Omeyer and Gajic inspire away triumph
After a rollercoaster ride of a game that saw both teams given an opportunity to win, it was finally Montpellier who came out victorious against Nantes in an all-French clash.
EHF Cup Quarter-finals, first leg
HBC Nantes vs. Montpellier Agglomeration HB 25:26 (13:15)
As soon as the game began, you could see that it was going to be a very defensive minded affair. Nantes, even without defense leader and captain Rock Feliho, was giving a hard time to Montpellier's attack.
However, William Accambray was in fine form, and scoring two of his team's first goals, gave Montpellier its first lead of the game after six minutes (2:3). Thierry Omeyer, Montpellier's goalkeeper, kept the pressure on his opponents, and his saves helped to create the first real distance between the teams after 18 minutes (7:10).
That lead did not last long and using Alberto Entrerrios' experience Nantes came back into the game. Making the most of suspensions, the Spanish left back and his teammate Nicolas Claire, narrowed the gap to two goals, 13-15, at half-time.
The second half was a fierce battle between Claire and Montpellier's Slovenian left wing Dragan Gajic. With seven goals in the second half, and 12 overall, Gajic not only finished best scorer of the game, but was also instrumental in Montpellier's win. Neither Skof nor Maggaiez, Nantes' goalkeepers, could find the solution to save his shots. Instead, Nantes' defence decided to focus on the other players, with much more success.
Their fast-breaks were very efficient, and thanks to a very impressive game from the young Nicolas Tournat, Nantes brought the scores level by the 39th minute (19:19). From then on, the two teams remained neck and neck until the last two minutes of the game.
In an incandescent Beaulieu Arena, Gajic gave Montpellier the lead at 26:25. Guigou was then excluded from the game, but Nantes could not make the most of their final opportunity. Thierry Omeyer decided to lock the door of his goal, and saving three shots in the last minute of the game, including a penalty, he secured Montpellier's win and a narrow lead heading into the return leg, next sunday in Montpellier.
Omeyer shines in a moment of need
Of course, Thierry Omeyer was pleased with how the game turned out, saying that "we knew before the game every game would be important. The difference was made on details, small details that luckily turned our way tonight. We made our defence a little tighter by the end, which made me make these saves."
A performance that Diego Simonet was surprised by, stating that "Omeyer just played at the level he usually plays. We know that he's a key element to our team, and he proved it tonight."
On the other hand, Nantes coach Thierry Anti was less than happy by his troops' performance: "We missed three open shots in the last minute, and I can't bear that. Sure, Omeyer had an amazing performance, but it shows how far we are from this team in terms of experience. We knew that going to Montpellier for the return would be hard if we won here, but with such a defeat we know it's going to be even harder. On the other side I'm hopeful, with such misses we only lost by one goal, so there is room for improvement and we hope to turn the situation around."Author: Kevin Domas / cor