Barcelona secure top spot as Veszprém overpower Flensburg
FC Barcelona Lassa made sure there was no slip up in the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase home straight, as they beat Orlen Wisla Plock on Saturday to earn automatic qualification for the least eight. The Polish side now need bottom-ranked Kadetten Schaffhasuen to deny Silkeborg a win on Sunday in order to reach the knock-out rounds.
In Hungary, Telekom Veszprém finished the group stage on a high after an impressive Match of the Week win over Flensburg to finish third in the section ahead of the German league leaders.
• Resilient Veszprém win third-place dogfight with Flensburg
• Ilic stands out for the Hungarian giants with nine goals
• Barcelona beat Wisla to seal automatic quarter-final berth
• Wisla will learn their fate after Silkeborg’s game against Kadetten
GROUP A FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) 36:28 (17:15)
Barcelona put the icing on the cake of an absorbing group stage campaign by defeating a valiant Wisla side, with the result propelling the Spanish giants into the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals.
The result also confined Paris Saint Germain to second place no matter what they do against THW Kiel on Sunday, while Wisla will be sweating over their prospects of reaching the knock-out stage, as their fate is no longer in their own hands.
In order to finish sixth in the group and squeeze into the Last 16, the Polish team rely on Kadetten Schaffhausen to snatch an unlikely away win at Silkeborg, who will sneak in ahead of Wisla on a better head-to-head record if they beat the Swiss outfit.
With plenty at stake for both teams, the clash produced enthralling action as underdogs Wisla played the first half as if their lives depended on the outcome.
Up against a much more resourceful rival in the iconic Blaugrana arena, the Polish side gave as good as they got from the winners of a record nine titles in Europe’s premier club competition.
Barcelona kept nosing ahead thanks to their irrepressible right wing Victor Tomas, who used space on his flank with ruthless efficiency to score five goals from six shots in the opening period.
The back court shared their attacking workload as Wael Jalouz netted three times, keeping at bay a battling visiting team whose striking pins Tiago Rocha and Tomasz Gebala rifled in four apiece.
The gulf in class began to make a difference early in the second half, as Barcelona pulled away to 22:16 after several fast breaks and some fine individual moves, much to the delight of the capacity home crowd.
Barcelona’s run forced a Wisla time out but the writing was already on the wall for the visitors, who were unable to match the hosts’ firepower although they fought as hard as they could to stay in touch.
With Tomas doing the damage in the first half, his teammates stepped up after the interval as Valero Rivera Folch started to pierce through Wisla’s rearguard, backed by the evergreen Kiril Lazarov.
As Barcelona’s advantage soared to 27:17 midway through the second period, it was clear there was no way back for the visitors, who started to commit turnovers in attack while picking up two-minute suspensions for slack defending at the other end.
Wisla refused to lie down and managed to reduce the deficit to 31:25 as Croatian Sime Ivic finally found his range, but Barcelona kept their feet on the gas pedal sufficiently to avoid any possibility of a late drama.
Barcelona’s scorers were led by Tomas, who finished with seven goals from eight shots, while Lazarov added six from as many efforts and Rivera and Aitor Arino Bengoechea chipped in with five each.
Ivic scored seven goals from 12 shots for Wisla, as Rocha and Gebala failed to add to their first-half tally and amassed four apiece.
Telekom Veszprém (HUN) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) 34:28 (17:18)
A razor-sharp Veszprém delighted their passionate home fans with a deserved victory against Flensburg, in a match that kept fans on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
It had all the MOTW ingredients as both sides came up with a barrage of high-quality moves in attack, garnished by spectacular goals at each end of the court.
Flensburg coach Ljubomir Vranjes, who will take over as coach at Veszprém next season, was keen to give his new employers a taste of what they have acquired, as his team fired on all cylinders and took a 14:11 lead thanks to a balanced workload in attack.
The visitors had nine scorers in the opening period with Kentin Mahe leading the way after netting four times, but Veszprém bounced back in the last few minutes to slash the deficit to just one goal before the break.
Their goalkeeper Mirko Alilovic saved a Rasmus Lauge penalty on the buzzer and that set the tone for the second half, when an early 4:0 blitz turned the tide for good.
Flensburg run out of steam
Veszprém backs Nagy and Ilic unleashed a series of unstoppable shots from all angles to keep the home side in front, the latter finishing as the game’s top scorer with nine goals.
The torrid pace took its toll on Flensburg as their passes started to go astray after an impeccable first half, opening too much space for Veszprém’s fast breaks.
"Generally I was satisfied with the first half," said Flensburg coach Vranjes. "In the second period the game was similar but we made too many technical mistakes and turnovers, which helped Veszprém to a four-goal lead. Nilsson and Lekai caused a lot of problem for us. I am proud of my team. We could have won but against a team like Veszprém it is dangerous to make so many mistakes."
The German side let out their last roar as they cut the gap from 21:18 to 24:23 midway through the second half, but Veszprém found another gear and steamrolled through the last quarter of the match.
Having created a fantastic atmosphere throughout the contest, Veszprém’s fervent fans treated their team to a standing ovation after a morale-boosting win ahead of the Last 16.
The inspired Ilic led the way with nine goals while Nagy, line player Andreas Nilsson, captain Mate Lekai and wing Gasper Marguc provided rock-solid support with five goals each.
Lauge and Holger Glandorf stood out for Flensburg with five goals apiece.