LAST 16 REVIEW: Vranjes’ team turn a two-goal deficit against Brest into a ticket to the quarter-finals in the last four minutes.
Extremely shaken Flensburg cheat the gallows
Thanks to the Swedish trio Johan Jakobsson, Mattias Andersson and Hampus Wanne, SG Flensburg-Handewitt prevented an early exit against Meshkov Brest in the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League.
With a 24:26 deficit four minutes before the end, the German side were virtually eliminated, but then scored the last four goals to secure the result of 28:26.
The top scorers in the true thriller were Rastko Stojkovic, with eight goals for Brest, and Rasmus Lauge, tallying seven for Flensburg.
• For the 10th time in their club history, Flensburg clinch a berth to the EHF Champions League Quarter-finals
• For the sixth time since the implementation of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in 2010, at least two German teams will be part of the quarter-finals
• Just like in 2014 – before they claimed their so-far only Champions League title – SG will face Vardar in the quarter-finals
• Meshkov would have been the first team from a former Soviet Union country since Chekhovskie Medvedi in 2011 to qualify for a Men’s EHF Champions League Quarter-finals, but for the second time in a row they are eliminated in the Last 16
LAST 16, SECOND LEG
SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Meshkov Brest 28:26 (13:13)
Flensburg manager Dierk Schmäschke had hoped for a relaxing party to celebrate his 59th birthday on Sunday, but Meshkov Brest had something against this wish.
Just like in the first leg (26:25 for SG in Brest), the Belarusian side proved a more-than-hard nut to crack for the three-time EHF Champions League finalists: “They are huge, they played cleverly again and they made a rare number of mistakes, thus it was anything but easy for us, so I am fully happy,” said Schmäschke.
A level game from the first whistle to the last
The initial stages boosted Schmäschke’s hopes, as Flensburg easily forged ahead to 3:1, but Meshkov soon figured out how to cope with the hosts’ defensive style, reducing the number of mistakes in attack and remaining on eye level from that moment on.
Despite some great saves from goalkeeper Andersson, SG could not cast off their opponents. At the other end, Meshkov’s Montenegrin goalkeeper Rade Mijatovic showed his class providing back-up for his side, who suddenly pulled ahead 7:5.
But this was the last two-goal advantage for either team until minute 55. The lead changed hands constantly, and the half-time result was a deserved and level 13:13.
Brest lose the lead in the dying minutes
Exactly at the middle of the second half the score was locked at 20:20. With extraordinary Serbian line player Rastko Stojkovic on fire, Brest fought hard for every ball and centimetre of the court.
When there were five minutes to go Stojkovic stood cold as ice on the penalty line, netting for 25:23, and Brest were all but in the quarter-finals for the first time. The visitors even had a one-man advantage, which they used to score for 26:24.
But then the Swedish trio turned the direction of the rollercoaster: First Johan Jakobsson struck twice – in what was his comeback match after a severe concussion in January – to put the score at 25:26 and 26:26, then his country-fellow Andersson saved twice.
When Hampus Wanne – another Swede – netted for 27:26, extremely shaken Flensburg were safely through and the fans in Flens-Arena went crazy 80 seconds before the final buzzer.
“We needed to fight incredibly hard,” said match winner Andersson, adding: “Now we face Vardar and I count on the good omen that in 2014 we first beat them and then won the Champions League.”
His coach Ljubomir Vranjes called the match a “true hammer for 120 minutes, but finally we won both encounters. We and Brest were on an absolutely high level today, and little things decided the match.”
TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / cg