Møllgaard: “We are in the Champions League to win it”

It has been a year since Henrik Møllgaard returned to Denmark, and to Aalborg Handbold, from his three-year stint with Paris Saint-Germain Handball. This season he is also back in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

The 34-year-old versatile backcourt player and defence specialist, who had previously played for Aalborg from 2009-11, is a key player for the Danish champions, who have done remarkably well on their return to Europe’s top flight.

After three matches, Aalborg share the lead in group A with Møllgaard’s previous club, PSG, with six points each. The Danish will try to extend their winning streak when hosting MOL-Pick Szeged in the Match of the Week on Sunday at 16:50 CET (live on ehfTV.com).

International Day of the Girl Child

It will be a special MOTW in Aalborg on this International Day of the Girl Child. Just like last year, Plan International, the charity partner of the VELUX EHF Champions League, will support girls in standing up for their aims and rights, and encourages them to take over leading roles in politics and society.  

The centre circle in the Jutlander Bank Arena will be pink, and Møllgaard is set to be part of a special pre-match interview with Hannah Jackson, one of the Faces of #ehfcl, which will be streamed live on the EHF Champions League Facebook page while a little girl will get the opportunity to ask the Olympic and world champion a question.

A few days before the MOTW, ehfCL.com has asked Møllgaard a lot of other questions.

ehfCL.com: You have been back in Aalborg for a year and a bit now. How has it been for you?

Henrik Møllgaard: I can only say it has been great. When I returned home to Denmark, I wanted to play in a team where I would get some responsibility at both ends of the court after playing almost entirely in the defence for three years, and that is what I got in Aalborg. Furthermore, I wanted to play in a team which have ambitions and can play for titles, and having won all Danish titles with Aalborg last season, it is fair to say that I have had that ambition satisfied so far as well.

ehfCL.com: Did you not see the move from PSG to Aalborg as a step down the international ladder?

Henrik Møllgaard: No, I have not felt that in any way – maybe because PSG was not exactly the place I expected to be at the age of 30. That was not exactly the club I was expecting a phone call from at that point of my career. I had three great years with PSG, but returning to Aalborg and the Danish league has not been a step down for me, also because it is more difficult and thereby more challenging to win the Danish league than it was to win the French league with PSG.

ehfCL.com: You have been very successful at both ends of the court after your return to Aalborg. Has it come as a surprise to you that it went so well in the attack after three years entirely in the defence?

Henrik Møllgaard: Not really, as I still practiced attacking play in PSG despite playing exclusively in the defence in matches. Furthermore, I had plenty of time to get back into the rhythm last season, as we were sent out of Europe rather early, which gave us lots of time to practice, as we had relatively few matches.

ehfCL.com: How have you experienced the level in the Danish league after those three years?

Henrik Møllgaard: I think the level is very high, and I am particularly impressed by the level playing field in the league. Teams fighting against relegation can defeat one of the top teams on a good day. You do not see that in France, where the teams in the relegation zone lose every time they meet a top team. Also, the top here in Denmark is very tight. Every year, there are four or five teams who can win the championship, and this tight league means that we as a top team have to be at our best in every match. That also makes us sharp for our Champions League matches.

ehfCL.com: After winning all Danish titles last season, Aalborg are again leading and have won the Super Cup, while winning the first three matches in the Champions League, even though you are still missing crucial players like backs Omar Ingi Magnusson and Andreas Holst. What is the reason for this success?

Henrik Møllgaard: Missing players means that we have not been able to make as many substitutions as we normally might have made. This has created a rhythm among the players who got much court time. I also think it goes back to last season, where we had a lot of time to train various systems because we had relatively few matches. Two important factors have also been our goalkeepers, Mikael Aggefors and Kristian Sæveraas, who have been better than all our opponents’ goalkeepers in my opinion. Finally, you should not neglect the fact that playing many matches is great fun as long as things run as great as they do right now. We simply enjoy playing!

ehfCL.com: What is your goal in the VELUX EHF Champions League?

Henrik Møllgaard: To win it.

ehfCL.com: We are not used to hear that from Danish teams. Can you elaborate, please?

Henrik Møllgaard: We simply aim to win every time we enter the court, and if we did not aim for the ultimate top, we should not be there at all. Considering the current level in the Danish league, I see no reason why Danish top teams should be afraid of any team in Europe. We may not exactly be favourites against Barça or PSG, but why would we not be able to take a point or two against such teams every now and then? For instance, when we go to Barcelona during the group phase, we are not going down there to sit at some café on the Ramblas and eat tapas and drink red wine. No, we are going to Barcelona to defeat Barça. We are in the Champions League to win it.

ehfCL.com: After winning against the three teams which are all still on zero points, a more serious test awaits Sunday – against MOL-Pick Szeged in the Match Of The Week.

Henrik Møllgaard: You are right that we have probably met the easiest opponents in our group so far. Those are the teams we have to look at first and foremost when it comes to proceeding to the knockout phase. The fact that we have six points more than those three teams is a great achievement already, and it will probably enable us to play a bit more freely Sunday.

ehfCL.com: How do you see the chances against Pick Szeged?

Henrik Møllgaard: There is no doubt that they will be our toughest challenge in the competition so far, but it is also a challenge we are looking very much forward to. No team should come to Aalborg without expecting trouble, and if we can take another win Sunday – and why not? – we can really create some upset in the group.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / ew