Porto flirting with finals berth
FC Porto Sofarma, the Portuguese team that won all of its games in the group phase, against Saint-Raphaël Var Handball, last season’s finalists from France: this Men’s EHF Cup Quarter-final has all the ingredients to become a true handball show.
In the first leg in France last week, the teams left the court with a 30:30 draw. The decisive second leg in Portugal is scheduled for Saturday at 19:00 hrs (live on ehfTV.com).
"Write history for this great club"
“It was an excellent first leg for both teams,” says Diogo Branquinho. The Porto left wing netted seven times from nine attempts and was the joined top scorer for his team alongside António Areia.
“Saint-Raphaël are a good team, with good players and with an excellent offensive transition,” Branquinho says. “But FC Porto are a historic team and we are all looking forward to continuing to write the history for this great club.”
Asked whether the environment of Porto’s home arena, the Dragão Caixa, can make the difference when both teams meet again on Saturday, Branquinho is convinced that it could give Porto the edge.
“Every time we enter the court there is a phrase that I think expresses what the Dragão Caixa is: ‘Strong everywhere, invincible at home.’ We want the Portista family to help us with what can be a very beautiful page for Portuguese handball.”
Not much separated the teams in the first leg
In order to qualify for the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals in Kiel on 17/18 May, Porto will need to get into the lead again, like in France last week, but hold on to their advantage this time.
In the first leg, the Portuguese went three up early in the game, but the hosts came back quickly, partly thanks to Raphaël Caucheteux’s offensive efficiency. Saint-Raphaël even looked like taking a lead into the dressing rooms when Adrien Dipanda made it 17:16, only for Rui Silva to level again in the final seconds of the first half.
Again not much was separating the teams in the second half. Porto had to deal with several two-minute suspensions near the end but still almost took a win back home. They lead 30:29 with six seconds left on the clock when Caucheteux pulled out a miraculous pass from the corner to Alexander Lynggaard, who scored against Alfredo Quintana to leave the match undecided.
The outcome left both teams with all to play for on Saturday.Author: Tiago Nogueira / ew