Excellent defensive performances give Aalborg and PSG victories
After their initial win against Elverum, Aalborg had the ambition to beat Zagreb at home to retain their position atop the group, and win they did.
With their usual combo of tough defence and fast breaks, Aalborg managed to break away after half-time, only conceding one goal in fifteen minutes, while Zagreb were commiting too many fouls.
Meanwhile, after defeating Barcelona last weekend, Szeged looked like serious contenders to win in Paris tonight, and for 35 minutes, the Hungarian side stayed level with the 2018 finalists.
But it was Paris’ defence which helped them build their victory, conceding only one goal during fourteen minutes in the second half before finally winning by five.
- Paris stay top of Group A with four points, only they and Aalborg have bagged maximum points, Zagreb are bottom
- Top scorer in Denmark was Aalborg’s Sebastian Barthold with 12 goals while Zagreb’s Matej Hrsitc netted five times
- Tonight was Aalborg’s best ever defensive performance in the Champions League
- Nikola Karabatic was top scorer with eight for Paris, while Jorge Maqueda netted six times for Szeged
Aalborg Handbold (DEN) vs HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) 30:20 (13:11)
Aalborg had impressed last week by their ability to defend strongly and run fast, and in the first moments of the game, it looked like Zagreb hadn’t learnt the lesson well enough. Two turnovers were immediately punished by left winger Sebastian Barthold, and in less than ten minutes, the hosts were up by three, 6:3.
With Vistorop at the wheel, the visitors slowly got back in to the game, while Aalborg were struggling to find the solution on traditional play. The Croatian left back scored four in the first half alone, allowing Zagreb to come back on the score board at one point.
But their efforts were ruined in no time to due to a couple of missed shots, which Aalborg turned into easy goals, going back to the dressing room leading by two (13:11).
If that wasn’t enough, the Croatian side was only going to score once in the first quarter of the second half, while Aalborg netted eight times. Lacking discipline and conceding two red cards (awarded to David Mandic and Darko Stojnic, respectively), Zagreb were losing grip on the game while Barthold was taking all his chances.
With his eighth goal, the Norwegian left winger put his team ahead by ten for the first time in the afternoon, with 14 minutes remaining (22:12). Despite his goalscoring heroics, Barthold recognised the importance of defence in the win, “We played well In defence – both tactical and physical. We were quick from defence to attack, and we made sure to make it a very high tempo game, which was in our favour and led us to an extremely important victory.”
With the gap created, all Aalborg had to do was cruise to the end of the game, only conceding twenty goals, the best ever defensive performance of the team in the Champions League.
The atmosphere from the Jutlander Bank Arena was so good both coaches remarked on it after the game; Zagreb’s Branko Tamse said the home crowd “created a fantastic atmosphere”, while Aalborg’s Stefan Madsen went as far as to say the spectators “made us feel all the love and support!”
Paris Saint-Germain HB (FRA) vs MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) 30:25 (16:14)
After defeating Barcelona last weekend, Szeged looked like serious contenders to win in Paris tonight, and for 35 minutes, the Hungarian side stayed level with the 2018 finalists. But it was their defence which helped Paris build their victory, conceding only one goal during fourteen minutes in the second half before finally winning by five.
Szeged took a while to warm up, spending the first six minutes of the game without scoring and immediately went down by three. But, while Paris had started the game with a foot on the pedal, both teams were soon going to be level. Richard Bodo and Bence Banhidi were finding ways to score for Szeged while, in the absence of Mikkel Hansen, Paris were struggling to score from outside the nine-metre line.
As the match went on, both teams were playing at a very high level, without being able to break away on the score board. Paris’ speed on fast breaks was matched by Szeged’s power, and it is thanks to a last-minute goal by Dylan Nahi, his third, that Paris went back to the dressing room leading by two (16:14).
It was defensively that Paris were going to make the difference in the second half.
Between the 35th and 49th minutes, the hosts were going to let in only one goal, helped by a brilliant Rodrigo Corrales between the posts. With such defensive strength, Paris managed to sail away, leading by five with only eleven remaining.
They were going to keep their advantage all the way until the end, with Nikola Karabatic, who was the top scorer of the game with eight, netting a last-second goal to seal the deal.
During the press conference, Szeged coach Juan Carlos Pastor stated that he thought his “team didn’t deserve to lose by five. The key moment was when we were level in the second half, we lost some balls and Rodrigo Corrales was very good in the goal.” On the other side, Raul Gonzalez praised “the perfect game of Szeged against Barcelona and we knew we had to be very good to beat them. Even though we had problems in the first half, our defence was way better after the break, which gave us the opportunity to win.”
TEXT: Kevin Domas /at