Flensburg seal Last 16 berth with win over Valur
Three matches, three home wins: SG Flensburg-Handewitt became the first team qualified for the Last 16 from group B as the group phase of the EHF European League Men returned with a bang after a seven-week hiatus.
Flensburg recorded their sixth win in seven matches, 33:30, against Valur, while Ystads IF HF sealed their fifth consecutive victory, 36:30, over TM Benidorm. In Hungary, FTC defeated PAUC Handball 28:25.
FTC (HUN) vs PAUC Handball (FRA) 28:25 (15:12)
Boasting the fourth most effective attack in the competition, with 201 goals scored before the seventh round of the group, FTC were last in the standings and needed a change in their tactics to deliver better results. A slower tempo was the key for the Hungarian side in the game against PAUC, as they finally broke a five-game winless run to take a 28:25 victory in what was their best performance of the season.
Despite missing key centre back Mate Lekai, FTC led from start to finish and handed PAUC their third loss in a row. The Hungarian side now firmly entered the discussion for a Last 16 berth as they drew level with Valur on points with three rounds to go.
It was real teamwork. I think we played one of the best games of the season. I think everything went our way. Ádám Borbély saved sensationally — he gave us such stability at the back that we could build on.
Ystads IF HF (SWE) vs TM Benidorm (ESP) 36:30 (21:18)
The break caused by the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship did not have an impact on Ystads IF HF’s form, with the Swedish side becoming only the third team in the EHF European League Men’s group phase to put together a five-game winning run. The round 7 win, which saw Ystads draw even closer to a Last 16 berth, came against TM Benidorm, 36:30, thanks to a dominant performance which underlined once again how good Ystads’ attack is this season.
The team’s top scorer was once again left back Jonathan Svensson, who took his overall tally this season to 48 goals. His nine-goal outing on Tuesday night also saw Svensson jump to second place in the top goal scorer standings for the season.
SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Valur (ISL) 33:30 (16:14)
When Flensburg jumped to a 14:8 lead after 20 minutes, it looked like the game was over. But Valur bounced back, inspired by Benedikt Gunnar Óskarsson, who boasted his best game of the season with eight goals scored. The guests cut the gap to a single goal, 23:22, with 15 minutes to go, but Flensburg, who missed influential centre back Jim Gottfridsson due to injury, had enough in the tank and the much-needed experience to influence the game and deliver a 33:30 win.
It was Flensburg’s sixth win of the season, which enabled them to seal a Last 16 berth — the first team in the group to do so. Valur extended their winless streak to five games and their place in the knockout phase of the EHF European League Men is now under threat. The fiery last three rounds will be crucial in deciding who is progresses to the next phase.
Photos: Flensburg: Ingrid Anderson-Jensen / FTC / Ystads