|20.02.2017, 19:24||◄ last page|
ROUND REVIEW: After an exciting Round 11, the key standings of Group A are practically decided, while Group B remains entirely uncertain.
What we know after Round 11
Round 11 of the VELUX EHF Champions League was a goalkeeping extravaganza. We have witnessed incredible saves from the likes of Arpad Sterbik and Ivan Pesic which determined the outcome of nail-biting matches. Borko Ristovski, Marcin Wichary and Andreas Wolff have also joined this elite company with their epic performances.
Barcelona and PSG are still head and shoulders above the rest in Group A. However, the exciting fight for sixth spot (and therefore the last remaining Last 16 berth) is still on, with Plock in pole position. The giants Veszprem, Flensburg and Kiel are also fighting for the number three spot.
Group B on the other hand is very different, with as many as five teams still having the chance to place first.
Celje are not to be underestimated at home
If they have done it to the title defenders, they can do it to anyone else. While they fell against the mighty PSG (Celje lost 30:32), they succeeded last weekend. Celje played against all odds to snatch the victory from the hands of favourites Kielce at Zlatorog Hall.
It was Luka Zvizej who sealed the last minute winner, after great defense from Borut Mackovsek. This was to the dismay of Talant Dujshebaev’s side, who thought that victory was in their hands until the last second.
Celje know how to make things difficult for their rivals at home. Due to how fearless and decisive they were in the dying minutes, their Last 16 chances were given a boost. They now occupy the elusive sixth place in Group B, ahead of Zagreb and Kristianstad.
We know (almost) everything about Group A
Barcelona (20 point) and PSG (18 points) are to battle it out for first place- but this is old news. Veszprem, Flensburg and Kiel are at least six points away from second place. We now know five teams that are in the Last 16: Barcelona, PSG, Veszprem, Flensburg, Kiel.
With eight points in the bag, Plock are in pole position to secure the last remaining berth and make it to their fourth consecutive Last 16 phase. While Kadetten are out of the race, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg still have an outside chance of reaching the knock-out stage for the first time since 2012/13, despite their winless streak since October.
We know (almost) nothing about Group B
The more matches that are played, the further the situation is complicated. Vardar (16 points), Löwen (15 points), Kielce (14 points), Szeged (13 points) and Meshkov (12 points) are separated by just one point, and all have chance to top the group. The only major gap in the group standings is the five-point margin between Celje (seven points) and Meshkov (12 points). The fight for first place is therefore separate from the hunt for the last remaining Last 16 berth at sixth place. The fight for sixth place is between Celje, Kristianstand and Zagreb. Everything is still to play for in this group.
Goalkeepers thrive in the limelight
The eleventh round will be remembered for memorable saves which heavily influenced the outcome of games. Balkan-born keepers Arpad Sterbik and Ivan Pesic, however, shone above the rest with spectacular saves in key moments of nail-biting matches.
Pesic helped Brest salvage a point against his former team Zagreb (21:21), while Sterbik singlehandedly took Vardar into first place in Group B with a number of exquisite saves. Due to Sterbik’s inspired performance in the away win against Szeged (23:21), the three-time VELUX EHF Champions League winner made it to the Best 7 of Round 11.
TEXT: Nemanja Savic/kc