Schöngarth steers lucky Sporting to the top
Sporting CP took the lead of Group D again on Tuesday, thanks to their 31:30 win against AEK Athens and the concurrent draw of Nimes at Schaffhausen. But it was a highly lucky third group phase victory for the Portuguese side, as Athens stood strong until the end, despite two red cards against their stars Dimitrios Tziras and Ignacio Plaza Jimenez. More than half of Sporting’s goals - including the last three - were scored by Jens Schöngarth (9) and Francisco Tavares (7). After two initial wins, AEK were beaten for the second straight time - but had the chance to level the result after Evangelos Arampatzis closed the gap to one at 30:31.
Sporting CP (POR) vs AEK Athens (GRE) 31:30 (14:15)
- Already in the third minute, AEK top scorer Dimitrios Tziras was sent off with a red card, after he hit Sporting’s goalkeeper with a penalty shot.
- The lead changed six times in the first half; no team managed to be ahead by more than two goals before the break.
- German right back Jens Schöngarth was the top scorer of the first half with five goals from five attempts - but Athens were ahead by one goal at halftime.
- AEK’s Petros Boukovinas clearly won the goalkeeper duel against the Sporting duo Gaspar and Belkaied - but could not prevent his team from the first four-goal deficit at 20:24.
- AEK never gave up, and reduced the gap to only one goal five times in the last 12 minutes.
- 70 seconds before the end, Schöngarth’s ninth goal for the 31:29 was the winner for the hosts.
A German import saves the day
He was U21 World Champion, EHF Cup winner with Frisch Auf Göppingen and German Bundesliga runner-up with Flensburg - but in 2020, Jens Schöngarth started his mission. The two-metre tall German-born right back moved abroad for the first time, joined Sporting and became Portuguese runner-up in the first season. After his nine goals against AEK (his personal high in international matches for his new club), he is even best European League scorer of his club with now 27 strikes.
It wasn't our best game. There's a reason why AEK HC won in Nîmes. They are a very aggressive team - in a good way - with clear offensive ideas. It was a divided match against a great team and it was important not to lose points at home.