A few days after their elimination from the Velux EHF Champions League by Kielce in the quarters (35-26), Paris Saint-Germain Handball returned to Lidl Starligue competition on Thursday night. Their Round 22 clash in Aix - following on from second-placed Nantes' defeat at home to Nîmes (33-36) a day earlier - was an opportunity to be crowned Champions of France.
For the first few minutes, Raul Gonzalez opted to make a number of changes from the side who played on Sunday. The lads took some time to find their feet (5’: 2-2) as the defences took the upper hand and kept the score low (14’: 5-5). The home side were the first to get their heads above water and, thanks to the power of Karl Konan, they made the first break (20’: 8-6). That was all that was needed to wake the Parisian juggernaut, and the visitors ended the half firing on all cylinders, with Adama Keita levelling matters (27’: 10-10) before Mikkel Hansen put Paris Saint-Germain Handball in the lead (28’: 10-11). Viran Morros confirmed the trend and made the break with a final strike just before the buzzer (10-12).
As the second half began, Les Rouge et Bleu picked up where they had left off (34’: 10-14), with Thierry Omeyer's half-time replacement Rodrigo Corrales shutting out Aix for ten long minutes (37’: 12-16; 46’: 13-21). At the other end of the court, our forwards were unflinching, with Mikki (six goals) notably precise in front of Wesley Pardin's goal (50’: 15-23). The capital club's lead blew out to ten points when Adama - released down the wing - won out over Pardin once again (52’: 16-26). The former reserves captain was one of four Paris Saint-Germain Handball youth academy products out on the court, flanked by Édouard Kempf, Dylan Nahi and Robin Dourte - all of whom got in on the festivities (56’: 18-28). After a timid start, Paris Saint-Germain Handball claimed victory in Aix (20-29) to clinch the Lidl Starligue title - Champions of France!
The Parisian in the match: Viran Morros
Viran Morros was one of the driving forces of this excellent performance, first helping Titi and then compatriot Rodrigo with his unstinting defensive efforts and then also shining in attack. The Spanish international scored two goals from two efforts - his sixth and seventh of the season.
The word: Champions!
With four rounds left to play, Paris nailed down the Lidl Starligue title - the sixth in club history and the fifth in a row! After 22 rounds, Les Rouge et Bleu have 43 from a possible 44 points. Only Nîmes (28-28) avoided defeat against the Champions of France.
Coming up: Raul Gonzalez's men will now look to finish the 2018-19 season as well as possible - which means victory away to Saint-Raphaël on Sunday before celebrating the title with their fans at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin as Nîmes come calling on 22 May.
(Credits: J. Azouze/PSG)