Kiel end group phase with a perfect record
They had to fight hard, mainly in the first half, but THW Kiel managed to secure their sixth consecutive win in this season’s EHF Cup Group Phase. Like in the first match between the two teams (26:23), Azoty-Pulawy were a hard nut to crack – and despite their earlier qualification for the AKQUINET EHF CUP FINALS, Kiel had to give their all to maintain their perfect record.
- Including qualification, Kiel have won all eight of their EHF Cup matches this season.
- Pulawy finish bottom of the Group D table without a single victory.
- Line player Hendrik Pekeler was Kiel’s top scorer with seven goals; Lukasz Rogulski also scored seven for Azoty-Pulawy
KS Azoty-Pulawy SA (POL) vs THW Kiel (GER) 26:35 (14:15)
With both clubs’ qualification status already decided, the relevance of the Group D match was quite low, but the fighting spirit of both sides on display was high. THW Kiel had already confirmed their spot at the AKQUINET EHF CUP FINALS on 17/18 May, while KS Azoty-Pulawy SA could not finish higher than fourth place in Group D.
The first half was a largely even contest, with narrow advantages for Kiel thanks to their more efficient back court axis and line player Henrik Pekeler.
But Pulawy were highly motivated to finish their European season with a first win in the group phase and quite often found the gaps in the THW defence. Finally, the visitors were ahead by a one-goal margin at the break, though Nikola Bilyk failed with a final free throw after the half time buzzer – and nothing was decided after 30 minutes.
Thanks to a strong display from Russian-born goalkeeper Vadim Bogdanov, Pulawy remained competitive in the initial stages of the second half.
Consequently, the favoured Kiel side could not fend off the hosts easily, but when Niklas Ekberg managed to score a penalty shot after the break, Kiel held their first three-goal lead of the match.
When Kiel extended their lead to five goals (24:19), it appeared that they had sealed the deal. Whilst Pulawy briefly reduced the margin to 21:24 after 43 minutes, a dominant final quarter from Kiel ultimately secured a nine-goal win.
As a consequence of TTH Holstebro's earlier easy win in Group C, the final qualification decision of the group phase will be taken on Sunday in Group D, when GOG need at least one point to secure the final EHF Cup Quarter-final spot at Fraikin BM. Granollers.
Nikola Bilyk, THW Kiel left back, felt that a more aggresive defence in the second half was an important factor in Kiel's eventual victory. "Today, as expected it was good game – I think we did it well. In the first half, we struggled in the defence, but in the second half we played offensive defence. It was the key for today's win," said Bilyk.
"Our game in the first half was satisfying. We played aggressive offence and aggressive defence, too. We lacked an effective game in the second half. If we were to make fewer mistakes, we would be able to compete," said Zbigniew Maruszewski, Azoty-Pulawy coach.Author: Björn Pazen / jw