Both final decisions in VELUX EHF Champions League Group A will be made in the last round next weekend, as neither the top position nor the sixth Last 16 ticket are decided after Sunday’s matches.
Following PSG Handball’s win away versus Orlen Wisla Plock, THW Kiel took a draw against group leaders FC Barcelona Lassa in the MOTW on Sunday. Thanks to this result, the Catalan team are still ahead of PSG by one point, and Plock remain two points in front of Bjerringbro-Silkeborg in the race for the final Last 16 ticket.
• The 29:25 victory is PSG’s 11th win in 13 group matches
• PSG wing Uwe Gensheimer claims second place in the top scorer list with a total of 76 goals, seven of which he scored on Sunday against Plock
• Sunday’s result of 27:27 is the second ever draw in the long history of Kiel versus Barcelona duels after the first, 28:28, in 2010
• Barca record their first draw of the season after 11 wins and one defeat
• Marko Vujin, Niclas Ekberg (both Kiel) and Kiril Lazarov (Barcelona) each score eight times in the MOTW
GROUP A THW Kiel (GER) vs FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) 27:27 (13:15)
What a thriller, what a comeback by THW Kiel: In a true Match of the Week, Barcelona kept their lead ahead of PSG by one point prior to the last round of VELUX EHF Champions League Group A matches.
With the draw, Kiel proved they still belong to the best of the best after some weak performances in the previous matches.
In the end, it was a goal from Austrian youngster Nikola Bilyk five seconds before the end that provided Kiel with a deserved draw after a spectacular match.
“My players were concentrated and willing for 60 minutes, I am satisfied, but I would be more satisfied if we had won. We were ahead by two goals in the final stages, but then made too many mistakes,” said THW coach Alfred Gislason, adding: “Mostly I am proud of our young guns Lukas Nilsson and Bilyk.”
Former THW Kiel player Filip Jicha, who has been part of Barca’s squad since 2015, was also satisfied: “It was our main goal not to return home empty-handed. Any handball player in the world knows how tough it is to take a draw in this arena, so we have this point, which we wanted, and we are happy.”
Barcelona shock with strong start
Despite their last weak performance against Bjerringbro on home ground (21:24), the more than 10,000 fans stood as one behind THW Kiel – but they were shocked by another initial upset from the Champions League record winners.
FC Barcelona easily turned Kiel’s mistakes into counter attack goals to create an early lead at 5:1. Kiril Lazarov even had the chance for the sixth goal, but failed on a penalty against Kiel goalkeeper Niklas Landin – which proved a crucial moment in combination with the time-out called by Gislason soon after.
From that point on, Kiel woke up and were boosted by Landin’s saves, quickly reducing the gap to 4:5.
Though the Catalan side were constantly in the lead before the break, Kiel had clearly improved their level in comparison with the recent defeat against BSV. But they could not stop Barcelona’s outstanding counter attacks, or former THW left back Wael Jallouz netting from a distance.
Thus, Barcelona kept their two-goal margin until the break and even extended the gap to 17:14 while the defence at both ends was combative, leading to many suspensions.
Momentum shifts to Kiel
But from minute to minute, Kiel improved, and the fans responded vocally. Despite a time-out and a goalkeeper change from Gonzalo Perez des Vargas to Borko Ristovski, Barcelona could not regain their rhythm, especially in attack.
In minute 47 Nikola Bilyk netted for the first level result (22:22) after the initial 1:1, and the first lead for the hosts followed when Marko Vujin hammered in a penalty shot for 23:22.
After that Barca did not score for nearly nine minutes and were even down by two goals several times – the MOTW was on the edge, and was a true thriller like in the first leg clash won by Barcelona (26:25).
Kiel missed several chances to decide the classic, both coaches changed their goalkeepers again – and Andreas Wolff (THW) and Perez de Vargas proved their world-class level.
Xavi Pascual’s team was soon on fire, as a double strike from Jesper Nöddesbo and Lazarov provided them with the lead at 26:25 with three minutes to play. Both coaches took their final time-outs in the last seconds, after which Vujin equalised and Valero Rivera Folch scored for the last Barcelona lead before Bilyk’s buzzer beater.
Mathematically, Kiel can make it to fourth position on the Group A table, but only if Flensburg lose both of their remaining matches and THW win at Paris.
“We have fought until the final second, so we deserve this draw. We do not care which opponent we face in the Last 16, we are confident now,” said Vujin.
Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) 25:29 (11:14)
Despite a strong and brave performance, Orlen Wisla Plock could not book their Last 16 ticket on Sunday night. The Polish runners-up are two points ahead of rivals Bjerringbro-Silkeborg on the table, but lost the direct encounter against the Danish side by aggregate goals.
BSV were defeated in their match versus Flensburg on Saturday and will host Kadetten in the last round, while Plock will travel to Barcelona.
On the other hand, PSG did their homework to remain in the race for the top position with FC Barcelona, though the star-studded French champions needed nearly 50 minutes to cast off the hosts.
Plock power through first 25 minutes
"PSG deserved for this victory. We started this game fully motivated and determined, with full energy on the court. In the first 20 minutes we have seen the best defence of Orlen Wisla," said Plock coach Piotr Przybecki. "Unfortunatelly we could not keep this level till the end of first half. In the last five minutes PSG scored five consecutive goals. I analysed the last game of PSG and I must admit that today we have seen a totally different face."
Plock, backed by goalkeeper Rodrigo Corrales, who will join PSG this summer and saved 10 shots against his soon-to-be club, were ahead until minute 24 and the score of 11:10. Paris’ defence had problems stopping Plock, while at the other end of the court the visitors’ famous back court axis was not as effective as usual.
Thus, Paris had to count on their counter attack experts to turn the tide: After Luc Abalo and Uwe Gensheimer started their engines, the visitors netted four consecutive times for the 14:11 half-time lead.
Plock managed to level the result for the last time at 15:15, and were on eye level until minute 46 when the score board showed 20:22.
Three hammer shots from Xavier Barachet (2) and Nikola Karabatic that took the score to 25:20 paved the way to the victory, and even a time-out could not stop Plock’s downswing.
PSG’s biggest advantage was six goals at 29:23, before Ivic added two more goals to his tally to finish on six and put the final difference at four.