Paris prevail in crunch clash
On Wednesday evening, Paris Saint-Germain Handball returned to the Stade Pierre de Coubertin - after a three-month absence - to take on arch-rivals Nantes in Lidl StarLigue Round 2 action. Despite coming so early in the season, the fixture had all the hallmarks of a crucial clash between two sides that know each other by heart - and are used to slugging it out.
The Parisians needed very little time to get their bearings on home turf (5': 4-2) - even the newcomers looked right at home! Among them, our new left-winger, Gudjon Sigurdsson, brought his experience to bear with a quick-fire quadruple in his first few minutes on his new home court (10': 8-4). Raul Gonzalez's men were dominant (15': 10-6) but never completely safe from a Nantes comeback, especially as Nicolas Tournat goal got the visitors back to within a point (19': 11-10). But Mikkel Hansen had other ideas and it was the Danish international who kept Nantes at bay (23': 15-13), scoring his 300th Lidl StarLigue penalty just week after bagging his 1000th goal. However, at the break, the match was still very much up for grabs (30': 18-16).
As soon as the second half began, a new record was set: our captain, Luka Karabatic, scored his 500th Lidl StarLigue goal, giving his team a three-point lead in the process (31': 19-18). For his part, Vincent Gérard successfully passed the test on his home debut as he turned back a penalty from specialist Valero Rivera penalty (33': 21-18). In every department, Les Rouge et Bleu hit their straps as the second term played out, but still Nantes would not crack (39': 23-20). It was only when the Parisian rearguard shut up shop, conceding no further goals in the match, that Paris finally broke free (44': 25-21). At the other end of the court, our attack started to find the solutions to get the better of Emil Nielsen and the win started to take shape (48': 27-21). Even when Nantes revived their hopes, Vincent cut them short with another saved penalty and an imperious save from Lazarov's long-range effort (56': 29-26). Paris maintained this lead until the end (32-29).
The Parisian of the match: Gudjon Sigurdsson
For his first game at home, the Icelandic international didn't falter, finishing the game with six goals and an ovation from his supporters. The man who recently celebrated his 40th birthday (!) had a superb game and played a key role in the Parisian attack against an excellent Emil Nielsen.
The word: blockbuster
There is no doubt that this evening's protagonists should be at the top of the table come the end of the season. For 60 minutes, they engaged in a duel that was as technical as it was physical. But Paris won out to make it two wins form as many outings in the Lidl StarLigue this season.
This weekend will also a first for the season - as Les Rouge et Bleu make their return to Velux EHF Champions League action with a road trip to Croatia to take on Zagreb on Saturday.