The run continues!
With ten wins from ten Lidl StarLigue matches, Paris Saint-Germain Handball have made a perfect start to the season. On Wednesday evening, the capital club were looking to confirm top spot on the table as Saint-Raphaël came calling at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin - but it was no easy task! The club from the Var region were on a run of four consecutive wins, having turned things around after a tough start to the season.
For several long minutes after the opening buzzer, the two teams duked it out (5': 4-4). As soon as one formation took the lead, the other levelled matters quickly (7': 5-5), and with both teams also firing in defence, neither one could break clear (15': 8-8). As has often been the case in recent matches, Les Rouge et Bleu waited until the end of the first quarter of an hour to accelerate and make the break - this time through Kamil Syprzak (18': 10-8). Saint-Raphaël's seven-man attack started to run out of solutions to break down the home defence - thanks in no small part to the excellent Rodrigo Corrales - and our forward line took full advantage (24': 13-9). This domination forced the visitors' coach, Dan Rares Fortuneanu, to call a second time-out and review his plans (25': 15-9). But that was not enough to stop the Parisian machine, which headed back to the dressing room six goals ahead ay half-time (30': 18-12).
After the interval, our players were till sharp in front of goal (35': 22-14), even though opposing goalkeeper Alexandre Demaille startedg to hit his straps (38': 23-17). To beat him from the penalty line, Mikkel Hansen used a double feint that left Demaille on the floor as his shot hit the back of the net (41': 26-19). However, Paris were unable to widen the gap any further as the visiting strikers began to hit the mark. Raphaël Caucheteux, the league's top scorer - both in this season (74 goals) and in the history of the competition (1785) - kept his team in the game (45': 27-21). This dynamic continued until Caucheteux had a penalty throw saved by Vincent Gérard (47': 30-21). This defensive feat from our 'keeper was complemented with a surge up front that featured a chabala from Luc Abalo (50': 32-23) and a behind-the-back pass from Kim Ekdahl du Rietz that set Dylan Nahi up to give Paris a ten-point lead (53': 34-24). After controlling the final stages of the match well, with Sadou Ntanzi bagging a brace, the capital club ran out deserved winners (39-26).
The Parisian of the match: Mikkel Hansen
Fourteen goals against Créteil, 12 against Saint-Raphaël... Mikkel Hansen has definitely in fine form these last few weeks! It should be noted that on Wednesday evening, his impressive haul came from just 14 shots! A fine performance that saw him go top of the club's scoring chart in the league this season with 47 goals (46 for Nedim).
The word: Flawless
After 11 matches, Paris Saint-Germain Handball are the only team to have won all their matches. So it's no surprise to find them at the top of the Lidl StarLigue table, still with a six-point lead over closest pursuers Montpellier, Toulouse and Nîmes - and potentially Nantes should they win in Chambéry on Thursday evening.
Now it's time to focus on a massive European clash! On Sunday afternoon, Les Rouge et Bleu host Barcelona in Velux EHF Champions League Round 10 action. If Paris win, they will take top spot in Group A - at the expense of their opponents on the night! A five-goal win would also give them an aggregate lead over the two group-stage matches with the Catalans (The first match finished 36-32 in Barcelona). On the other hand, a defeat would compromise their chance of topping the group and thus qualifying directly for the quarter-finals.