PLAY-OFF REVIEW: A 36:34 win sees Montpellier significantly boost their chances for a Last 16 berth, with the prospect of a two-goal cushion and a second-leg match at home ahead.
Impressive attack powers Montpellier past Motor
After the action-packed 10 rounds in VELUX EHF Champions League Groups C and D, all the hard work will soon pay off for two of the four teams that advanced to the play-offs.
Both HC Zaporozhye Motor and Montpellier HB had the time to study their opponent to find ways to exploit their weaknesses, but in the end the French side proved tougher as they set themselves in a strong position to secure a Last 16 berth with a two-goal away win.
• Igor Soroka scores 10 times for Motor, but cannot prevent the two-goal loss
• Both teams record 69% shooting efficiency, with the difference coming down to defence
• The second-leg play-off will take place in Montpellier next Saturday
GROUP C+D PLAY-OFF
HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs Montpellier HB (FRA) 34:36 (15:18)
A six-game winning streak was Motor’s biggest advantage prior to throw-off, and their sheer will to extend it was clear from the first goal on Saturday.
With impressive 6:0 defence that blocked several shots in only 10 minutes and an underwhelming 30% shot efficiency from Montpellier, Motor enjoyed a 5:3 advantage.
But the French side regained their vigour and scored five times in as many minutes, led by an impressive Jonas Truchanovicius, to tie the game at 7:7.
The match quickly turned into a goal-scoring fest, with neither defensive system able to keep their opponents at bay. But a 5:2 partial spurred by Truchanovicius and Jean Loup Faustin soon saw Montpellier open a 14:11 lead.
Motor close the gap
The French side held the lead for 38 minutes before a 7:3 partial to begin the second half saw Motor take charge.
Russian left back Soroka was Motor's biggest surprise, scoring no less than seven times in the first 40 minutes, as Montpellier had no answer from him.
With 75% shot efficiency and 11 players on the score sheet, the Ukrainians relied heavily on their attack, but their former weapon – the defence – was now far from perfect.
Too tough to crack
In the end however, Montpellier's experience and their powerful back court were too much for Motor.
After the French team took the lead in the 47th minute, they never looked back. A one-goal lead turned into an unassailable one as Truchanovicius eased into the top scorer slot for the visitors with a total of nine goals.
The 36:34 win puts Montpellier in pole position to earn a Last 16 berth, particularly playing at home in the second leg.
TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cg