How Paris Saint-Germain Handball won the Lidl StarLigue title

On Tuesday, the National Handball League's steering committee voted in favour of the Lidl StarLigue's shutdown for this 2019-2020 season, due to COVID-19, which is currently affecting the world and France. As a result, Paris Saint-Germain Handball have been crowned French Champion for the seventh time in club history (the first title dates back to 2013)! A look back at the highlights of the 18 matches played.

The season started very well for Raul Gonzalez's men. For their first away game, they travelled to the South of France to take on Istres. Les Rouge et Bleus sent out a strong message to their opponents, winning by ten goals (25-35) thanks in particular to Henrik Toft Hansen's 4 from 4 and the ten saves from Rodrigo Corrales.

But the first real test came a week later, at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin, when, the capital club played host Nantes. As expected, the match was very hard-fought, but finally went our team's way (32-29). To win this kind of match, you need a very good goalscorer - so it's a good thing Paris have legendary striker Mikkel Hansen - who scored nine goals (including his 300th penalty in the Lidl StarLigue) - in their ranks. For his part, Luka Karabatic scored his 500th league goal.

In round 3, it was another Parisian's turn to reach a symbolic milestone in our championship: Vincent Gérard! After arriving in the summer, the French international became the first goalkeeper in our league to achieve 3000 parries in French handball's top flight. A performance achieved as his side cruised to victory in Chartres (30-36).

Among Les Rouge et Bleu's fine exploits on the road, we will remember the victories brought back from Nîmes (28-31) and Ivry (24-30), but it was at home that our team proved invincible. The fortress of Coubertin was definitely impregnable! Our players took advantage of Chambéry's visit (32-29) to stretch their unbeaten home run in all competitions to an incredible 50 matches! That saw them equal Montpellier's record before they beat it the next week - at home to Celje in the Velux EHF Champions League.

In mid-November, while the Parisians were still alone at the top of the league table with nine wins from as many matches, they had the heavy task of hosting Montpellier for another Lidl StarLigue classic. Trophée des Champions winners a few months earlier against the same south-western outfit (34-27), Gudjon Sigurdsson (top scorer in the match with seven goals) and his team-mates did it again. Dominating the whole match, they sent a very strong message to their rivals (35-30).

At home, Paris Saint-Germain Handball were still unstoppable in the following weeks, and it was at Coubertin that they scored their best wins of the season. First up against Aix (36-29), and then with an impressive all-round performance in their Round 11 clash with Saint-Raphaël on 27 November. Mikkel Hansen's 12 goals allowed his team to once again win a game by 13-goal margin (39-26).

18 December marked the last game of 2019. On this occasion, the capital club played host to Dunkerque. Wearing red jerseys with their nicknames on them, our players perfectly enforced the festivities as they gave their fans a final thrill before a break - due to the European Championships - of a month and a half (36-25).

Looking to build on their 13 wins from 13 matches, Paris attacked 2020 with two Lidl StarLigue outings (five in all competitions), our team maintained cruising altitude with important wins over Toulouse (28-36) and then Aix (28-38).

For their return to Coubertin, the Parisians played host to Créteil (39-26, their -equal-biggest ever win). Luc Abalo took the opportunity to score his 500th Lidl StarLigue goal. The first and only 'hiccup' of the season came a day later in Nantes. After a hard-fought match, neither The H nor the capital club managed to get the better of each other (29-29). But this draw, far from being just a draw, still guaranteed the Parisians a six-point lead over their direct rivals and second-placed opponents.

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Face à l'@uschb, @luc.abalo19 vient d'inscrire son 500ème but en @lidlstarligue ! #CREPSG #legende

A post shared by Paris Saint-Germain Handball (@psghandofficiel) on Nov 20, 2019 at 11:59am PST

On the 18th - and what turned out to be final - day of the season, Paris Saint-Germain Handball defeated Nîmes (39-29). A good offensive performance that ensured Paris would still boast the best attack in the championship: 636 goals in 18 games for an average of 35 goals per game. It was the seventh French championship title in club history (six points clear of Nantes with eight games to go) and Raul Gonzalez's men became the first team to be crowned Champions of France six times in a row. Nikola Karabatic also became the most successful player in history with 12 league titles won.

Luka Karabatic, Parisian captain:

"It's a bit of a weird feeling, since the season didn't really come to an end thanks to this health crisis. But health comes first and sport seems secondary... Still, I'm happy because we didn't steal this title. We had a big lead in the standings. We only needed a few more games to make it official. I think we deserved it. We've had a great season going undefeated! This title is a reward for all the work we've done since the beginning of the season. I'm happy for the team - the players and the staff. But also for all the people who work at the club. They're very committed. Finally, I'm happy for our fans, who have always supported us. I can't wait to meet them again to celebrate, even if we don't know when it's going to be. In these difficult times, it's a consolation."

(Credits: TeamPics/PSG)