Paris tighten their grip
Nantes in second, with 28 points, Paris atop the table on 31… that's how things stood when these two clubs, who know each other like the backs of their hands, faced off for the fifth time this season, at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin on Thursday. While a defeat for Paris in this Round 17 clash would re-ignite the Lidl StarLigue title race, a win for Raul Gonzalez's men would see them stretch their lead to a considerable five points. But against The H, you can never count your chickens…
Although it was the visitors who were first to make the break (7’: 3-5), it was Les Rouge et Bleu who got off to the better start. Notably thanks to Thierry Omeyer's excellent early saves (10’: 6-6) that, paired with our front line's clinical finishing, saw the capital club carve out a solid lead (16’: 10-6). Paris were in complete control of proceedings and began to turn on the style, with Mikkel Hansen pulling off a no-look pass that Henrik Toft Hansen duly converted (20’: 14-9), Nikola Karabatic producing a chabala (22’: 15-10) and Luka Stepancic finishing powerfully with just seconds left on the shot clock (24’: 16-11). Titi punctuated matters with a late goal from his own half, sending Paris Saint-Germain Handball into the break with a deserved six-point lead (19-13).
Our team remained strong in every area as the battle resumed in the second half, Thierry making more saves (34’: 21-14) and Uwe Gensheimer bringing Coubertin to its feet with a superb interception and mid-air shot (37’: 23-15). Completely dominant, Paris Saint-Germain Handball saw their lead stretch to ten points when Mikki beat Kevin Bonnefoi once again (44’: 29-19). Although the suspense was gone from the game, Uwe decided to emphasise the home side's dominance with a trademark spin shot that set Coubertin alight (46’: 30-20). Stepancic, top scorer in the match with nine goals, followed suit as the final minutes approached, putting his side 11 goals up (50’: 33-22). Despite taking their foot off the gas somewhat in the final ten minutes, Les Rouge et Bleu cruised through to the final buzzer for a comfortable win over their closest rivals (34-29).
The Parisien in the match: Thierry Omeyer
Thierry Omeyer produced yet another accomplished performance in goal. On top of making 14 saves (34%), our 'keeper also turned scorer. Just before the break, after making a save, he fired home into an empty net. This on top of proving a thorn in Nantes' side with saves from point-blank range as well as from distance.
The word: Domination
While Luka Karabatic and his team-mates dominated on the court, their performance also continued their domination on the Lidl StarLigue table. Indeed, after 17 rounds, they have a four-point lead over second place, now occupied by Montpellier. Paris' front line had a superb night, scoring with 73% of their shots compared to 59% for Nantes' attack.
Through to the Velux EHF Champions League quarters and well in place atop the Lidl StarLigue standings, Paris Saint-Germain Handball are living a near-best case scenario as they head into a week of cup action. On Sunday, they will defend their Coupe de France in Montpellier as the quarter-finals get under way. Then, the following weekend, they will be out to do the same in the Coupe de la Ligue Final4 in Le Mans, doing battle with semi-finals opponents Ivry and then either Saint-Raphaël or Montpellier.