an offensive foul and the hosts took full advantage as Zvizej found room on the left flank to ghost in past his marker and beat goalkeeper Filip Ivic with a composed finish under immense pressure.
The irrepressible Mackovsek led the home side with nine goals from 12 shots, Zvizej added seven, while Zarabec chipped in with five.
Bielecki and Aguinagalde scored six each for Kielce while Jurecki and Serbian winger Darko Djukic netted four apiece.
After the match Kielce coach Talant Dujshebaev congratulated Celje on their win.
"Of course I am not happy at the end, but we did not play that bad today," he added. "At a couple of times we had three or four goals advantage, but Celje punished our mistakes and came back and won at the end. Now we have to fight back for the top spot, our next match is against Szeged and we are focusing on that.”
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / jh