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26.11.2010, 21:50◄ last page     

30:30 - THW Kiel take one lucky point from Mannheim and maintain the lead of Group A.

Löwen let victory slip through their fingers

The sixth duel of the VELUX EHF Champions League between Rhein Neckar Löwen and THW Kiel since 2008 ended with the first ever draw, after four wins for THW and one Löwen victory.

The host had lost the first match on Sunday 27:30 in Kiel, but in the return match, was the dominant team for 54 minutes. Then Kiel were lucky and more stable at the end to draw the game at 30:30 (14:17). Top scorers were Filip Jicha with nine goals for Kiel and Uwe Gensheimer and Karol Bielecki with seven each for the Löwen.

Milutin Dragićević scored the equalizer with his first goal since the 12th minute, just 15 seconds before the end. For the Löwen it was the second draw in this CL season, and Kiel remain unbeaten with ten points in Group A.

The current World Handball Player of the Year (Slawomir Szmal), three former Polish internationals (Stefansson, Fritz, Omeyer), a total 27 Champions League titles, Olympics, World and European Champions en masse – the return match in Mannheim was in a class of it’s own, and not only concerning the World class talent on the court. 12,337 spectators witnessed a brilliant and hard-fought game.

Despite the injuries of Zeitz, Narcisse and Andersson, THW Kiel started with a surprising line-up. Coach Alfred Gislasson left Marcus Ahlm, Christian Sprenger and Filip Jicha on the bench, and for Löwen, Henning Fritz started in goal, not Szmal.

The first 30 minutes saw a really tough defensive battle, as evidenced by the seven two-minute suspensions. The Löwen had the better start thanks to the saves of Fritz, some counterattack goals after THW mistakes, and the strikes of Karol Bielecki.

Gislasson had to submit his green card very early, as the host was already leading 10:5 after 16 minutes. When the match re-started, Andreas Palicka replaced the luckless Omeyer, and Jicha and Ahlm also entered the court, but the former enjoyed more success than the latter.

Ahlm had to be replaced due to a finger injury only seven minutes later and did not return, whereas Jicha hit the back of the net, in his usual unstoppable way, five times before the break, and these would not be his last goals of the game, either.

But the key facts for the "close" 17:14 for the Löwen at the break were – from THW point of view – the saves of Palicka, who was as outstanding as Fritz at the other hand. Kiel could not come closer than a two goal deficit (11:13), as they gave too much space for Bielecki.

Just as the guest had started to catch-up (22:20), the series of THW injuries continued: By trying to save a ball from rolling over the line, Christian Sprenger hit an advertisement board, suffering an ankle injury.

Despite treatment, he was unable to resume. Löwen took advantage of the ensuing confusion and extended their lead to 25:20 in only two minutes (41) thanks to two Gensheimer counterattack goals.

Despite the reduced squad, Kiel did not give up and reduced the gap from 28:23 to 28:26.

In ‘crunch time’, both teams changed their goalkeepers: Omeyer returned for Palicka (11 saves), and Szmal entered the field for the first time.

The very hectic last five minutes, which had many injury and mopping breaks, started with a 30:27 lead for the Löwen.

Fernandez scored his sixth goal by penalty, and three minutes before the end, Löwen coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson took his time-out. But instead of being inspired and prepared for the final decision, the home team became nervous in attack.

90 seconds before the end it was again a penalty goal by Fernandez which took the score to 30:29. Top scorer Gensheimer then lost the ball against the now highly aggressive THW defence.

15 seconds before the end Milutin Dragićević scored the goal that made it 30:30, and the last Löwen attack ended with a direct free throw, but the Bielecki shot was blocked.

Statements after the match:

Alfred Gislasson, coach THW Kiel: It was a really tough fight for us, as two more players were injured. But we fought bravely. I’m proud of the way we played hard right until the end. We always believed in ourselves and our strength.

Gudmundur Gudmundsson, coach Löwen: I’m a little disappointed, as we deserved a victory. But Kiel never give up and fight until the final whistle. They won this point thanks to their stronger defence in the final stage.

Thorsten Storm, manager Löwen: This is one point lost. We dominated the game until the 54th minute, but then we didn’t score for six minutes. This is why Kiel are the reigning champions, and we are not. We’re not on the same level currently.

Uli Derad, manager Kiel: I think we deserved this point because of our fighting spirit. I hope that Ahlm and Sprenger will not be out for too long, as the list of injured players at Kiel is long enough already.

Olafur Stefansson, player Löwen: We played better than in Kiel, but we let the victory slip through our fingers.

TEXT: Björn Pazen

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