Paris prevail in slug-fest
Three minutes to get started
With Paris Saint-Germain and France footballer Kylian Mbappé in attendance, it was the visitors who hit first. Luka Stepancic responded to the Florian Billant's opener (1’: 1-1), but the capital club quickly fell behind once more (2’: 1-2). However, this small stutter out of the blocks was soon rectified, Sander Sagosen stepping up as one of Paris' main weapons and equalising (4’: 2-2) before putting his side in front (7’: 4-3). The Norwegian's excellent performance, along with some classy saves from Rodrigo Corrales and a missile from Mikkel Hansen, allowed Paris to make the break (10’: 6-4).
Duking it out
Despite small touches of sloppiness, our players maintained their lead in style, with Benoît Kounkoud fooling Dunkerque 'keeper William Annotel with a chabala (13’: 7-5) and Uwe Gensheimer firing crisply home (16’: 8-6). In their bid to turn things around, Dunkerque looked to their ultra-solid defence and efficient attack, who converted several counters onto the scoreboard (19’: 9-9). This balance explained a lot oabout how the side from northern France came to sit in fourth place coming into the match. Nonetheless. Mikki once again stepped up to the plate to throw some cold water on the visitors' ambitions (20’: 10-9).
Back on target
After they found themselves back on level terms despite having been two goals up at one stage, Zvonimir Serdarusic's men weren't about to be re-caught in the trap laid by Patrick Cazal's side. Thus, after a deft lob from Baptiste Butto (22’: 11-10), the Rouge et Bleu upped their efficiency quotient in front of goal. Be it from a powerful Nikola Karabatic shot (24’: 13-11), a shot on the turn from Jesper Nielsen (27’: 15-12) or a penalty from Uwe (29’: 16-13), they proved razor-sharp and cut loose before the break.
Half-time score: 16-13
Uwe and Niko hit hard
The high tempo dictated by the Parisian forwards was still in effect as the second term began, and both Nikola Karabatic (33’: 19-16) and Uwe Gensheimer (35’: 20-17) scored soon after the resumption of play. This three-goal lead looked to have stitched the match up, and it blew out to four goals while Niko rifled a shot past Annotel from nine metres out (38’: 22-18). Uwe then took up the baton, bringing the Coubertin crowd to its feet with a magnificent spin-shot (42’: 24-20).
Paris spurred by supporters
Still not satisfied, the Parisians kept their foot on the gas. The Coubertin crowd, still fired up after the German international's daring goal, played their role as the eighth man and pushed hard with each attack. And so it was that Benoît Kounkoud's finishing touch on a counter-attack was met with rousing cheers (44’: 25-20), that Sander Sagosen's missile drew furious applause (47’: 26-23) and to a resounding chant of "Mikkel Hansen" that the Danish international fired a laser-guided strike home to restored the four-goal lead (49’: 28-24).
However, with the end of the match approaching, the result was not beyond doubt. On his 41st birthday, Thierry Omeyer was drawn into a diving save (50’: 28-24), before denying Butto's penalty shot (52’: 29-25). That still wasn't enough to fully extinguish the northerners' hopes, and they infused the final minutes with suspense when Tom Pelayo fired home in the dying stages (58’: 31-29). In the end, Paris' securing the result it came down to Nikola Karabatic's never-say-die attitude.
Final score: 32-29
Against a side in excellent Lidl StarLigue form, Paris Saint-Germain Handball had a less-than-easy night of it on Thursday. However, thanks to superior tactical nous, the Rouge et Bleu got the better of Dunkerque and continued their perfect record in the competition.
The Parisian scorers:
Uwe Gensheimer (10 goals), Sander Sagosen (5), Nikola Karabatic (4), Nedim Remili, Mikkel Hansen (3), Luka Stepancic, Benoît Kounkoud, Luka Karabatic (2), Jesper Nielsen (1).
The Parisian 'keepers:
Rodrigo Corrales: 6 from 22 (27%)
Thierry Omeyer: 4 from 17 (23%)