Brest snap winless streak; Montpellier defeat Kielce
In the battle for sixth place in Group A of the VELUX EHF Champions League, Meshkov Brest turned their fate around and won for the first time in five months, after they dominated the game against Löwen from start to finish. Snapping a nine-game winless streak, the Belarussian side put pressure on Löwen, who have won only once in their last five games in the Champions League.
In the last game of the evening, Montpellier halted a Kielce comeback to earn their second win in a row, tying Brest on seven points in Group A – in what shapes to be a head-to-head battle for the last qualification berth for the next phase.
- Brest snapped a nine-game winless streak with a dominating performance against Löwen
- Löwen slumped to their fourth loss in their past five games in the Champions League
- Montpellier defeated Kielce to improve their hopes of qualifying for the Last 16
HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) 27:24 (15:12)
Failure to win would have meant a tenth winless game in a row for Meshkov Brest, but Rhein-Neckar Löwen were also a team with their own difficulties, having lost three of their last four games, and Löwen's lack of confidence was there to be seen in the first ten minutes.
A fast goal from right wing Bogdan Radivojevic saw the German powerhouse take the lead, but a 5:0 unanswered partial ensued from the hosts, which prompted Löwen’s coach, Nikolaj Jacobsen, to take his first time-out.
Löwen’s woes had no quick fix – and Brest’s left back Alexsander Shkuriskiy was unstoppable, scoring three times in the first 15 minutes, to put the hosts in a healthy position with a five-goal lead (9:4).
Brest were cruising, but in a pivotal moment, a mistake from goalkeeper Ivan Pesic saw the Croatian player sent off for a foul. With three goals from left wing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson, Brest’s lead was cut, 13:11.
A 2:0 run to start the second half for Löwen might have signalled further problems for Brest, but the German side’s under par attacking performance helped the hosts get back into the game and build a 17:14 lead.
Brest answered with their own 3:0 run, spurred by Slovenian line player Vid Poteko, as the 20:16 score line prompted Jacobsen to take another time-out in the 40th minute, trying to correct his team’s woes.
Otherwise silent in the first part of the game, Löwen’s top goal scorer Andre Schmid sparkled at the business end of the match as he singlehandedly helped the German side stay in the game. But it was too little, too late, as an eight-goal game from Shkurinskiy helped Brest to an unexpected win.
Schmid finished the game with five goals, Löwen’s top scorer, but Löwen lost their third consecutive game, with a top four finish appearing unlikely given that they are now in fiifth place, with 12 points, two points behind Kielce. On the other side, Brest, who will travel to in-form Veszprem next week, are in seventh place with seven points.
Manolo Cadenas, head coach of HC Meshkov Brest, said after the match: "We enjoyed a good performance of both keepers today. Matskevich managed to enter the game in the right way and deliver in the second half. I agree that we were more in need of a victory in terms of the current standings in the table. My players performed at their maximum tonight.
PGE Vive Kielce (POL) vs Montpellier HB (FRA) 27:28 (11:14)
Kielce’s injury woes were well documented but losing Alex Dujshebaev to a knee injury last week almost added insult to injury, and the depleted Polish side faced a huge challenge against a hungry Montpellier side.
However, for the first 15 minutes, Talant Dujshebaev’s team fought on, as playmaker Angel Fernandez Perez and veteran Krzystof Lijewski managed to keep their opponents at bay, with the scored tied at 9:9.
Slowly, but surely, led by Melvyn Richardson – who is the new top goal scorer of the VELUX EHF Champions League – Montpellier got into their groove and started to apply more pressure in key areas, taking a 14:11 lead at half-time.
With Brest winning their game against Löwen, Montpellier found themselves in a must-win situation to keep their Last 16 hopes alive.
As the time passed, everything looked to be going well for Montpellier as they held a five-goal lead throughout the second half, with right back Valentin Porte scoring for fun.
A 22:17 lead with 15 minutes to go looked to be enough, but the title holders had another unexpected scoreless patch – and a 6:1 run from Kielce, spurred by Spanish duo Julen Aguinagalde and Angel Fernandez Perez, tied the game at 23:23.
Yet Montpellier held their ground and took a 28:27 lead, with left wing Mathieu Grebille scoring three crucial goals inside the last 15 minutes to help the French side take their third win of the season.
The defence stayed strong and stopped a Polish attack inside the last nine seconds to give Montpellier their second win in a row in the Champions League.
It was both an impressive outing and a season-changing win for the French side. Montpellier are level with Meshkov Brest on seven points but hold the tiebreaker, courtesy of last week’s 29:23 win against the Belarussian side.
Montpellier host Barça Lassa next week, while Kielce, who are fourth in the group, travel to Löwen. The Polish side have lost three of their last four games, while their future opponents have won only once in the last five games.
Patrice Canayer, Montpellier coach: "Kielce had some problems with injuries. We know very well how difficult is to play like this, as we had the same problems in the first part of the season. We are very satisfied to win this game tonight; it’s always very difficult to play in Kielce."
Talant Dujshebaev, Kielce coach: "We made a lot of easy mistakes that gave our opponents up to 12 easy goals from fast breaks. It was too much. Congratulations to Montpellier. I’m very proud of my players, but it wasn’t 100% what we wanted to perform."Author: Adrian Costeiu / jw