04.03.2018 18:20

Skjern cruise past Motor to set up Last 16 clash against Veszprem, Montpellier spoil the party for Leon

Sunday was a day to remember for all Skjern Handbold's fans. Ole Norgaard´s team cleared out the two-goal deficit from the first leg to eliminate Motor Zaporozhye in the last group phase Match of the Week. Tibor Ivanisevic's heroic performance gave Skjern plenty of comfort despite the pressure from Motor after the break. Montpellier joined them two hours later as Patrice Canayer side narrowly beat Ademar Leon.

  • Skjern made it to Last 16 after 14 years
  • Skjern will play Veszprem, the second placed team in Group B, in the Last 16
  • First ever Skjern win over Motor Zaporozhye
  • Montpellier qualify for the playoff fourth consecutive time
  • Montpellier spoiled the 200th European tie for Ademar Leon with a high scoring win

GROUP PHASE KNOCKOUT ROUND

MOTW: Skjern Handbold (DEN) vs HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) 33:26 (20:15)

Hosts made most of the home advantage in the second leg to overcome the two-goal deficit from Ukraine to advance into their first Last 16 after fourteen years. What looked like a wide open contest in the first 20 minutes turned into Skjern's "one team show" mainly thanks to an inspiring performance of their goalkeeper Tibor Ivanisevic who stopped eight penalties of Motor Zaporozhye gave Skjern the so much anticipated success.

Open encounter

Both teams played a high-speed handball with goals coming at both ends in very short succession. Skjern are known for their fast pace handball, but Motor slowed them down and even showed their own deadly counter attacking sense punishing hosts' mistakes.

Oleksander Shevelev missed out the game for Motor Zaporozhye and although Kasper Søndergaard was also doubtful before the clash with a back injury, the Skjern right back not only made it, but also netted four goals. He was used by the head coach mainly in the attack, however with the grimace on his face after every shot a clear discomfort could have been witnessed.  

First half momentum

Motor put up a solid defencem holding back the offensive power of Skjern. Both teams played aggressively in the back but Motor were punished heavily for the suspensions. Only in the first half the visitors found themselves one man down no fewer than four times and this made the difference.

Both teams took turns in the lead throughout the first half until Bjarte Myrhol scored the empty net goal to make it 14-11 in the 22nd minute. Skjern grabbed the momentum in front of 3,200 fans in packed Skjern Bank Arena.

The penalty masterclass

Have you ever seen a goalkeeper saving eight penalties in a single match? Ivanisevic substituted Emil Nielsen in the first half and ever since he shut down the curtain. He continued his masterclass after the half-time break. Eight penalty saves and a handful of important saves provided Skjern the base for controlling the game. Total 43% saves success for home goalkeepers was the main attribute of the Danish side win.

“I don’t know why I had so much success at their penalties today. I was very concentrated and I had a good preparation for the match. My performance was a result of a lot of things; my emotions, the atmosphere at the game, the energy from the team and the fans, and I knew how important the match was. For me, for us, for the club, for everybody here. I am just very happy that we made this result today, so we are among the best 16 in Europe,” Ivanisevic said after the game.

“We know that Vezprem is a big team and we will enjoy the two games against them, and try to make a good result. We don’t have anything to lose, so we will see.”

Motor were not the worse team in the second half, but paid the price for their low attacking efficiency. Skjern did just enough to maintain a five-goal lead. When Ivanisevic was not in goal, Konradsson was there to stop the empty net attempt from Barys Pukhouski to allow Skjern put the deciding pin in the coffin with less than five minutes remaining.

"Ivanisevic is local hero here. He has a great attitude and shows how much he enjoys playing handball. We needed a goalkeeper that saves eight penalties to win. I am looking forward to coming back to Veszprem and the atmosphere back there," Skjern's veteran Myrhol said.

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs Abanca Ademar Leon (ESP) 20:19 (13:8)

Montpellier built up on the four goals advantage from Leon to cruise past into the Last 16 for the fourth consecutive time following a narrow 20:19 win over Ademar Leon.

Melvyn Richardson proves to be the main man for Patrice Canayer in the absence of Valentin Porte, who was anxiously watching the match in the stands. After scoring nine in the first leg, the 21-year-old right back fired in 4 goals in the first half. In addition to the superb Vincent Gerard with seven saves until the half time, the French powerhouse developed a deciding five goal lead (13-8) already at half time.

Early decision

It took little more than two minutes for Michael Guigou to fire two goals for Montpellier to take a two-goals lead in the game. By the end of the tenth minute, Richardson made it 6-3 for Montpellier, as the French side did not want to leave anything for granted. Fast break goals, reliable back court performance in combination with the always present Gerard, Montpellier looked on the right track to find themselves in the last 16 already at half-time. But things were not as clear as they looked after the break.

Federico Vieyra ended the 13th minute dry out of Leon in the 36th minute, as Ademar Leon fought hard until the very end, Vladimir Cupara keeping the Spaniards in the game with fine second half saves. The Leon goalkeeper even found the net once with an empty net effort in the 48th minute. With the help of improved 5-1 defence, Ademar had higher scoring efficiency than their opposition in the second half, however it was not enough to overcome the deficit. Montpellier are an experienced European side and have the players who can pull the trigger when it matters the most.

A sip of hope

The 24-year-old Brazilian centre back Acacio Marques Moreira levelled the score in 52nd minute (18-18) only to put Ademar Leon in lead three minutes later. With little more than five minutes on the clock, Rafael Guijosa were up by one goal, but the four-goal deficit from the first match was a bit too much. Vid Kavticnik showed his experience, scoring six times during the crucial times in the second half as Montpellier claimed their 10th win of the season in the most prestigious European club handball competition.

Author: Tomas Cuncik / br