Aalborg finish as group winners after beating Zagreb
On Wednesday evening, Aalborg Håndbold made themselves and another Scandinavian team happy in the EHF Champions League Men group phase.
By beating HC PPD Zagreb 31:25, Aalborg Håndbold have not only finished on top of group A, but also confirmed Elverum Handball's place in the play-offs before the Norwegian side face HC Vardar 1961 later.
As Zagreb remain on eight points and have lost the direct encounter against Elverum (equal on eight points), the last ticket for the play-offs goes to Norway, regardless of Elverum's result against Vardar. Thanks to their 11th victory in 14 group matches, Aalborg passed THW Kiel (21 points) in the standings.
- Aalborg's victory was never in any danger, as Zagreb's only lead was at 1:0, and the last close intermediate score was when Aalborg led 16:14 straight after the break
- Zagreb needed to win or draw to remain in the race for the play-offs, but even 11 goals from their top scorer Ivan Cupic were not enough
- Zagreb's resistance was finally broken when Aalborg's Norwegian right wing Kristian Björnsen netted for their first six-goal lead at 22:16 in the 40th minute
- Aalborg's Swedish EHF EURO champion Felix Claar added six more goals to consolidate his top position in the EHF Champions League scorer list, with 81 goals
- winning the goalkeeper duel was one key for Aalborg's 11th victory this season: young Simon Gade saved 12 shots compared to a combined total of 11 saves for Zagreb's goalkeepers
Aalborg's best group phase ever
Even in the previous season, when they finally made it to the EHF Champions League final against Barça, Aalborg were not as successful as they have been in the current group phase.
One year ago, the Danish champions had finished fourth, with seven victories and seven defeats, but this time they gained 11 victories and 22 points.
For the first time ever, Aalborg have made it straight to the quarter-finals and will skip the first knockout stage. They will face the winners of the play-off tie between HC Vardar 1961 and Telekom Veszprém HC – after eliminating FC Porto and SG Flensburg-Handewitt on their way to Cologne in 2021.
Congrats to the Aalborg team on their deserved win, and I wish them good luck further in the competition. It was a really though assignment without four key players.
Thank you for the match. It is always a pleasure to have Zagreb here. We are very very proud of not only the victory today, but that we managed to get to score 22 points in the group and end as number one. It is a historic moment for Danish handball.