To kick off 2019, Paris Saint-Germain Handball once again faced off with the opponent they facd the most in 2018: The H. On Thursday night, the two sides were doing battle in the Velux EHF Champions League, Round 11 offering Les Rouge et Bleu a chance to firm as Group B leaders and the home side - still far from qualified - to build on the nine-point haul that has them in fourth.
The key facts:
While these two sides have made a habit of producing prolific duels, it took five minutes before the opening goal was scored - by Uwe Gensheimer from the penalty line (5’: 0-1). Paris took this impetus and ran with it, controlling the match perfectly, especially in defence as Thierry Omeyer racked up the saves. This solidity at the back allowed the wingers, Uwe and Luc Abalo, to run riot on the counter, with the latter soaring with a superb kung-fu set up by the former (14’: 5-9). The capital club's lead grew to six goals when Lucio proved decisive once again (20’: 6-12). Wounded but not beaten, The H made sure to hit back before the break. So well, in fact, that Kiril Lazarov got his side close to level just moments before the buzzer (28’: 15-16) - even though Sander Sagosen and Viran Morros re[lied to give Raul Gonzalez's men a more comfortable advantage as the first term came to a close (15-18).
This scenario endured throughout a fair stretch of the second half: Mikkel Hansen (33’: 16-20), Sander (40’: 21-24) and Nedim Remili all worked hard to maintain the lead (42’: 22-26). Faced with Paris' stingy defence, Nantes struggled to find solutions. In this context, the minutes ticked by with Paris still in the lead (45’: 23-27). However, as if that wasn't enough, Mikki conjured a nine-metre screamer that silenced the Palais des Sports Beaulieu that little bit more (50’: 25-29) and Nikola Karabatic also got in on the festivities (54': 28-32). The lead at the final buzzer (31-35), which had built on the first-half advantage, illustrated perfectly the dominance Paris Saint-Germain Handball had shown to tighten their grip on top spot in Group B.
A Parisian in the match: Henrik Toft Hansen
Several of our players could have been named here, but in the end it was Henri kToft Hansen who stood out. The Danish international, fresh from being crowned a World Champion in home soil, was clinical in front of goal with 6 from 6. This took his total in the competition this campaign to 31. Defender Viran Morros also fired at 100%, with two goals from as many efforts.
The word: Cool
Despite leading by large margins at several points, the capital club often saw their opponents claw their way back into the match... but they never gave up their lead. Cool heads in defence paved the way for Luka Karabatic and his teammates to keep Nantes in their wake all night long.
The stat: 5
After 11 Velux EHF Champions League rounds, Paris Saint-Germain Handball have a provisional five-point lead over second-placed Szeged. The Hungarians play their match in hand away to Celje on Sunday. Les Rouge et Bleu now just need two wins (form three matches) to nail down top spot - a finish that will see them skip the round of 16 and move directly through to the Champions League quarter-finals.