Summary: Visiting teams shine in opening matches
Round 1 of the EHF Champions League Men concluded on Thursday night, barring the postponed match between MOL-Pick Szeged and Paris Saint-Germain Handball.
In a round dominated by the visiting teams, THW Kiel took the biggest victory by beating Zagreb in the Match of the Week.
- Kiel win the first Match of the Week of the 2020/21 season convincingly, beating Zagreb 31:21
- alongside Kiel, Elverum, Barça, Aalborg and Veszprém collect the two points away thanks to opening wins
- Brest defeat 2019 champions Vardar and Flensburg edge Kielce to earn the only home wins of the round
- two young wings lead the scoring chart after round 1, after contributing 10 goals to their respective teams' wins: Elverum's Alexander Blonz and Barça's Aleix Gomez
- highlights in focus include Sagosen's Kiel debut and Vardar's gritty opener vs Meshkov
- Courtney Gahan reporting on Friday morning
So, round 1 is done and dusted! Time for a final look back at the opening matches of the 2020/21 season, with five things to remember from the overture selected by EHF journalist Kevin Domas.
The live blog for the opening round ends here, join us again on Wednesday morning as we approach more EHF Champions League Men excitement in round 2!
At the end of round 1, it's two young wings who top the scoring ranking. Alexander Blonz scored 10 goals for Elverum as they secured a thrilling away win versus Porto, while Aleix Gomez notched up the same for Barça in their victory over Motor.
We asked and you answered: According to our poll, you were most impressed by Veszprém on the opening night of the EHF Champions League Men (41.3% of votes), closely followed by Flensburg (39.1%). Now we want to know about day two!
You may have spotted it when Sander Sagosen received the Player of the Match award, presented by IQONIQ, after the Match of the Week: this is the brand new trophy for the player who shines the most in each MOTW in 2020/21!
Friday 18 September
We are back after a big two nights of action saw the EHF Champions League Men swing into full gear. Courtney Gahan reporting this morning. Let's take a look at the social media conversation since the round concluded!
Elverum Handball shared one of the highlight goals of their exciting away win against FC Porto.
Do you know which country is most represented in the Champions League? The Slovenian Handball Federation are proud of their statistics, which see 36 players from their nation playing in the top-flight competition.
At the other end of the scale, Australia saw their first ever player in the Champions League on Thursday night, as Bevan Calvert took the court for THW Kiel in the Match of the Week. There is no question that the Champions League is the dream destination for any player, making it more than 'only' Europe's top club competition!
That's all from us tonight; we leave you with the standings from round 1. See you next week for more EHF Champions League Men drama!
The last match of the day saw Alexander Blonz shine as Elverum took their first win of the season. Read our review of their match against FC Porto.
Don't miss the best photographs of the night, straight from our photographers courtside.
Back in January Norway's Sander Sagosen became the top scorer of the EHF EURO 2020. Tonight, he was the top scorer of the Match of the Week, in his EHF Champions League Men debut with THW Kiel, and scored his 250th goal in the competition. We looked into some of the top Champions League moments for Sagosen since his debut in October 2014 for Aalborg.
Earlier tonight two of last season's strongest teams showed they had maintained good form over the long break. Read our reviews of the Match of the Week, where Kiel looked solid against Zagreb; and Barça's victory over Motor Zaporozhye.
Porto fought right to the end. This was a classic from Rui Silva, one of three Porto players to score five times tonight.
FULL-TIME: Fabio Magalhães brought it back within one goal for Porto but Dominik Mathe then made it 30:28 for Elverum, and that's how the match finished - the third away win of the day.
Porto are struggling now as Elverum have regrouped and stormed ahead, 27:23, with eight minutes left on the clock.
And Johan Fingren duly delivers the equaliser for Elverum at 21:21. This match isn't over!
Some eight minutes into the second half and Porto still have a three-goal lead over Elverum, 21:18. However the home side have just lost Miguel Martins to a red card and Elverum have a chance to close the gap.
HALF-TIME: Porto have found their groove and from 9:10 down less than 10 minutes ago, have moved out to a 16:12 lead at the break. Both goalkeepers - Alfredo Quintana and Thorsten Fries - are playing well tonight, it should be noted.
Porto are certainly taking every opportunity they can right now.
It's a close match so far in Porto. Alexander Blonz has just slotted his fourth goal past Alfredo Quintana in a penalty to bring Elverum level at 9:9, 18 minutes in.
We're underway in Porto and Alexander Blonz got the visitors off the board with a quick goal in the second minute - responded to only 40 seconds later by Andre Gomes for Porto.
While we wait for the last match of the night - FC Porto vs Elverum - to get underway, here's another magic moment from the MOTW, delivered by Croatian star Domagoj Duvnjak.
Raul Entrerrios shows why he's one of Barça's big stars - watch this:
FULL-TIME: Barça also took an opening win, beating Motor Zaporozhye 30:25.
FULL-TIME: Kiel cruised to a 31:21 win in Zagreb, with their new signing Sander Sagosen named Player of the Match presented by IQONIQ after scoring seven goals. Here's the new Player of the Match trophy, which we think is rather lovely!
Barça have control now in Zaporozhye, thanks to a strong team effort. Aleix Gómez is flying but Brazilian Haniel Langaro, making his Champions League debut for the Spanish club, has also contributed.
We have our first-ever Australian player on court in an EHF Champions League Men's match as Bevan Calvert takes to the court for Kiel. Calvert usually plays for Kiel's second team but injuries mean he has won a place on the squad for tonight's match.
Zagreb's Matej Ašanin is having a solid match despite Kiel's constant attacks.
We're back for the second half and Zagreb have come out fighting with some amazing shots from the likes of Senjamin Buric and David Mandic, closing the gap a little to 9:15.
Remember our social media feeds will keep you up to speed with the best moments of every match, like Ivan Maroz's excellent save against Aleix Gómez earlier.
HALF-TIME in both matches and Kiel are not letting Zagreb get a look-in in the MOTW. They lead the hosts 14:6, with three goals apiece for Ekberg and Sagosen. Zagreb will have to bring out something pretty special after the break to get back into this.
EHF reporter Björn Pazen says the last time Zagreb scored just six times in the first half of a Champions League match was way back in 2005 in Portland San Antonio, when they were 6:17 down at the break and ultimately lost 15:31.
Meanwhile Barça continue to lead Motor, 13:11, and are playing more aggressively - if less efficiently - than their hosts.
We've waited a while for this - Sander Sagosen's first goal for THW Kiel in the EHF Champions League Men.
Both teams in the MOTW are making a few mistakes but Kiel maintain their grip on the match so far and are 10:5 up as Kiel's Filip Jicha calls a timeout.
Over in Zaporozhye, Barça currently lead Motor 8:5.
A poor pass by Kiel is intercepted by Zagreb and David Mandic makes the most of it to close the gap to three goals at 5:8. With Sander Sagosen on the bench for two minutes, Zagreb are a man up and will eye the opportunity to try and close the gap.
Igor Vori has called his first timeout as Zagreb lag Kiel 2:6 less than 10 minutes into the match. The hosts are finding the combination of Niklas Ekberg and Sander Sagosen a bit too tough to handle right now - so will Vori's words fire them up?
Throw off in both matches and Kiel's new signing Sander Sagosen, the star of the EHF EURO 2020, has got the visitors off to a great start with a goal inside the first minute against Zagreb.
Gøran Johannessen was one of the keys for Flensburg's thrilling victory over Kielce on Wednesday night, and scored the match-winning goal. This one might not have been the decider, but what a shot!
Have you checked out our pre-season power ranking yet? Kevin Domas took a look at which clubs promised to deliver the best form, and was bang on with his number one pick, as Veszprém impressed with a victory in an atmospheric H Arena in Nantes on Wednesday night.
Several teams on the list are still to open their 2020/21 campaigns tonight.
In the final match scheduled for round 1, Porto will start the 2020/21 campaign on the back of their most successful season in history, which saw them reach the Last 16 for the first time ever. Elverum look set for a tough opening game in Portugal!
Just three hours until the first EHF Champions League Men 2020/21 MOTW throws off!
Looking back to some of the excitement from the opening night of EHF Champions League Men action, Celje's 19-year-old back Tadej Kljun scored a personal CL best of six goals against Aalborg on Wednesday. Is he the latest Celje young gun to keep an eye on?
Zagreb and Kiel have met 14 times in the EHF Champions League, with the total balance at five wins for the MOTW hosts, six for the German side and three draws.
Here are some other tidbits about the upcoming MOTW:
- Both sides will mark their 300th EHF Champions League match this season. Kiel are on 290 games so far; Zagreb have played 286
- Zagreb start their 27th CL season; for Kiel it is number 23
- Kiel’s only victory at Zagreb dates to 2002, a 28:23 result in the group phase. Aside from that, Zagreb did not lose in any of the other six home Champions League matches vs Kiel (four victories, two draws)
- None of the Zagreb players were part of the team when the two clubs met in the Champions League last time, in 2016. Just two have played a game against THW before (Mario Vuglac and Nemanja Obradovic) and only Vuglac has ever scored a goal against THW
- Croatian Domagoj Duvnjak – one of three THW team captains – played for Zagreb until 2009, before he first transferred to Hamburg, then to Kiel
- Kiel’s biggest signing this summer was Norwegian Sander Sagosen, while Zagreb lost their team captain Zlatko Horvat, who, after almost 20 years, transferred to Metalurg
- THW left back Nikola Bilyk is out for at least eight months after he tore his achilles tendon in a training session
- THW are one of three group B teams that will be part of the postponed EHF FINAL4 2019/20 in Cologne (28/29 December), along with Veszprém and Barça
- Kiel count both the MVP (Duvnjak) and the top scorer (Sagosen) of the EHF EURO 2020 in their new squad
- Both coaches – Igor Vori (Zagreb) and Filip Jicha (Kiel) – won the Champions League as players: Jicha with Kiel (2010, 2012), Vori with Hamburg (2013)
- Kiel have three former or current IHF World Players of the Year: Jicha (2010), Duvnjak (2013) and Niklas Landin (2019)
- Zagreb and their Slovenian right back Ziga Mlakar, who joined from Plock only this summer, have parted ways after a mutual agreement
Tonight's matches will see some big debuts for new clubs! Tell us which you are looking forward to the most.
Not long now! HC Motor vs Barça is just one of the two big clashes lined up for 18:45 CEST, alongside Zagreb vs Kiel. It's times like this we are thankful for the two-match viewing feature on EHFTV.
Match of the Week, that is what I call a fitting EHF Champions League debut as Zagreb head coach for Croatia legend Igor Vori.
Right back Mario Vuglac shares some special memories with his new coach, according to this Instagram post from 2017:
Our standout tie tonight is the Match of the Week between HC PPD Zagreb and THW Kiel. The game in Croatia will get extensive coverage on our social media channels and of course you can watch the game live from throw-off until final buzzer on EHFTV.
The German champions return to the court for their first competitive match in over six months, but they do so with their top summer signing, Sander Sagosen.
The hosts see Kiel in the favourites' role but are looking forward to welcoming Croatia's Kiel star Domagoj Duvnjak to Zagreb.
To get quickly up to date on all the ins and outs of today's matches, I recommend that you read the round 1 preview from EHF journalists Kevin Domas and Björn Pazen.
It is time now to turn our attention to tonight's matches. After Wednesday's quartet, we are now treated to a trio of exciting games.
As the fourth game originally scheduled for today, between MOL-Pick Szeged and Paris Saint-Germain Handball, has been postponed until further notice, this is how the full schedule looks for tonight:
Brest? Or Flensburg? Aalborg maybe? What about Veszprém?
Don't forget that you can still tell us in our poll which team impressed you the most on Wednesday night.
We have got some more behind-the-scenes dressing room celebrations from Wednesday night for you, as Aalborg Håndbold overcame RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko, rallying from a half-time deficit to take both points with them in their luggage back to Denmark.
Good mooooorning! The live blog is up and running again and we have another bright day of top-level handball in prospect for you as three more matches in round 1 of the EHF Champions League Men 2020/21 are coming your way tonight.
But, as this is the day after the night before, let's look back at what happened in the first matches of the season on Wednesday.
HC Meshkov Brest started with an impressive win over HC Vardar 1961, much to the delight of coach Raul Alonso.
"Great comeback, everything super," Alonso told his players in the dressing room right after the game, adding Brest were "not playing great 100 percent but winning the game, because we are fighting as a team together."
Time to say good night! But don't worry, we are back on Thursday morning for the build-up to the remaining matches of the opening round: Zagreb vs Kiel (MOTW), Motor vs Barça, and Porto vs Elverum.
Thanks for joining us and I am going to leave you with this sweet picture gallery of tonight's action.
Vardar did not get the season start they wanted, falling 24:22 to Meshkov Brest.
But the Macedonian side kept their spirit and their gritty attitude on the court intact tonight and remain a tough nut to crack, as EHF journalist Adrian Costeiu writes here.
Take part in our poll:
Veszprém confirm their status as one of the main title candidates with a clear 28:24 win at Nantes, who rightly label their opponents "une grosse équipe."
What a dramatic finish in Germany as Flensburg come from behind to edge Kielce for a narrow 31:30 win! Fair to say the hosts are happy with that outcome:
What happens when Dejan Manaskov opens his bag of tricks...
Nantes might be playing catch-up with Veszprém (23:20 with 11 minutes left) but what an atmosphere in their H Arena!
We are halfway through the second half and Kielce have created a two-goal gap in Flensburg, 24:22. Are we going to see a winner tonight?!
Still plenty of action left tonight, but allow me a quick look ahead to tomorrow, when the first Match of the Week of the 2020/21 season takes place in Croatia as HC PPD Zagreb host THW Kiel in their group B opener. Don't miss it!
Regarding their head-to-head history, Flensburg against Kielce was always going to be a close affair. Who expected something completely different tonight got proven wrong in the first half: they are tied at 14 each!
We are treated to a close and tense game in Nantes - with fans! - with everything to play for in the second half, as Veszprém hold the slightest of leads at half-time.
By now, I think, you know where to go to catch that second half live... Right, it's all on EHFTV!
Timeout! Maik Machulla instructing his players as Flensburg are trailing Kielce by one goal with two minutes left in the first half.
Nantes are facing a tough challenge in their return to Europe's top-level competition. Halfway through the first half, Veszprém are enjoying a two-goal lead in France, 7:5.
We are 12 minutes into the match and, not surprisingly, Flensburg and Kielce are tied at 5:5.
ICYMI: Just B-O-O-M!!!
Tonight's EHF Champions League journey continues right now in Germany and France. Flensburg are hosting Kielce in group A, Nantes are taking on Veszprém in group B.
Tune in to EHFTV again to witness all the action live!
The first winners of the season are... Aalborg Håndbold! The Danish side take both points with them from Slovenia, beating hosts Celje 31:29 for an early lead in group B.
Just over half an hour until Nantes are making their comeback in the EHF Champions League from a one-year absence. The 2018 finalists are welcoming Veszprém tonight.
Meshkov Brest and Vardar are back into the balance at 18:18 going into the last 13 minutes. Who will come away with their first points of the new season?
The second half between Celje and Aalborg is just as tight as the first with most of the time only one goal separating the teams.
In case you missed it, this was the highlight of the first 30 minutes:
Quickly looking ahead, as later tonight two former title holders meet in Germany. Flensburg (2014 champions) will play host to Kielce (2016) in one hour from now, and it seems like the Dujshebaev brothers are up for the challenge!
Never too young to cheer on your favourite team! Meshkov Brest lead 2019 champions Vardar 12:10 at half-time.
Both home teams enjoy a lead going into the break - but both matches are far from decided yet. At half-time, Meshkov Brest are 12:10 up against Vardar in group A and Celje came back from behind to lead Aalborg 16:15 in group B.
Watch the second half of both matches on EHFTV.
With five minutes left on the clock, Meshkov Brest have now built a nice three-goal lead over Vardar, 11:8. Can they take their advantage into the dressing rooms?
Meanwhile, nothing is separating the teams in Belarus, where Meshkov Brest and Vardar are tied at 6:6 after the opening quarter.
An early timeout for Celje, as guests Aalborg have opened up a three-goal gap (9:6) in the first 11 minutes.
Celje and Aalborg are opening their campaigns in group B in Slovenia. For the home team, Barça star Blaz Janc's 17-year-old brother, Mitja, is making his EHF Champions League debut. Certainly one to watch... and you can do so on EHFTV right now.
Meshkov Brest and Vardar also shared a group last season, when both sides won their respective home game. Brest stunned the defending champions 31:22 on home ground in November 2019. Can they repeat that feat again 10 months later? Watch the game live on EHFTV now.
Do you want to watch the games live? Get all the updates on social media? Follow the live blog? No problem, this article will help you to follow the EHF Champions League like a pro.
After six months the withdrawal symptoms finally disappear... welcome to a brand new season of the EHF Champions League Men!
We are in for a big treat right away with four intriguing encounters on the opening night of the 2020/21 campaign:
- 18:45 CEST - group A: Brest vs Vardar / group B: Celje vs Aalborg
- 20:45 CEST - group A: Flensburg vs Kielce / group B: Nantes vs Veszprém
In the meantime, have a look at the full schedule for round 1, with HC PPD Zagreb vs THW Kiel as our first Match of the Week, on Thursday at 18:45 CEST.
The second match in group B will see HBC Nantes take on Telekom Veszprém HC. A duel featuring two teams that have come within touching distance of the trophy a combined five times in the past - only to lose all those five finals.
Anyway, new season, new chances! And Nantes are obviously happy to be back in the mix after a one-year absence. Follow the game live on EHFTV with throw-off at 20:45 CEST.
After our visits to Belarus and Slovenia, the playing schedule will also take us to Germany and France later tonight.
In group A, two former EHF Champions League winners will meet as SG Flensburg-Handewitt take on Lomza Vive Kielce. You won't find two clubs with a tighter head-to-head history in the competition: In their four previous matches, there were no less than three (!) draws and one single-goal win - for Kielce, in the 2015/16 quarter-final.
So, another close encounter in the Flens-Arena tonight? Watch the game, for German fans exclusively available on EHFTV, at 20:45 CEST.
Some really BIG news coming in right now as Eurosport has just been announced as the exclusive broadcaster for all men's and women's European handball club competitions, including the EHF Champions League, in France and Poland!
The new partnership has been successfully brokered by Infront and DAZN Group, the European Handball Federation's (EHF) and EHF Marketing's exclusive media and marketing partners. The six-year agreement will run until the end of the 2025/26 season and comes a week after new broadcast partnerships were announced with DAZN in Austria, Germany, Spain and Switzerland as well as BTRC in Belarus.
Read all about this exciting news for the many fans in France and Poland here.
The other match throwing off the new season at 18:45 CEST takes place in Slovenia, where RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko will host Aalborg Håndbold. Unfortunately, the seats in the beautiful Dvorana Zlatorog will stay empty but lots of fans will be following their heroes live on domestic TV or here at EHFTV.
It is fitting that the new season will be opened tonight by HC Vardar 1961, the 2018/19 champions. They are still the most recent champions, as the trophy winners for 2019/20 will only be determined at the delayed VELUX EHF FINAL4 2020 in December.
So, how will Vardar fare against HC Meshkov Brest in Belarus? You can find it out from 18:45 CEST live on EHFTV. Until then, you have some time left to read our Vardar countdown story from EHF journalist Amina Idrizi.
This morning Chris has already talked you through tonight's four matches on the opening day of the EHF Champions League Men 2020/21. Check out our preview to get up to date in bullet-point style on all seven matches happening today and tomorrow. Seven, indeed, because the group A clash between Szeged and PSG has been postponed until further notice.
10. HC Meshkov Brest
9. HBC Nantes
8. HC Vardar 1961
7. FC Porto
6. MOL-Pick Szeged
5. Lomza Vive Kielce
4. Paris Saint-Germain Handball
3. THW Kiel
1. Telekom Veszprém HC
Want to discover the reasons behind Kevin's selections? Right this way.
From two former winners to two former runners-up in our other late match and this will be a joy to behold. HBC Nantes are back in the fold after a year away and are certain to give David Davis and Veszprém a few things to worry about this evening.
The Hungarian champions had a slow start to pre-season but kicked into gear when the competitive matches began, starting strong in Hungary and winning the SEHA League. With a squad of 20 players, each and every squad selection and substitution will be keenly observed by the Veszprém faithful and neutral onlookers alike in these early rounds.
Our 20:45 CEST clash in group A features 2014 champions SG Flensburg-Handewitt against 2016 champions Lomza Vive Kielce.
Kielce had a summer full of financial uncertainly but appear to have come through it and look like they have a strong squad this season. Flensburg struggled in Europe last season and it is always difficult to predict which Flensburg will show up, but I for one am looking forward to seeing new recruits Franz Semper and Lasse Moller in action.
The other 18:45 CEST throw-off pits RK Celje Pivovarna Laško up against Aalborg Håndbold. Celje are no strangers to losing their best talent to larger clubs and that happened again this summer as Domen Makuc joined Barça. Aalborg also saw a number of men move to Germany, but appear to have formed a solid squad yet again.
The Danish champions were one of last season's surprise packages and a victory for them tonight will prove they mean business yet again.
The first match of the day in group A sees HC Meshkov Brest welcome the still reigning champions HC Vardar 1961 to Belarus.
It is difficult to know how this Vardar team will shape up, given how many changes in the squad they had over the summer. Their influential playmaker Stas Skube moved from Skopje to Brest and it will be fascinating to see if he is the man to lead his new club to victory over his former.
Think you are prepared to take up your role as an EHF Champions League viewer? Put your knowledge to the test with our latest quiz. You need to get 5 out of 10 to be allowed to watch Celje vs Aalborg this evening...
A new campaign launched last week is #showtimeforchampions, displaying just why the EHF Champions League is better than your favourite TV series, with more drama, spontaneity and genuine emotion than you can shake a stick at. If this video does not get you pumped for this evening's matches, I do not know what will.
What a time to be alive. Top flight men's club handball is back in our lives and today marks a new era for the competition as it makes the switch to Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
A new look, new partners, new activations but the same old brilliant action on court awaits us. And with the opening matches a mere nine hours away, its time to make sure you know where you will be watching tonight. Check out the list of TV partners here and register your free profile on EHFTV now.