It’s a statement – again!

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It’s a statement – again!


May 9, 2024




L’état de la nation: It’s a statement – again!

 

By Sascha Staat

 

The last time Brest hosted arch rival Metz, both teams played for a spot in the final match of the Coupe de France. The Brest faithful were eager to see their team fight for a trophy again, but the team of Pablo Morel had no chance in what turned into a lopsided win by “Les Dragonnes” and a masterful performance of players and coaching staff alike. On Wednesday, it was a different kind of game, but the result was the same as the one on Easter Saturday – Metz celebrated once again.

In the early stages of the game Metz had problems to execute their game plan, just days after beating CSM Bucuresti to qualify for the Final Four of the EHF Champions League for a third time in the history of the club. Brest took profit, backed by the saves of Katharina Filter. The German goalkeeper became the center of attention when a ball of compatriot Alina Grijseels hit her in the head on the backend of a penalty shot. Grijseels was immediately sent off with a red card and it looked like the match would become a serious problem for Metz.

The German playmaker, who delivered a brilliant performance against her future club this past Saturday, was supposed to create the opportunities at a time when Kristina Jørgensen struggled in the game. “Alina deserves to play more – everybody knows she’s important to us. We wanted to bring some new energy to the game, but unfortunately, she got the red card”, head coach Emmanuel Mayonade summed it up after the final whistle.

So, he had to change his plan again. Louise Burgaard also struggled, scoring only one goal on seven attempts. Emma Jacques clocked some vital minutes in the second half, which started with a  tie (11-11). Almost as usual, Hatadou Sacko stepped up in goal, stopping shot after shot allowing her teammates to score some easy goals. At the same time, Jørgensen got in the game as well and all of sudden Metz had turned a 4-goal deficit into a 4-goal lead.

It was a tough fight, as the pressure was all on Metz, after having lost the first clash against Brest back in January, on home court. Back then, Jørgensen missed a penalty shot after the clock had expired. On her birthday. “It’s impossible for me to forget”, she claimed after the win on Wednesday. Because that’s what it turned out to be – another Metz win.  It put the French record champions in control again and at the top of the table with four games left to play, three of them at home.

Within a few short weeks  Metz got the better end of Brest once again, even though it wasn’t their best performance of the season. What some of the pundits may underestimate is the fighting spirit and the mental attitude of “Les Dragonnes”. Fans expect fireworks most of the time, but sometimes a solid performance will do just fine.  That’s  what Metz can deliver on any given day. It’s what makes them a complete side, certainly the best in France. Period.

Metz have many weapons. A high-speed game, allowing them to glide through games like the TGV from Paris to Brest Bretagne. Or a game of handball at a slower pace, when their defense shuts down the opposition. And when the starting line-up doesn’t deliver, the bench is deep enough with plenty of players ready to shine. Like Grijseels, Jacques or Camille Depuiset in goal.  The latter stepped up against Brest saving a penalty shot, when it mattered most.

Bottom line: The win against Brest was a statement – again. The ability of Metz to succeed in an  “ugly” fashion, could elevate their confidence to.a level in a season, which could be one for the ages come June 2nd.

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