Five takeaways after the group phase
The group phase is over. We know which teams continue their race to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, and who will be playing who in the Last 16.
There have been some magnificent battles in the last round to fight for the final open spots in the Last 16. We look at the history, surprises and top scorer in this week’s talking points, before we shift our attention towards the knockout phase.
One of the biggest surprises
Not seen before under the current format of the VELUX EHF Champions League: the defending champions stumbling even before the Last 16. It has now happened to Montpellier HB.
Their last season was a dream coming true, in the current season they never really recovered from a poor start. HC Vardar put the last remaining nail in their coffin with a win in the last round of Group A, 33:27.
This was the 10th loss in 14 group matches for Montpellier, which put them in the seventh place in the group - and out of the Last 16.
What a comeback!
Talking about surprises: Bjerringbro-Silkeborg seemed in control of their play-off tie against Orlen Wisla Plock. Having won the first leg 26:22 and leading the second 15:13 at half-time, things seemed to be going according to the Danish script.
But as the hosts only scored five goals after the break, Plock managed an incredible comeback. They completed a turnaround, winning the match 27:20 and the play-off 49:46 on aggregate.
MOL-Pick Szeged have been warned ahead of their Last 16 matches.
Historic achievement for Sporting
Sporting CP wrote a new chapter to Portuguese handball history, reaching the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.
Sporting won their knockout battle against Dinamo Bucuresti 59:57 on aggregate. With a win away from home in the second leg, 27:26, Sporting became the first team this season to beat Dinamo at home.
Sporting will take on Hungarian giants Telekom Veszprém HC in the Last 16. But before that, it is time to celebrate as the players experienced at Lisbon airport after their victory.
The top scorer is eliminated
Even though Montpellier HB, the champions from last season, have been eliminated after a disappointing season, they have the top scorer from the group phase in their team.
Melvyn Richardson scored 87 goals in the group phase. Next one on the list is Barys Pukhouski with 80 goals for HC Motor Zaporozhye, and Andre Schmid with 78 for Rhein-Neckar Löwen.
While the last two can continue to score goals, the Champions League season is unfortunately over for Richardson.
The road to Cologne
With the group phase done and dusted, we have taken a big step down the road to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. Those are the battles in the Last 16, while Barça Lassa and Paris Saint-Germain HB wait in the quarter finals:
Sporting CP vs Telekom Veszprém HC
Orlen Wisla Plock vs MOL-Pick Szeged
HC PPD Zagreb vs HC Vardar
HC Meshkov Brest vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt
HC Motor Zaporozhye vs PGE Vive Kielce
Rhein-Neckar Löwen vs HBC Nantes