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„Atletico without five„ close to a sensation at Kiel


Though they played without five key players, Atletico Madrid were an equal opponent for THW Kiel on Sunday: Jose Javier Hombrados, Julen Aguinagalde, Ivano Balic, Jonas Kaellman and Kiril Lazarov - those five world star players were replaced by Atletico coach Talant Dushebajev, but still Madrid were close to an away victory at THW Kiel in the Match of the Week of Round 7 of the VELUX EHF Champions League on Sunday. "They needed a break, I need to keep them fresh – and we cannot win this group", Dushebajew explained to commentator Tom o'Brannaghain before the match, why Aguinagalde, Kaellman, Lazarov and Balic were not in the team roster, as Hombrados is out since weeks after a severe knee injury. And after losing this match 27:31 (15:15), the Spaniards are really out for the race of the victory in group B with only six points on their account, being eight points below leader MKB Veszprem. Kiel (replacing Aron Palmarsson) took their fifth victory, but still the gap to the unbeaten Hungarians is four points.

Finally the 13 goals of Filip Jicha (from 16 attempts) and the saves of goalkeeper Andreas Palicka decided the clash of the titans, which had been on the edge nearly for 60 minutes. Backed by brilliant goalkeeper Magnus Dahl, the remaining Madrid players surprisingly took an early 6:3 lead, causing an early time-out of THW coach Alfred Gislason. This was like a wake-up call for the defending champions in the re-match of the 2012 VELUX EHF Champions League final. Scoring three straight goals, Kiel equalized, but later-on could not manage to outclass their opponent. Five goals of Danish Nicolaj Markussen (finally best Madrid scorer by eight goals) paved the way to the leveled halftime score of 15:15, as Kiel missed too many chances. Even defence specialist Jakov Gojun had to play in attack, as his Atletico team replaced so many players. And one thought that the host – boosted by 10.250 spectators – would decide the match right after the break, was completely wrong. Still the Madrid defence stood like a wall, and Kiel lacked the means to break through.

On the other side, Madrid scored easy goals from the back court positions, as the German defence was not aggressive enough. The only THW player who was unstoppable, was left back Filip Jicha, who's eighth goal meant the 20:19 lead in minute 41. But when the Czech lacked powers and was replaced by Momir Ilic, the Kiel engine got stuck again, as Madrid even re-took the lead at 23:22. At the score of 26:26 in minute 51 Dushebajev took his next time-out – persuading his players that a victory is still in reach. But right when the match had started, Madrid were hit by the injury of Alvaro Ferrer, who stepped on the ball during a counter attack and was hit by a severe ankle injury. But Atletico were not shocked, in contrast: If THW goalkeeper Andreas Palicka would not have shown so many brilliant saves in the crucial stage, Madrid would have gone away. And there was still Jicha – after some deep breaths on the bench, the Czech returned on the court, and his goal number 11 gave Kiel the first two goal distance in the second half at 28:26 five minutes before the end, adding number 12 on his tally to the pre-decisive 29:26. And as Palicka shut up his shop, Kiel could run down the clock to take their second victory against Atletico in this Group Stage.

"We can be satisfied with the second half, and I am satisfied with my performance," Palicka said, who surprisingly were in the goal for 60 minutes though Thierry Omeyer had not been injured. "The group is still very close, if we win all our matches we might be able to hope for the number in this group, but is a really tough challenge", the Swedish goalkeeper added on EHF TV.