Borges fulfills Benfica’s title dream in thriller
What a thriller in an outstanding atmosphere, what intense 70 minutes with two video replays, 79 goals, culminating in the 'Miracle of Lisbon': SL Benfica have dethroned SC Magdeburg as winners of the EHF European League Men on Sunday.
Alexis Borges had saved Benfica with a buzzer beater for 32:32 in regular time, and the line player scored again the decisive goal for 40:38 near the end of the second half of extra time. Magdeburg still made it 40:39 but had no time left for an equaliser.
The victory caused incredible joy among his team and the thousands in Altice Arena after an unbelievable final. After a series of 26 unbeaten matches, Magdeburg were defeated by the first Portuguese winner of a second-tier EHF men’s club competition.
It was the first time since 2013 the final of Europe's second-tier competition had to be decided by extra time.
Thanks to his nine goals against Magdeburg, Petar Djordjic shares the top scorer trophy with Halil Jaganjac (RK Nexe), both on 108 goals. Top scorers of the thrliing final were Ole Rahmel (11 goals for Benfica) and Ómar Ingi Magnússon (12 for Magdeburg). Another key player was goalkeeper Sergey Hernandez, who saved a crucial penalty in extra time and was named MVP of the EHF Finals Men.
SL Benfica (POR) vs SC Magdeburg (GER) 40:39 after extra time (32:32, 15:14)
- Benfica were ahead 9:7, when Petar Djordjic failed with a penalty, and the host were punished by a 3:0 run of the defending champions – 9:10 instead of possibly 10:7
- again goalkeeper Sergey Hernandez played outstanding, saved eight shots in the first half – but his counterpart Jannick Green exactly had the same number of saves after 30 minutes; after the break, the duel Hernandez vs Mike Jensen was again equal
- despite the frenetic support of thousands of Benfica fans, Magdeburg remained cool, took the lead again and extended the gap to 20:17, forcing Benfica coach Chema Rodriguez to take his timeout in minute 38; it worked, as the hosts again levelled 23:23 and took the lead again at 25:24
- after the break, Tim Hornke and Icelandic duo Gisli Kristjannsson and Ómar Ingi Magnússon were the driving force for the defending champions
- despite two brilliant Hernandez saves – including from a Magnússon penalty – Benfica were down 34:35 at the break of the extra time, as they caused too many mistakes in attack
- an incredible finish ended with a final missed pass of SCM and the decisive strike of Alexis Borges
- Benfica’s only German player, Ole Rahmel, who previously won the EHF Cup with THW Kiel in 2019, was the strongest weapon of his side, cold as ice from the penalty and the wing, scoring a total of 11 goals
Eagles fly high, boosted by an incredible crowd
The players were jumping and dancing on the court, the fans chanted as loud as they could, and the whole Altice Arena was a party zone: After losing two Challenge Cup finals in 2011 and 2016, Benfica took their first trophy in an EHF club competitions. No Portuguese club before had even made it to the finals of the EHF Cup, European League or Cup Winners’ Cup. One week after losing the Portuguese championship to Porto, the team of Spanish coach Chema Rodriguez made history on international ground. Djordjic, Rahmel, Hernandez and Borges were the heroes of an incredible final. Benfica’s journey had started in the first qualification round, it ended on the winners’ podium. Benfica are only the second non-German winners of this competition since 2004; the other one were Pick Szeged from Hungary in 2014.
It was already amazing for us to play a final against one of the best teams in the world, now we even won this final. We had a lot of luck in some moments. This is an important day for handball in Benfica and Portugal, it is the club’s 90-year anniversary, so this is an amazing trophy for 90 years, after an incredible match.