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24.04.2017, 16:00◄ last page     


TALKING POINTS: What did we learn from the first legs of the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final?
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Things we know after the first legs of the quarter-final

We are now one step closer to the moment everyone has been waiting for. The first legs of the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final are finished, and only one game remains -  the moment of reckoning.

Eight teams, who shed a lot blood, sweat and tears this season to put a rightful claim on a VELUX EHF FINAL4 berth, are in with a chance of reaching Cologne. However, some are closer than the others.

All square between Kiel and Barca now

Perhaps the biggest modern day VELUX EHF Champions League rivalry remains puzzling for everyone. All the tension and expectation builds up to the moment when all logic, odds and expert opinions are best left outside. Everything is decided within the 60 minutes of glory for some, and demise for others.

Kiel broke that very logic, again, at their Sparkassen Arena, when they defied the odds to defeat the otherwise immaculate Barcelona (28:26).

The game itself was not bereft of emotions either.

The two giants have now met 24 times, and before last weekend's meeting Barcelona had the bragging rights with 11 victories. Now, thanks to Kiel sharpshooter Marko Vujin's 10-goal master class, the German side also have 11 victories to their name.

However, Kiel’s triumph could also prove a turning point in the longstanding rivalry of the two teams. It was Kiel's first victory against Barcelona since their 29:24 win last year, following a defeat and a draw in the group phase this season.

Szeged rue missed penalties

This season’s surprise package, Szeged, welcomed a powerful PSG, in all their greatness. Szeged are notorious for being able to get the better of difficult rivals at home, and were aiming to cause serious damage to the star-studded PSG.

With that hope, and the crafty tactician Juan Carlos Pastor on the bench, they went all or nothing against Noka Serdarusic and his team, only for their own mistakes to prove costly.

Despite being close to the French giants throughout the entire match, four missed penalties cost Szeged dearly in a 30:27 defeat.

Of course, the prolific Uwe Gensheimer did not help Szeged's cause either, as the legendary left wing became the first player this season to pass the 100-goal milestone.

Rigid Montpellier frustrate Veszprém

Meanwhile, another Hungarian team struggled. Veszprém were victorious but their performance was far from impressive, and the 26:23 result leaves a lot of things open ahead of the rematch in Montpellier.


 

The French team rose to the occasion defensively, preventing Veszprém from playing like they are used to in attack. Montpellier’s rigid tactical plan and defensive aggressiveness proved an excellent counter-measure, as it silenced most of Veszprem’s shooters. Aron Palmarsson and Laszlo Nagy topping the scoring charts with six goals.

Reducing Veszprém to only 26 goals scored was a statement of intent from Montpellier, ahead of the rematch in front of their home crowd.

Meanwhile, the versatile Valentin Porte was the epitome of Montpellier’s efforts, having scored all five of his efforts in the second half.

Vardar wrote history, as Flensburg did not rise to the occasion

One could say Flensburg could have done better, but the German team have become known for underperforming against the top sides this season. The result, 26:24, could have been worse for the Flensburg, who were seven goals down (17:10) early in the second half.

After defeats against Barcelona and Kiel and a draw with Veszprém, Flensburg again failed to win a home match against a top team this season.

Meanwhile, Vardar are now just just a step away from writing history, with just the second leg at the Jane Sandanski Arena standing between them and the VELUX EHF FINAL4.


 

Following a string of unsuccessful attempts reach the FINAL4, which included three defeats and one draw in their previous four quarter-final matches in 2015 and 2016, the Macedonian giants were true to their name this time.

Coincidentally, the last this time Vardar won in the VELUX EHF Champion League Quarter-final was against Flensburg in 2014 (27:25). However, that year the German team then went on to triumph at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
 


TEXT: Nemanja Savic / ap

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