Alfred Gislasson

Kiel assures German representation in Cologne

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Alfred Gislasson

Barcelona were close to catching up with Kiel´s over-all lead at the end of the second leg of the quarter-final, but the visitors remained triumphant at the end.

By Peter Bruun

FC Barcelona vs THW Kiel 33:30 (13:14) First leg 24:29. Agg. 57:59

Before the Match

A five-goal advantage is often not a lot in European ties, and especially not when playing at Palau Blaugrana.  Kiel´s Bundesliga colleagues Rhein-Neckar Löwen are one of the teams that can tell a story about it.  In the quarter-finals two years ago, Rhein-Neckar Löwen won the first leg against Barcelona 38:31 at home – only to lose 31:24 away and exit the competition based on goals scored away.

However, Kiel was encouraged by the fact that a few of their injured players were fit and in shape again.  In particular, the visitors had good reasons to hope for an improved Patrick Wiencek in defense.  Furthermore, Kiel was counting on Niklas Landin to perform just as well in goal as he did in the first game.

For Barcelona, it came down to performing considerably better in attack, then they did at the Sparkassen Arena a week earlier.  It would represent a big challenge.

The Result

Poor, poor FC Barcelona – first being sent out of the football Champions league, and now also out of handball’s premier club competition.

After a dramatic second half, where Barcelona managed to catch up nine goals, Kiel secured the over-all win in the end and made sure, that Germany will be represented at the FINAL4 in Cologne after all.  Since, Barcelona will not be able to defend their title, the trophy will change hands once again.

1st Half

When the first 30 minutes were over, Barcelona were one goal further away from turning the tables than they were at the beginning of the game.

At the start, things looked even gloomier for the ruling champions, as Kiel got off to a far better start, quickly leading 4:1 and 5:2.  But Barcelona managed to come back, mainly because they practiced a more inventive and versatile play of attack than in the first match.  The most noticeable difference, compared to the first leg was the fact that Barcelona made much more use of their wings.

Strongly supported by a capacity crowd at Palau Blaugrana, the home team drew even at 5:5, and soon thereafter, Barcelona´s best player in the first half, Eduardo Curbindo handed Barca their first lead at 7:6.

Unfortunately, the hosts were not able to move ahead by much, and for the rest of the first half the two teams were never separated by more than two goals.

Barcelona’s coach Xavi Pascual tried a 5-1 defense, but the move only confused Kiel for a short time, and towards half time, the guests even managed to take a one-goal lead again.

2nd Half

Barca definitely had their work cut out for them, as they headed into the final 30 minutes of play.  They would have to catch up with six, maybe even seven goals.  In the first minutes following the break, nothing indicated that the Catalans would be able to solve the task.  Just like in the first period, Kiel had the better start and went ahead 18:14 and 19:15.

Five unanswered Barcelona goals in the next five minutes changed the score to 20:19 for the hosts.  But Kiel managed to stop the “high-speed train” from Catalonia, and evened the score once again.

With 14 minutes left on the game clock, however, we saw the start of one of those typical Barcelona streaks in Blaugrana.  Coach Pascual changed his 5-1 defense to a 4-2 formation and this tactical move paid immediate dividends.

From 24:24, Barcelona went ahead 31:26, but they could not get over the hump and secure that crucial six-goal lead which had become a necessity at this point.  Instead, a couple of great saves from Kiel’s goalkeeper Landin brought the German club back into the game.

A brilliant Joan Canellas reduced to 31:28 with three minutes left, and after another magnificent save from Denmark’s national keeper against Sigurdsson, the matter was decided.

What´s Next?

For Kiel, it will be all about preparing for the FINAL4 at the Lanxess Arena of Cologne, on May 28 and 29, where they will join Kielce, Veszprém and probably Paris.

The question remains, if Kiel will have the stamina and depth to handle two difficult matches in two days? Yet, there is no doubt that handball fans can look forward to a fantastic event, even without the presence of Victor Tomas & Co.

Barcelona will soon be able to celebrate another Spanish championship, but considering the lack of resistance they face in Spain, it is their performance in the Champions League that ultimately defines their season.  No wonder that the disappointment could be felt at Palau Blaugrana this evening, whereas Kiel fans enjoyed a fine Saturday night at La Rambla.

 

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