Barça reach Cologne for the 10th time
On Thursday evening in Barcelona, Barça recorded their 10th straight victory against SG Flensburg-Handewitt in the EHF Champions League to book their 10th EHF FINAL4 ticket since 2010.
After Barça's 33:29 away win at Flensburg in the first leg of the quarter-finals, the roles were clearly set for the second leg, but the German side did not surrender – even when a miraculous comeback was out of reach. However, Barça ultimately held their nerve to win the second leg 27:24 and clinch a berth in Cologne for the fourth straight time.
QUARTER-FINAL, SECOND LEG
Barça (ESP) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) 27:24 (10:10)
First leg: 33:29. Barça won 60:53 on aggregate
- the last time that Barça failed to qualify for the EHF FINAL4 was in 2018, when they lost in the Last 16 against Montpellier HB. Barça's most recent failure in a quarter-final came in 2016 against Flensburg's local rivals THW Kiel
- in the 17th minute, with the score at 6:3, Barça were ahead by an aggregate margin of seven goals, but Flensburg responded and even took a 10:9 lead
- the 10:10 score after 30 minutes was the lowest combined half-time score so far in the knockout stage of this season's EHF Champions League
- the visitors were without three rights backs – Magnus Röd, Franz Semper and Aaron Mensing – but were on an equal level until Barça pulled ahead decisively after taking a 24:23 lead
- left wing Aitor Arino and goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas will aim for their fourth Champions League trophy with Barça in Cologne – no other player has so far managed to achieve this feat
- after Talant Dujshebaev, Roberto Parrondo and Filip Jicha, Carlos Ortega will now aim to become the fourth person to win the EHF Champions League as a player and a coach
Dika Mem leads the race for the golden ball
Last season, Dika Mem finished second on the EHF Champions League top scorer list. Scoring 93 goals was not enough for Mem as Nantes' left wing Valero Rivera had netted 95 times.
This season, Mem has a great chance to win the golden ball as the top scorer. After scoring six goals against Flensburg to finish as the top scorer in the second leg, the French right back and Olympic champion is on 90 goals before the EHF FINAL4 – having just passed former number one Felix Claar, who has scored 88 goals for Aalborg.
Mem’s major opponent for the award is Veszprém's Serbian left back Petar Nenadic, who has struck 85 times.
We played better than in Flensburg and we believed in our little chance, but five goals in Barcelona is a big challenge. We really had a chance to put a little more pressure to them, but in the last 20 minutes we didn’t have the power.
We are really happy to be again in an EHF FINAL4. We lost two matches against Kielce and it was hard for the team, but we continued working and we had time to grow like a team.
Today, Flensburg followed the rules that Maik (Machulla) gave his team. They played as slow as possible to arrive with energy at the end, but we played with smaller players who were fester.