Five learnings from the first leg
At least two of the three Men’s EHF Cup Quarter-finals are still wide open after the first leg last weekend, leaving us with plenty of excitement to expect when the teams meet again in the second leg to battle it out for the coveted tickets to the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals in Kiel.
As hosts and winners of their group, THW Kiel have already qualified for the finals tournament. Defending champions Füchse Berlin seem sure to join them but two more tickets are up for the grabs this weekend.
Here are five talking points after the first-leg matches:
1. Bramming’s goal show
Adding another nine goals to his tally of 75 from previous matches, Magnus Bramming not only confirmed his status as the dominating goal scorer of this season’s EHF Cup.
He also vastly improved TTH Holstebro’s chances to reach the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals for the second time in the club’s history. Thanks to Bramming’s goal, the Danish side defeated Grundfos Tatabánya KC 29:24 at home.
Bramming was also part of the Holstebro team which reached the 2013 finals, where they finished third. But if Holstebro fail to make it to Kiel, Bramming will be hard to surpass atop the scorers’ ranking.
Another Dane, Füchse’s Hans Lindberg, is second with 64 goals, but the 38-year-old right wing is only an outside contender to become top scorer of the EHF Cup season again.
2. Sarmiento’s joyful comeback
We have simply been waiting too long to see Daniel Sarmiento back in action.
As Saint-Raphaël Var Handball drew 30:30 at home against FC Porto Sofarma on Saturday night, the elegant playmaker was finally back from his long injury break. And it was a comeback in style.
The 35-year-old Spaniard, who is playing his third season with Saint Raphael after seven years in Barcelona, may still be a little rusty after his long break, which is no surprise. But he showed off his great eye for the game and for his teammates.
A couple of spectacular goals completed the joyful comeback for one of the greatest playmakers.
3. How to reduce a deficit by six goals in just 15 minutes
Grundfos Tatabánya KC seemed on their way out of the competition, being 25:14 down with 15 minutes left of their match at Holstebro.
While the Danish hosts looked like paving their way to their second finals appearance, the Hungarian side started to find their way back into the game. They were 11 goals down in minute 45, but just five when the final buzzer went off, 29:24.
Their great morale played a big part as they reduced the gap and gave themselves a result which stoll allows hope for the return game - not on their home court, but in the Audi Arena of Györ, the successful home ground to the biggest powerhouse in women’s handball, Györi Audi ETO KC.
4. Only one tie seems to be decided
Excitement is always good in sport, and there is plenty of that ahead of the second leg for at least two of the ties.
Only the all-German clash between TSV Hannover-Burgdorf and Füchse Berlin seems over, after the defending champions took home a comfortable eight-goal lead (34:26) from Hannover on Sunday.
Hannover came back from 10:5 down but found themselves eight down in the second half. Even Danish playmaker Morten Olsen’s one-man show with 11 goals from 14 attempts didn’t really help the hosts in the end.
Barring a major upset, Füchse are cruising towards their fifth finals tournament berth out of seven.
5. The chance to meet new faces in Kiel
It is always refreshing to see new faces at a finals tournament, and there is a reasonable the chance of seeing some first-time participants in Kiel on 17/18 May.
We are already sure to see one new team at the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals, as hosts THW Kiel have never played the event before. But one, maybe two other debutants could make their way to the Sparkassen Arena.
FC Port Sofarma definitely have the chance after drawing 30:30 away against last season’s losing finalists Saint-Raphaël Var Handball, while Grundfos Tatabánya KC can also dream turning a completely lost position against THH Holstebro into a defeat of ‘just’ five goals.Author: Peter Bruun / ew