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Heroic Hernandez steers Benfica to the final

EHF / Björn Pazen

SL Benfica pleased their home crowd in Lisbon Saturday night with a convincing 26:19 win over Orlen Wisla Plock in the second semi-final of the EHF Finals Men 2022.

Benfica will take on defending champions SC Magdeburg in the final on Sunday at 19:00 CEST.

Benfica are the sixth hosts of the second-tier EHF men’s club competition to make it to the final, since the implementation of a four-team final tournament in 2013.

A Spanish goalkeeper and a Serbian duo were the keys for the clear 26:19 victory over Plock in the defence-orientated second semi-final: Sergey Hernandez was Benfica’s hero with 16 saves, while Petar Djordjic (nine goals) and Lazar Kukic (five) were the leading scorers. Now on 99 goals, Djordjic is second in the op scorer standings behind Nexe's Halil Jaganjac (105).

Before Benfica, hosts Nantes (2013, 2016), Füchse Berlin (2015), Göppingen (2017) and Kiel (2019) made it to the finals of the EHF Cup; Füchse, Göppingen and Kiel won the trophy.

SEMI-FINAL: 

Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs SL Benfica (POR) 19:26 (8:10) 

  • in the first 30 minutes, both sides fully focused on defence and goalkeeping, decelerating the speed and avoiding counter-attacks; best player was Benfica goalkeeper Sergey Hernandez 
  • 18 goals in the first half were the fewest in any EHF European League match this season; even more so, six of these 18 goals were penalties
  • right after the break, Benfica pulled ahead to their first five-goal advantage (13:8) and benefitted from a red card for Plock’s Przemislav Krajewski, who hit Hernandez at the head with a penalty shot
  • boosted by thousands of vociferous fans, Benfica kept full control of the match and even reached a double-digit lead (24:14) at one point 
  • Plock’s unbeaten run of 11 matches – 10 victories and one draw – in the EHF European League came to an abrupt and unexpected end

Benfica make Portuguese handball history 

Not before had a Portuguese club qualified for the final of a EHF European League, EHF Cup, or Cup Winners’ Cup season. On Saturday, Benfica made history and will next duel with the defending champions, SC Magdeburg, for the trophy. Three times, Portuguese clubs have won the Challenge Cup: Benfica’s local rivals Sporting in 2010 and 2017, and Braga in 2016. Benfica, who were Challenge Cup finalists in 2011 and 2016, now have a shot at EHF European League glory.

20220528 ELM Finals PLOBEN Quote
I am so happy for my team, our dream came true to make it to the final, we still can win this trophy. We came from qualification and now we are still part of the final day. My players give 100 percent, not only today, but every day. And our team is like a family.
Chem Rodriguez
SL Benfica head coach

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