Lindell: Nantes have been warned this will not be a walk in the park
With nine goals, Martin Lindell played a major part when OIF Arendal Elite came close to a sensation in the first leg of Qualification Round 3 in the Men’s EHF Cup last Sunday. In the end, the 26-year-old Swedish left back and his Norwegian team suffered a narrow 30:29 away defeat to HBC Nantes – but it is a result that clearly allows Arendal to keep hoping for a ticket for the group phase.
“I think my performance was acceptable,” says Lindell with a small laugh after the match against the VELUX EHF Champions League 2017/18 runners-up and Champions League quarter-finalists from last season.
“Of course, I was happy to be able to score so many goals and to help my team that way, but especially in the second half, I was also happy to be able to help my teammates to good chances.
“In general, I think we were good at producing opportunities all the way, but Emil (Nielsen) had a splendid performance in the Nantes goal,” says Lindell, who enjoyed playing in front of 5,657 spectators in Palais des Sports de Beaulieu.
“It was fantastic to play in that venue and in front of such a large and enthusiastic crowd. Everything at that game was just so motivating, and I really enjoyed being part of it all the way.”
Disappointed? Yes and no
At first sight, a one-goal defeat away against Nantes would appear to be an absolutely fine result for Arendal. However, the Norwegian visitors were leading by five goals along the way, and with two and a half minutes left, they were still one in front.
So, was the one-goal defeat a disappointment?
“Yes and no. When we stood there just as the match was over, we obviously felt disappointed, but if you had asked me before the match if I would be content by losing by one goal in Nantes, I would have bought that option right away. So, looking back, it was a fine result and a great performance from us,” says Lindell.
Facing a one-goal deficit with the prospect of the return leg on home ground would usually mean a great chance to proceed, but Arendal coach Marenko Kurtovic still claims that Nantes are favourites. Still, Lindell hopes for his team to be able to take the step into the group phase.
“Playing the group phase in the EHF Cup would just be awesome. It would be so great for the team, for the entire team, and obviously also for me personally,” says the sharp-shooting left back.
Lindell had actually decided to leave Arendal before this season, to return home to Sweden. He ended up staying on for another year, however.
“It was due to my teammates, the fans and a lot of the people around the club. I simply did not feel I could leave all this, so I changed my mind and decided to stay.
“I have not yet decided if I am also here next season – we will have to see what happens,” says Lindell.
Hoping for massive support
First of all, however, the return match against Nantes in Sparebanken Sör Amfi Arena is waiting, with throw-off on Sunday at 17:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com.
“I really hope for our home ground to be on their toes to give us all the support they can. We will really need that to fulfil our dream of reaching the group phase,” says Lindell.
“However, I am also fully aware that Nantes will be warned by now that this is not a walk in the park for them. We have managed to show them that there is no such thing on this level, but I still hope we can make the last step.”Author: Peter Bruun / cg