|31.03.2017, 08:00||◄ last page|
LAST 16 PREVIEW: After their close victory in the first leg at Brest, Flensburg are favourites to win at home
Brest’s 60 minutes to make history
Can Meshkov Brest make history by making it to their first quarter-final, or will SG Flensburg-Handewitt make it to their sixth VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final in the last seven years?
This is the question prior to the duel of the Belorussian champions and the current leader of the German Bundesliga table. Flensburg took a 26:25 victory in Mehskov’s den in the first leg.
LAST 16, SECOND LEG
SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Meshkov Brest (BLR)
For the second straight time, Meshkov Brest are part of the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League. After losing both knock-out matches against champions Kielce in 2016, and the home defeat against Flensburg last week, Sergey Bebeshko’s team are still waiting on their first ever victory in this stage of the competition. But if they win on Sunday by at least two goals (or if they win by one and score more than 26 goals) the Belarusians will be through to their first ever quarter-finals,
On the other hand, a draw is already enough for Flensburg to make it to their sixth Champions League quarter-final in the last seven years. The only time they failed in the Last 16 was in 2015, when they were eliminated by defending Champions League champions - and local rivals - THW Kiel.
But in the current season their home court has not been the same fortress it had been in previous years. Flensburg have already lost their group matches against Kiel, Barcelona and PSG, while they tied with Veszprem. But the away record for Brest is not that much better: one win at Zagreb and draws at Celje and Kristianstad. Their last match on German ground ended in the same unhappy way as the 25:26 result last Sunday: a 24:25 at Rhein-Neckar Löwen.
Before they lock horns again, both sides are sure that nothing is decided yet:
“I am not the coach to celebrate a win after one leg, I will only celebrate if we book the ticket to the quarter-finals”, said Flensburg coach Ljubomir Vranjes.
“This was only the first half, nothing is decided before the final whistle at Flensburg”, added Bebeshko.
Both sides have to cope with injuries from the first leg, particularly Brest. SG defence maestro Tobias Karlsson, who had to leave the court after a heavy hit to the head, was part of the Flensburg squad in their Bundesliga win against Coburg on Wednesday. Brest will have to replace their left back Pavel Atman for five to six weeks after it became clear that he has a broken foot.
In the first leg, Atman was key for the advance of Meshkov. When he left the court, the tide turned and Flensburg took the upper hand, shooting ahead by six goals. After failing to score for nine minutes, the 2014 Champions League winners were extremely shaken. They were finally saved by right back Holger Glandorf, who netted in with a buzzer-beater.
In contrast to Atman, who will join German side Hannover next season, his team mate Rastko Stojkovic had something to celebrate. After his four goals in the first leg against Flensburg, the Serbian line player is the new all-time top scorer for Meshkov in international competitions with 215 goals.
The winner of this Last 16 pairing will face Group B winner HC Vardar in the quarter-final.
TEXT: Björn Pazen/kc