Cologne: We're back!
Paris Saint-Germain Handball played host to Kielce in the return leg of their Velux EHF Champions League quarter-final tie on Saturday afternoon, the Rouge and Bleu doubling down on their first-leg win (28-34) to punch their ticket for the Final4.
In a very physical start to the match, our players really struggled to get the better of Kielce 'keeper Slawomir Szmal. With blocked shots and losses of possession piling up, Paris fell behind on the scoreboard (7’: 1-4). However, determined not to see their first-leg advantage dwindle further, the Rouge et Bleu got back on track and got the crowd at Coubertin - which included the Ultras - pumping (13’: 6-7). Mikkel Hansen led the pyrotechnic assault with a super spin shot that brought the Parisian arena to its feet (17’: 7-8).
Zvonimir Serdarusic's men were back in the match and confirmation came a few minutes later when Nedim snagged the much-anticipated leveller (18’: 8-8). The momentum in the match had changed direction and Nikola Karabatic capitalised, putting his side in front with a lethal strike from midfield (21’: 10-9). The match remained tight, however, but now it was Paris who their noses in front (25’: 14-13) and the home side maintained their lead into the break (30’: 17-15).
The second half began with the tension still reigning and several players were sent to the bench for temporary suspensions - just as Kielce coach Talant Dujshebaev was expelled from his with a yellow card. On the court, things were as tight as ever (36’: 19-19). The defensive treatment reserved for Niko (which at times exceeded the letter of the law) helped to reign in Paris' attacking game (41’: 21-23), but fortunately our playmaker has the talent and the character to rise above, as attested by his magnificent goal that crashed in off the underside of the bar (44’: 24-24).
As the final minutes approached, our players still had a six-point lead - on aggregate after their first-leg win - but the second-leg score was still locked up (46’: 26-26). But the urge to put the tie definitively to bed was undeniable and Benoît Kounkoud soon converted to put his side back in the lead (49’: 28-27). Right away, Jesper Nielsen followed up (50’: 29-27). The final stages of the match were a lot like the first 30 minutes of the first leg, with every shot hitting the target (57’: 34-29). Despite letting up ever so slightly at the end, Paris ran out deserved winners (35-32).
Thus the Rouge et Bleu got the better of Velux EHF Champions League quarter-final foes Kielce and, for the third year in a row, booked a ticket for the Final4, where they will take the court at the prestigious Lanxess Arena in Cologne on 26 and 27 May!
The Parisian scorers: Nedim Remili (9), Mikkel Hansen, Jesper Nielsen (5), Sander Sagosen (4), Uwe Gensheimer, Nikola Karabatic (3), Benoît Kounkoud (2), Henrik Mollgaard, Luka Stepancic, Edouard Kempf, Daniel Narcisse (1).