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EHF Champions League

Gomez and Barça end Kiel’s hopes with powerful win

EHF / Björn Pazen

For 35 minutes, the second semi-final at the Men’s EHF FINAL4 at Cologne was a close and intense fight for every centimetre — then Barça pulled ahead thanks to their deeper bench; the incredible performance of All-star Team right wing Aleix Gomez, who scored 12 goals; and the crucial saves of goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas. 

With the 30:34 loss against Barça, an impressive series for Kiel came to an end, as the four-time EHF Champions League winners had not lost any of their four previous matches played against Spanish teams in Cologne.

Barça took revenge for the final defeats in 2010 and 2020 and reached an EHF Champions League final for the 14th time in total and the seventh time in Cologne. On Sunday, the nine-time winners — including four trophies taken at the EHF FINAL4 — will face 2016 winners Lomza Vive Kielce in the final, while THW Kiel will duel with Telekom Veszprém for third position. 

SEMI-FINAL
THW Kiel (GER) vs Barça (ESP) 30:34 (18:19) 

  • Kiel’s defence stood extremely strong in the first minutes, but even they were chanceless against Barça’s counter attacks and the shots of Dika Mem and Luka Cindric 
  • in the absence of injured stars Sander Sagosen and Hendrik Pekeler, line player Patrick Wiencek stood out in attack in the first half, scoring his season high of six goals after only 30 minutes and finishing on seven
  • only once before the break, at 17:19, was the gap bigger than one goal. Both sides neutralised the game through efficiency in attack — and levelled the record of goals in the first half of an EHF FINAL4 match, which these very clubs scored in the 2010 final 
  • thanks to unstoppable Gomez and goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, Barça pulled ahead to 23:20, and even Kiel’s tactic with seven-against-six players in attack did not have the effect coach Filip Jihca had hoped for 
  • as the time was ticking against them, Kiel sped up, but then made too many mistakes in attack and were punished hard by Barça, who pulled ahead to a decisive 32:26 eight minutes before the end 
  • even the red card for Youssef Ben Ali did not stop the Barça express on their way to the final, as Kiel’s batteries were running low despite an intermediate 3:0 run for a score of 29:32 with enough time to equalise
  • the 12 goals scored by Aleix Gomez represented the second highest number for one player in any EHF FINAL4 match since 2010, below the 13 strikes from Juanin Garcia (Barça) in the 2010 final

Barça aim for 10 on Sunday

On their 10th participation at the EHF FINAL 4 since 2010, Barça now hope for their 10th trophy in this competition.

And the chances for victory look good, as the record winners had lost finals in Cologne only against German teams: versus Kiel in 2010 and 2020 and Hamburg in 2013. Now they have eliminated the only German opponents in the semi-final. The remaining three finals were won against Atletico Madrid (2011), Veszprém (2015) and Aalborg (2021).

Perez de Vargas and Aitor Arino can make personal history on Sunday against Kielce: they can become the first two players with four trophies at the EHF FINAL4, as they were part of all victorious Barça squads since 2011. And Barça can become record winners in Cologne if they beat Kielce. 

SG14055
It was a nice game and Kiel were missing key players, but gave a tough fight. It feels great to be again in the final. We are one step ahead of the trophy, but the last step is the most difficult one. Kielce beat us twice this season, but we are much better now than in November.
Gonzalo Perez de Vargas
Barça goalkeeper

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