Summary: Favourites make no mistakes in play-offs
The EHF Champions League Men play-offs concluded on Thursday, when the three remaining places in the quarter-final were decided.
All teams that played at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2020 in December - Kiel, Barça, PSG and Veszprém - have made it safely through to the quarter-final. However, at least one of them will not return to Cologne in June, as Kiel and PSG will meet in the quarter-final.
- coverage of EHF Champions League Men play-offs, leg 2
- on Thursday: the last quarter-final spots are occupied as PSG win against Celje 31:23, Brest defeat Motor 30:23 and Veszprém outscore Vardar 39:30 to advance to the next round
- on Wednesday: Aalborg, Kiel and Nantes reach the quarter-finals as Aalborg win MOTW vs Porto 27:24, Kiel beat Szeged 33:28 and Nantes defeat Kielce 34:31
- on Monday: the first quarter-final ticket goes to Barça, who beat Elverum 39:19
- the quarter-finals are: Brest vs Barça, Aalborg vs Flensburg, Nantes vs Veszprém, and Kiel vs PSG; playing dates are 12/13 and 19/20 May
- Eric Willemsen reported on Thursday evening
Here ends our coverage of the play-offs. It is still five weeks until the first leg of the quarter-final, but there is plenty of top-level handball coming your way in the meantime as well.
So for now it is goodbye! We have just taken another step towards Cologne, so we leave you with this Road to the EHF FINAL4 graphic:
Three matches brought the play-offs to an end tonight. Here are the best pictures of the night:
Read how PSG eased into the quarter-final, as they avoided any troubles against Celje following their big win last week:
With the play-offs now done and dusted, let's have a quick first look at the four quarter-final pairings. And oh well, do they include some tasty matchups:
- HC Meshkov Brest vs Barça
- Aalborg Håndbold vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt
- HBC Nantes vs Telekom Veszprém HC
- THW Kiel vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball
First leg to be played on 12/13 May, second leg on 19/20 May.
RESULT | Paris Saint-Germain HB vs RK Celje Pivovarna Laško 31:23 (14:12)
First leg: 37:24 - PSG win 68:47 on aggregate
The last quarter-final ticket goes to PSG. Not unexpected of course, but they were made to work a bit harder than last week. And... they will have to work even harder in the quarter-final, where 2020 champions THW Kiel will be their opponents!
Nice break-through move from Radojica Cepic:
Team timeout Celje. The Slovenian side are hanging in there pretty well tonight. OK, they are trailing PSG by 20:17, but they are far from being steamrolled like they were on home court last week.
Some familiar faces in the crowd... And even though they are not playing, it looks like they are having a good time at PSG vs Celje tonight.
Sneaky behind-the-back assist from Nedim Remili to set up Luc Steins:
HALF-TIME | Paris Saint-Germain HB vs RK Celje Pivovarna Laško 14:12
Celje's defence stands much better than in the first leg but PSG have their nose in front again tonight. They lead by 15 goals overall.
Dylan Nahi just keeps scoring, adding to the 10 he netted last week:
It is not as one-sided as last week, but PSG lead Celje 8:6 after the opening 15 minutes. That makes for a 15-goal aggregate lead for the French side in this play-off tie.
Read how Brest and Veszprém clinched their quarter-final berths tonight:
We are going to wrap up the play-offs in Paris, where PSG and Celje throw off at 20:45 CEST with the very last quarter-final ticket at stake. Remember, PSG hold a 13-goal advantage from the first leg in Slovenia last week.
So Motor are out, and we are going to miss them for things like this:
Nice way to fly into the quarter-final:
RESULT | HC Meshkov Brest vs HC Motor 30:23 (16:8)
First leg: 30:32 - Brest win 60:55 on aggregate
They have done it! Brest enter their first ever quarter-final after rallying to beat Motor. Brest had a lightning fast start in this match and never looked back. And you know what? Barça are up next!
RESULT | Telekom Veszprém HC vs HC Vardar 1961 39:30 (20:15)
First leg: 41:27 - Veszprém win 80:57 on aggregate
Never in doubt, Veszprém take another clear win over Vardar to advance to the quarter-final, where HBC Nantes will be their opponents.
Team timeout Motor. Seven behind in the match, five on aggregate. What can they do in the last seven minutes?
And the assist-of-the-match award goes to...
23:13... can this still go wrong for Brest? They have an aggregate lead of eight goals over Motor now, and there is no indication in this match that it could all turn upside down in the remaining 15 minutes.
Ivan Pesic is one the main reasons behind Brest's clear lead over Motor:
Team timeout Vardar, with a fiery speech by Stevce Alushovski. This might have turned into 'mission impossible' for the 2017 and 2019 champions, but they will never give up.
Everything seems easy for Veszprém tonight:
HALF-TIME | HC Meshkov Brest vs HC Motor 16:8
Wow, Brest are really up for this! They have turned the tide after the two-goal defeat last week. So the question now is: can Motor gave this tie another twist in the second half?
HALF-TIME | Telekom Veszprém HC vs HC Vardar 1961 20:15
Veszprém have taken the next step towards the quarter-final. Andreas Nilsson and Ivan Cupic the best scorers so far, with four goals each.
By the way, great to have (and hear!) fans in the arena in Brest!
Brest are flying in this first half!
Meanwhile in the other match, Veszprém are leading Vardar 14:10 with 10 minutes left until the break. The aggregate lead of the Hungarian side is now +18...
Well, things ARE getting worrying now for Motor, with Brest having a 6:0 run to extend their lead to 11:3 in minute 18.
Brest have wiped out their two-goal deficit from last week within 10 minutes, as they lead Motor by three. Still a looooong way to go of course, so no reason to panic yet for Barys Pukhouski and his team.
Seven minutes played and 11 goals scored... Veszprém lead Vardar 6:5 as both teams are finding the net pretty easily in the opening phase.
Just a few minutes until throw-off in Belarus and Hungary. Watch the games here:
Veszprém and PSG will start their respective games tonight with massive leads; they are well over 10 goals ahead from the first leg. How do you approach such a game?
Veszprém goalkeeper Vladimir Cupara says his team "will think and play seriously against Vardar." The reason? Veszprém "want to show to our fans and everybody else that we are a team that is competing to win the Champions League."
We will not only know all eight quarter-finalists at the end of the evening, we also know the four pairings that will decide which teams are going to advance to the EHF FINAL4 2021 in Cologne in June.
So, who will be the next opponents of the three teams that earn their quarter-final ticket tonight?
- winner of Brest vs Motor (1st leg: 30:32) will play Barça
- winner of Veszprém vs Vardar (41:27) will play Nantes
- winner of PSG vs Celje (37:24) will play Kiel
It's make or break now! Welcome to the last night of this season's play-offs, with three spots in the quarter-final lineup still to be occupied.
While only a miracle could keep Veszprém or PSG out of the quarter-final, the other match this night should be real close: Brest have to make up two goals on Motor - and the team from Belarus will try to so with the support of many young handball fans:
PSG took a commanding win in the opening play-off against Celje, and will aim to cement their quarter-final place in the last match of this stage.
But the French side will not be misled by their 13-goal advantage (37:24), as they have experienced missing the chance to progress after wildly different results in the two legs of a knockout stage before — in 2018/19, after a near-perfect season with 13 wins in 14 matches, in the quarter-finals PSG lost to Kielce by 10 goals then won by nine. Kielce secured the EHF FINAL4 place with a one-goal aggregate victory.
Veszprém enter tonight's second-leg play-off versus Vardar with a decisive lead (41:27) that puts them in a strong position to reach the quarter-finals, but coach David Davis makes it clear his team will not be underestimating the challenge that awaits.
It is only half-time after all, and we have seen plenty of miracle second-half comebacks in the top-flight competition...
There are just over two hours until the last night of play-offs begins!
If you need to catch up on the exciting round we've seen so far, check out our YouTube playlist below.
While we saw plenty of drama last night, we could be in for a real nail-biter again this evening, when Brest are trying to wipe out a two-goal deficit from the first leg against Motor.
Motor were leading for most of their home match last week, even by as much as four goals (16:12) shortly after the break, but had to settle for a 32:30 win in the end, which left it all open for tonight's return game.
Neither Brest nor Motor have been in the quarter-final before, but both teams have played in the Last 16 under the competition's previous format multiple times.
Five teams have already advanced from the play-offs, three more will follow tonight. While PSG (against Celje) and Veszprém (against Vardar) both start with an advantage of 10+ goals from the first leg, Brest and Motor are in for a much closer fight.
Anyway, this is how the quarter-final lineup will look like:
- Brest or Motor vs Barça
- Aalborg vs Flensburg
- Nantes vs Veszprém or Vardar
- Kiel vs PSG or Celje
The first leg is scheduled for 12/13 May, the second leg for the following week.
Before we dive into tonight's schedule, let's take a brief look back at what happened last night:
- Aalborg and Porto, both striving for their first quarter-final spot, delivered a nail-biting Match of the Week that truly went to the wire, with the Danish side ultimately advancing on the away-goal rule (match review);
- almost as close was the tie between Kielce and Nantes, as the Polish side could not hold on to their slight advantage from the first leg in France last week and went down by two goals on aggregate (match review);
- Kiel started the return leg against Szeged with a five-goal lead - and doubled that advantage as they recorded the exact same 33:28 result in the return leg at home (match review).
Good morning, welcome back to the live blog for the decisive leg of the EHF Champions League Men play-offs. Tonight we will know all eight quarter-finalists, as the play-offs will be concluded by the following three matches:
- 18:45 CEST: HC Meshkov Brest vs HC Motor [first leg 30:32]
- 18:45 CEST: Telekom Veszprém HC vs HC Vardar 1961 [first leg 41:27]
- 20:45 CEST: Paris Saint-Germain HB vs RK Celje Pivovarna Laško [first leg 37:24]
That brings us to the end of Wednesday night's live blog coverage of the EHF Champions League Men second-leg play-offs!
Tomorrow we have three more exciting matches coming up:
- Meshkov Brest vs HC Motor 18:45 CEST — first-leg result 30:32
- Veszprém vs Vardar 18:45 CEST — first-leg result 41:27
- PSG vs Celje 20:45 CEST — first-leg result 37:24
Join us here on eurohandball.com for a full rundown of the last matches in this stage and be sure to watch live on EHFTV.com as the three remaining quarter-final berths are decided.
With all of Wednesday's play-off matches wrapped up, we have plenty of reading material ready for you to round out the day.
Find our match reviews for tonight's games below.
Nantes delivered an outstanding game to clinch their quarter-final berth, led by a top-scoring effort from Valero Rivera (nine goals) and Aymeric Minne (eight). In goal, Emil Nielsen finished with 10 saves while Cyril Dumoulin contributed five.
RESULT: KIELCE VS NANTES 31:34
Aggregate result: 56:58
Heartbreak for home side Kielce as they watch Nantes celebrate the quarter-final berth thanks to a two-goal win on aggregate.
Timeout with less than 90 seconds remaining, and Nantes in front 31:30. Tension is running high in Kielce as it looks as though the French side may be about to snatch the home side's quarter-final dream.
This night is almost too much to handle! Inside the last 10 minutes, Nantes have reclaimed the advantage, with the score at 29:28 for the French side.
Kielce have absolutely no room for error, as even a one-goal win for Nantes will now mean that HBC progress based on more goals scored away, just as Aalborg did earlier in the evening when their aggregate result against Porto was level.
But Nantes do seem to have the momentum as the final whistle draws closer...
A penalty scored by Igor Karacic sees Kielce take the lead for the first time in the match, 23:22, as we enter the final quarter.
Take a look at one of his earlier goals below! The Croatian back has netted three goals, while the top scorer of the clash at this point is Valero Rivera for Nantes, with seven.
With Nantes holding steady in front, Kielce find themselves on the back foot and in need of a turnaround. Smooth plays like the one below from Alex Dujshebaev and Uladzislau Kulesh will be critical as the Polish side fight back.
Six saves against 13 shots faced gave Nantes goalkeeper Emil Nielsen an impressive rate of 46 per cent in the first 30 minutes.
Early in the second half, the French side are holding onto their lead, with the score at 18:16 after three minutes.
While we wait for Kielce vs Nantes to resume, enjoy the photo highlights of the night's earlier matches — Aalborg vs Porto in the MOTW and Kiel vs Szeged.
HALF-TIME UPDATE: KIELCE VS NANTES 13:15
A strong end to the half sees Nantes pull ahead to a two-goal lead at the break. The half-time score puts the aggregate at 38:39 — and so we have another thrilling decision ahead.
With less than five minutes to go until half-time, the score is level at 12:12 after Nantes reached a lead as clear as three goals mutiple times.
An individual standout so far is centre back Aymeric Minne, who has scored four goals from four shots for Nantes. Alexandre Cavalcanti is just one behind his teammate, with three so far. Check out his opening goal of the game below!
Nearing the end of the first quarter in Poland, Nantes have the upper hand at 8:6, which means a one-goal edge on aggregate.
Before we move on completely from the MOTW, enjoy one last great action courtesy of Aalborg's Felix Claar below! Claar netted six goals in the encounter.
The Player of the Match award in tonight's thrilling MOTW went to Aalborg goalkeeper Simon Gade. His 15 saves were critical in helping the Danish side secure their momentous victory.
Read how Aalborg took the all-important win in our match review.
THROW-OFF IN POLAND
We have half of our quarter-finalists determined as the last match of the night begins. Who will follow Aalborg, Kiel, Flensburg and Barça to the next stage?
The final match of the night is just over 15 minutes away, with Kielce looking to maintain their narrow lead from the first leg in Nantes, which ended 25:24.
Only one team has overthrown the Polish side at home this season: Flensburg. Can Nantes turn it around? So far in 2020/21, they have won three away games and lost three.
The French team are hoping to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals for the third time, while Kielce are targeting their sixth participation in the last stage before the EHF FINAL4.
We are really happy to go through. The play-offs were two good games against a really good opponent. Now we are one step further and we are really looking forward to our next task, which could be Paris. Today we had total control of the game, and we played the seven-against-six very well. Please allow me some personal words: I’m really happy to be back on court after 14 days of quarantine!
RESULT: THW KIEL VS SZEGED 33:28
Aggregate result: 66:56
Kiel earn the right to continue their title defence as they overcome Szeged by five goals for a clear aggregate win.
We are very happy and satisfied. We were not that happy with the game in Porto and knew we had to get more speed in the game. We had very big trouble with their goalkeeper. Luckily we kept on going and believed in ourselves.
RESULT: MOTW AALBORG VS PORTO 27:24
Aggregate result: 56:56 — Aalborg through based on more goals scored away
Tense right to the end in Denmark! Aalborg secure a three-goal win that is enough to take them to the quarter-finals for the first time in history.
Aalborg and Porto are showing their clash was definitely the right choice for MOTW!
Inside the last minute, Aalborg are in front by three, which means the teams are level on aggregate. If the score across the two legs ends equal, the Danish side will go through based on scoring more goals away.
With 11 minutes on the clock in the match in Germany, Kiel's lead is hovering around the same four to five goals as Szeged put everything into their fight back. The score board shows 26:22 for Kiel.
If you are not already watching the MOTW, it's well and truly time to tune in on EHFTV.com!
Aalborg have a narrow edge, 24:22, heading into the final five minutes of the clash. That means Port retain a one-goal lead on aggregate, and the tie could very well go either way at this point.
As we approach the final 14 minutes in the MOTW, we are still seeing a tussle for the upper hand, with Porto narrowly in front at 14:13.
Over in Germany where we are five minutes into the second half, Kiel are really opening up a lead over Szeged, hitting a five-goal advantage at 22:17. With their aggregate lead now at 10 goals, are Kiel on their way to the quarter-finals?
In the MOTW, Felix Claar finished as the top scorer of the first 30 minutes, with four goals. The Swedish World Championship 2021 silver medallist was key in Aalborg's comeback from an early deficit.
HALF-TIME UPDATE: KIEL VS SZEGED 18:15
Kiel score four unanswered goals to end the half, including a buzzer beater that is Sagosen's seventh of the match, and with that turn the level game into a narrow lead at the break.
As the German team won the first leg 33:28, their aggregate advantage now stands at 51:43.
How did Porto take an early lead in the MOTW vs Aalborg? Goalkeeper Nikola Mitrevski played a role...
HALF-TIME UPDATE: MOTW AALBORG VS PORTO 10:9
At half-time in the MOTW, Aalborg have a one-goal edge over their visitors. Remember that Porto won the first leg 32:29, so the current aggregate score stands at 41:39 in favour of the Portuguese side.
Inside the last 10 minutes of the first halves in both Kiel and Aalborg, we are still enjoying two nail-biting games.
Kiel lead Szeged 12:11 with six minutes until the half-time buzzer, while Aalborg and Porto are level at 9:9 with two minutes to go.
We are seeing two very tight matches so far! In the MOTW, Aalborg have recovered from their slow start and grabbed the upper hand at 6:5 in the 19th minute.
In Germany, Kiel briefly created an advantage of a few goals before Szeged came back. As the clock hits 19 minutes, the score board shows 9:8 for Kiel.
Nine minutes into the match in Kiel, Szeged have a narrow edge at 5:4. Sander Sagosen is a blinding presence for THW, scoring all of the German side's goals so far, and at 100 per cent efficiency.
Over in the MOTW in Denmark, Porto lead Aalborg 3:1.
THROW-OFF IN DENMARK AND GERMANY
The opening second-leg play-offs on Wednesday's schedule are now live! Tune in for MOTW Aalborg vs Port and Kiel vs Szeged now on EHFTV.com.
While neither Aalborg nor Porto have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League before, the other 18:45 CEST match pits two sides highly experienced in the stage against each other: Kiel and Szeged.
Szeged have qualified for the quarter-finals of the top-flight competition a total of five times, while Kiel have played the quarter-finals — and beyond — 19 times before.
Kiel count four Champions League trophies in their cabinet, including the latest one. On the other hand, Szeged have never progressed past the quarter-finals — and the German side were once responsible for that, when they knocked Pick out in the 2014/15 quarter-finals.
Kiel also eliminated Szeged in the Last 16 in 2015/16 and 2017/18. In the all-time Champions League record between the teams, Kiel have taken six wins — including the first-leg play-off last week — and Szeged three.
Let's dive in to some key facts about the upcoming MOTW.
This second-leg clash is expected to be a fiery one, with only a three-goal distance separating the sides coming into the match, leaving every chance for a turnaround. Porto have the upper hand after winning the first leg 32:29.
But the season's home and away records speak in favour of Aalborg. The Danish team have won three of their six Champions League matches on home soil this season, defeating Zagreb, Nantes and Motor.
On the other hand, Porto only managed to win away against Elverum.
We are now less than one hour away from the first matches on Wednesday!
In the MOTW, both Aalborg and Porto are fighting for their first ever quarter-final berth. Take a look at the head-to-head stats for two leading stars in tonight's clash, Sebastian Barthold and Miguel Martins, below!
We will close the evening in Poland, where Kielce host Nantes at 20:45 CEST. Their match in France last week was the only game in the first leg that ended with just a one-goal difference: 25:24 to Kielce. So, all to play for tonight!
On their Twitter account, Nantes have listed who they met - and beat! - in the Last 16 of previous EHF Champions League seasons. After Brest and Löwen, are Kielce next in this year's play-offs?
At the same time as our MOTW, another decisive play-off match throws off at 18:45 CEST tonight: Kiel vs Szeged.
The 2020 champions brought home a five-goal advantage (33:28) from Hungary last week, but Kiel won't underestimate Szeged in this "all-or-nothing match," as they call it: "Jungs, ihr schafft das!" - Guys, you can do it!
Do you think Aalborg's Sebastian Barthold is a morning person? Eager to know what Porto's Djibril M'Bengue had for breakfast? And want to know what both players think of tonight's MOTW?
Hannah Jackson has asked them this - and a lot more - in the MOTW | Breakfast for Champions on the official EHF Champions League Instagram account.
The Match of the Week tag has been deservedly given to the Aalborg vs Porto clash tonight. With both teams striving for their first quarter-final ticket in the club's history, and after Porto's three-goal home win last week, it is bound to become a close fight in Denmark:
Match of the Week this evening features Aalborg and Porto, both hunting history as neither have reached the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition before.
Among the many big-name attractions is André Gomes, the young and explosive left back who was featured as the latest 'Rising Star'.
Good afternoon and welcome back to the live blog for a big day of play-offs action in the EHF Champions League Men.
Three more teams will join Barça and SG Flensburg-Handewitt in the quarter-finals this evening, here's our schedule:
THW Kiel vs MOL-Pick Szeged (Kiel lead 33:28)
Aalborg vs FC Porto (Porto lead 32:29)
Lomza Vive Kielce vs HBC Nantes (Kielce lead 25:24)
That's all for tonight - come back on Wednesday for full coverage of the night's action, including the Match of the Week between Aalborg and Porto as Porto try to hold on to their three-goal lead from the first leg.
Barça remain dominant and dangerous and have surely cemented their position as the favourites ahead of the quarter-finals after their latest win. Read more about the match in our review.
20:12 | FULL-TIME
Barça wrap up another big win and are through to the EHF Champions League Men quarter-finals, with a 76:44 aggregate win.
It's Elverum's biggest loss in the competition - their previous biggest defeat was a 23:27 loss to Skjern in 2015.
Wing Mamadou Diocu is just 21 years old but he's showing some superb form this evening, with six goals so far - he's only scored three in the whole season up until now!
Less than 10 minutes to go: Barça lead 35:16 and five of their players have scored four goals. Cedric Sorhaindo is yet to get on the scoreboard. Dominik Mathe is Elverum's top scorer with five goals, but against a flowing Barça attack Elverum are struggling.
Of course we have some clips of the best Kevin Møller saves for you!
Kevin Møller has made an incredible 11 saves out of 21 shots, and Cedric Sorhaindo and Aron Palmarsson are the only Barça players not to score so far. It's 27:11 - Elverum haven't scored since the first minute of the half, over 10 minutes ago.
Five minutes into the second half, and Barça have stretched out their lead to 24:11. The question now is how much will they win by, not will they win.
19:22 | HALF-TIME
Barça 20:10 Elverum Handball
A penalty awarded on the buzzer and netted by Tobias Grøndahl puts Elverum into double figures, but Barça hold a 10-goal advantage. It's a bigger margin than Friday's half-time result (12:19).
Haniel Langaro is leading the scoring for Barça so far, with four goals - although no fewer than 10 players from the home team have netted at least one goal. They're stretching out their lead and it's now 18:9.
At 13:7 to Barça Børge Lund calls a time-out for Elverum. He's shifting to a seven-on-six attack and it works, with a quick goal by Simen Pettersen.
Here are some of Emil Kheri Imsgard's best saves so far!
Emil Kheri Imsgard is currently in goal for Elverum and having a superb start to the match, with six saves from 13 shots. That's helped Elverum stay in the game for a bit, although Barça seem to now be finding their flow and a 3:1 run has put them 7:4 ahead.
After four minutes, Endre Langaas scores for Elverum and it's 3:1.
It didn't take long for Barça to get ahead, with goals from Aleix Gómez and Dika Mem putting them 2:0 up inside the first two minutes. Elverum will be wanting to get on the scoreboard soon, but Dominik Mathe's attempt hits the post and the ball is back in Barça's possession.
The players are completing their warm-ups and the match will throw off soon!
Welcome to the live blog for the second leg of the EHF Champions League Men play-offs. To get us going ahead of the bulk of the action on Wednesday and Thursday, we have the second leg of the double-header between Barça and Elverum. On Friday, Barça took a 37:25 win in the first leg and barring disaster a place in the quarter-finals seems certain for the Catalan club. As a reminder, here's what happened last week.