And on to the semis
On Sunday afternoon, Paris Saint-Germain Handball hosted Dunkerque at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin on the occasion of their Coupe de France quarter-final. Although struggling in the championship (seventh), the Northerners were not to be taken lightly, as they had eliminated Saint-Raphaël (27-31) on its home turf in the previous round. Sunday's was the second meeting of the season between the two teams, who had already clashed in Lidl StarLigue Round 13 (a 36-25 win for the capital club).
In the Coupe de France, form of the moment counts for little... and the Dunkerque side are the perfect proof of this since, despite their status as the lead potent attacking side in the Lidl StarLigue (448 goals), they scored from each of their attacks at the start of the game (5': 3-3). Little by little, however, our defence got their number and were no longer caught off guard. The capital club's solidity was restored, and they were then able to break the deadlock (11': 8-3). Our attack did not let many chances slip through their fingers, with Swedish international Kim Ekdahl du Rietz notably finding himself scoring as well as setting his teammates up (19': 11-6). But Paris' efficiency was then thwarted by Dunkerque 'keeper Samir Bellahcene, whose saves changed the game, allowing USDK claw their way back (24': 12-10). Gudjon Sigurdsson then conjured a sublime spin-shot to get his team back on track (26': 13-10) and they headed into half-time with a healthy lead (30': 16-12).
After the break, Paris resumed their march forward and took the biggest lead of the game (thus far) with a six-point lead (36': 20-14). Dylan Nahi was inspired by Gudjon to make the breakthrough, conjuring a spin shot that nut-megged Bellahcene before hitting the back of the net (40': 21-16). Paris seemed to be managing their game well, but the second 30 minutes were a repeat of the first half, with the visitors clawing their way back into the game thanks to several saves from their 'keeper. But there was no time for second-guessing and Les Rouge et Bleu powered on, with right-winger Edward Kempf leaing the way (48': 25-18). In the dying moments, our defenders and 'keeper Vincent Gérard shut up shop (53': 28-20) and, in the end, our team won by eleven goals and punched their ticket for the semis (32-21).
The Parisian of the match: Vincent Gérard
Once again, Vincent Gérard shone in the Parisian cage. He won 36% of his duels with the Dunkerque forwards, making 12 saves. It was a very good game for our last rampart, whose prowess in goal allowed his team to widen the gap several times.
The word: Semi-final
Thanks to this great victory, Paris Saint-Germain Handball validate their place in the Coupe de France's last four. They will face either Chartres (who beat Aix 30-32), Nantes (who beat Ivry 43-26) or Montpellier (who won in Créteil 31-32).
Still in the race on all fronts, Les Rouge et Bleu will try to win a fourth consecutive Coupe de la Ligue as they contest the Final4 at the Antares in Le Mans. On Saturday, they will face Toulouse and, if they win, Raul Gonzalez's men will take on the winner of the Nantes-Chambéry clash in the final the following day.