Aalborg adding to Veszprém crisis
November 27, 2017
Champions League (M) – Round 9
Round nine in the Men´s Champions League saw Vardar consolidating their lead in Group A, while Paris Saint-Germain and Flensburg top Group B.
Aalborg and Kristianstad delivered surprises, while Thierry Omeyer demonstrated that he is still going strong.
By Peter Bruun
The Champion – Round 9
Rhein-Neckar Löwen vs HC Vardar (Group A) 21:21 (11:11)
Rhein-Neckar could not avenge their 30:26 defeat in Skopje a week earlier. Following the draw on Sunday evening, it is hard to see who can stop Vardar in Group A.
Increasingly the defending Champions League winner looks like the team that will win the group and skip the Round of Last 16.
4,251 spectators at SAP Arena in Mannheim witnessed a close match. Neither team was able to create more than a two goal lead, while the squads took turns leading the game.
Löwen coach Nikolaj Jacobsen abstained from his otherwise beloved seven-against-six attack, remembering that it didn’t yield any results in Skopje.
Whatever Rhein-Neckar Löwen tried, it was not enough to crack Vardar´s effective 5-1 defense formation and once a shot came through, Arpad Sterbik in the Macedonian goal was as good as ever.
It was symbolic that a Sterbik save ended the match, much to the joy of the many Macedonian fans in the arena.
With 16 points, Vardar are three points ahead of the surprise team of the group – Nantes – while the prospects of “Löwen” winning the group appear to be a faint possibility.
Currently in fourth position and four points behind Vardar, the German champions have some kind of a mountain to climb.
Match of the Week – Round 9
Kielce vs Paris Saint-Germain (Group B) 29:30 (11:15)
An unjustified red card for Nikola Karabatic almost ruined everything for PSG who were in control of the match for most of the time, thanks to Karabatic and an excellent performance of Thierry Omeyer.
PSG came off a 33:31 defeat against Aix en Provence in the French league – already their second league loss this season – but they arrived well prepared for the battle against Kielce, Sunday night.
Paris established a four goal lead early in the game (11:7), and kept it well into the second half before Kielce caught up. It was Omeyer with some outstanding saves towards the end of the match that assured Paris of two crucial points.
Player of the Week
The two veteran goalkeepers in the match between Kielce and PSG combined for 80 years – Omeyer (41) and Slawomir Szmal (39). But this Sunday night in Poland, there was no doubt that Omeyer was the best.
Omeyer who has not always been at his best level this season, certainly silenced any sceptics in the match against the 2015 Champions League winner.
He played a significant role in PSG establishing a secure lead early on, and when things got a bit tight towards the end, he stepped up once again making some timely saves.
Surprise of Round 9
Aalborg vs Veszprém (Group B) 29:26 (14:13)
Several times this season have Aalborg been reaching out for more points than the two they earned following their 32:30 victory at home against Celje, on September 24.
Despite putting up courageous fights against Kiel, Kielce and Flensburg, all these games ended in narrow defeats.
But this time, the Danish champions managed to hold on to their lead all the way.
The achievement was even more impressive considering that Aalborg were missing no less than four players, of whom at least right wing, Patrick Wiesmach, must be characterized as key.
Aalborg’s coach, Aron Kristjansson, surprised Veszprém with a consequent seven-against-six offense. As Veszprém seemed to underestimate their Danish opponent, the favorite from Hungary simply had to get in trouble.
While Aalborg got new hope of reaching the Round of Last 16, Veszprém’s coach, Ljubomir Vranjes, got something to think about.
After the two back-to-back defeats against PSG, it was his team´s third successive loss in the 2017/18 Champions League. Now, trailing PSG by five points, the group win seems to have moved out of reach for the ambitious Hungarians.
Zagreb vs FC Barcelona 24:32
Nantes vs Wisla Plock 32:30
IFK Kristianstad vs Pick Szeged 33:32
THW Kiel vs HC Meshkov Brest 33:23
Celje vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt 27:30
Already on Wednesday, Rhein-Neckar Löwen need to get back on their winning track, when they visit Zagreb.
In Group A, the match on Saturday night between Nantes and Barcelona looks exciting, while Vardar and Pick Szeged are clear favorites at home against Kristianstad and Wisla Plock, respectively.
In Group B, we’ll see another edition of the North German classic – the derby between Flensburg and Kiel.
On Saturday, expect PSG dominating Aalborg at home. Despite the Danes´ impressive win against Veszprém, they will be the underdog when visiting the French capital.
Veszprém will get a look at yet another quality team when receiving Kielce, while home court advantage should be enough for Meshkov Brest to defeat Celje.