20220330

Summary: Elverum stun PSG with draw; Veszprém take biggest first-leg win

EHF Logo 100 European Handball Federation

The EHF Champions League Men 2021/22 entered its knockout phase with the first leg of the play-offs on Wednesday and Thursday. Flensburg and Veszprém were the winners of their respective ties, while two other games ended in a draw. 

23:01

That's a wrap on our live blog coverage of the first-leg EHF Champions League Men 2021/22 play-offs! 

I leave you with the match reviews for tonight's games, Vardar versus Veszprém and Porto versus Montpellier. Find them below!

See you next week for even crunchier crunch matches, as the second leg games decide who will join Kielce, Aalborg, Kiel and Barça in the quarter-finals. 

22:50

Time to have your say in who was most impressive tonight! One team took a big win but even their opponents deserve a nod for their determined fight, while the drawn game makes for a tough decision as to one standout side. 

22:33

Two draws, one big win and one clear but not decisive lead — a great set of first-leg play-offs that promise plenty of excitement next week as the quarter-final decisions are made. 

D69R1927
It was an amazing match and we are players to play these types of games. Champions League is the highest competition and we are here for this. It was amazing to play for these fans. Unfortunately we couldn’t win, but we made a great result and now we start both at 0:0 and then see who is going next round.
Djibril M’bengue
Porto back

22:15 RESULT | FC PORTO VS MONTPELLIER 29:29

What a finish! Porto pull level courtesy of a goal from Pedro Cruz — who scored the Portuguese side's last three goals of the game — before Sebastian Frandsen saves a penalty to end the game a draw. 

And so Porto and Montpellier will start their second-leg encounter on level footing with all to play for. 

22:12

With less than two minutes to go, one thing is for sure: the winner of this play-off tie is going to be decided in Montpellier, as neither team can take a big lead on aggregate now. 

Montpellier have the edge at 29:28 but Porto still have time to level or even grab the win and travel to France with a narrow advantage. 

22:01

Timeout called as we enter the final 10 minutes in Portugal with the match on the edge, as Montpellier lead 24:23. 

Porto have pulled out their trademark seven-on-six but Montpellier are managing the extra attacker superbly and the home team have not managed to take control this way. 

On the scoring front, Diego Simonet and fellow back Karl Wallinius lead the French side with five goals apiece. 

21:46

Just under 10 minutes played in the second half and the match in Porto is still entirely equal, at 17:17. 

Looking at the statistics, the two teams have the same attacking efficiency on average across the match, but Montpellier's has dropped in the second period. Porto are shooting more effectively than their opponents. 

A clear area of difference is the fact that Porto have had a number of unforced errors, with seven technical fouls so far. 

Kevin Bennefoi continues to be a strong point for Montpellier, with six saves at 43 per cent. 

21:21 HALF-TIME | PORTO VS MONTPELLIER 13:14

Montpellier take the narrowest of leads into the half-time break at Porto. One important element in Montpellier's improved performance has been the entry of goalkeeper Kevin Bonnefoi, who has saved at 50 per cent against eight shots.

 

 

 

In Porto's goal, Sebastian Frandsen made some memorable saves and notched up a tally of six.

Below, check out a rundown of the leading scorers in the opening 30 minutes. 

21:12

We seem to be following the same recipe as the first of tonight's games, which saw home side Vardar leading early before Veszprém turned the tables late in the half and finished with a commanding win. 

Porto's advantage has melted to nothing, with the score now level at 10:10 and eight minutes to go until the break. The comeback was driven by the back court — mainly Diego Simonet — in combination with line player Arthur Lenne, who netted two straight goals that brought the difference to one. 

Can Porto prevent the same fate as Vardar? Hard to believe the Portuguese side could crumble so much as to lose decisively, but Vardar were not far behind their opponents until late in the first half either...

21:05

Into the second quarter of the game, Porto have opened a lead of 9:6. Victor Iturriza remains one of the Portuguese team's keys in attack, with three goals now. 

Enjoy one of his best so far below, with a gorgeous assist from Djibril Omar Mbengue. 

20:55

Nine minutes played and it's a level game so far at Porto, with the home side just in front at 4:3. 

Both teams have two players with two goals from two shots so far — for Porto, line player Victor Iturriza; for Montpellier, back Kyllian Villeminot. 

Twice MVP of youth age championships playing for France, Villeminot is now 23 but has been developing at Montpellier as part of their Champions League squad since 2015/16. His first Champions League goals were scored in the 2017/18 season, when Montpellier won the title, and he is now one of the side's most valuable attackers with 50 goals this season prior to the opening play-off tonight. 

20:35

The last of the first-leg play-offs begins in five minutes! Join us now on EHFTV to catch the action live and/or keep up with all the match stats here. 

While we wait, check out that incredible atmosphere in Jane Sandanski I mentioned earlier — sound on for this one!

20:22 

Three first-leg play-offs down. One to go! 

Veszprém's victory is by far the clearest so far, with an eight goal cushion gained away. The Hungarian team are also the only ones to win away of the three encounters played. 

Veszprém are the second team to win outright after Flensburg beat Szeged by four yesterday. In Norway, Elverum held PSG to a draw, leaving their tie completely open. 

Next up it's Porto's turn to try to replicate Flensburg's result on the home court, while Montpellier aim to follow Veszprém's example and create an important advantage in their opponents' arena. 

Check out all the results of this stage so far here

DD1 7897
My team has been working hard for the last two months, but today we only played in the first 15 minutes, but that is proof that after the changes it is difficult to reach the level needed for such matches in a short period of time. Vardar will continue to work, to progress. The players take their work seriously and I believe that we will reach the required level in time.

Nothing is over. We will approach the second match as seriously as possible. I want to thank the fans who cheered us on despite the defeat.
David Davis
Vardar coach
DD1 7895
I have great respect for Vardar and [David] Davis for everything he does with the team. At first, David Davis was my coach, and then he helped me a lot in the beginning of my coaching career.

I did not expect such a result in Skopje. We know that they play great — especially at home in this atmosphere. The first 15 minutes were not good for us. We started the dispute with a lot of standing. We changed the game in defense to 5-1 and I think it was crucial that we led at half-time with four goals. We had a lot of help from the goalkeepers [Rodrigo] Corrales and [Vladimir] Cupara. We are satisfied with the victory, but this is only the first half.
Momir Ilic
Veszprém coach

20:12 RESULT | VARDAR VS VESZPRÉM 22:30

Veszprém earn a decisive win that sets them in a great position on aggregate, with an eight-goal lead to defend next week in the reverse fixture. 

The loss does not quieten the Vardar fans however, as they enjoy what could end up being the last home match of the Champions League season — unless their team can turn the tables completely in the second leg. 

20:08

Vespzrém's goalkeepers have really stepped up to the mark in this match. Not only has Rodrigo Corrales had a superb game, but Vladimir Cupara has had huge success against penalties. Just take a look at this double below!

19:59

12 minutes on the clock and this game seems to have completely slipped out of Vardar's grasp, while Veszprém have a very promising lead — 24:16. 

History has shown that it hardly matters what kind of advantage you have after a first-leg of a tie requiring an aggregate win — nothing is for sure until the final whistle in the second match. But an eight-goal distance and the prospect of a home game in the second leg will put Veszprém in a very strong position. 

19:47

Nine minutes into the second half we have a very different game on our hands, as Veszprém have streaked ahead to a 20:12 lead — making it just one goal for Vardar since the break.

Veszprém have dropped back to a 6-0 defence from the 5-1 favoured in the first half, and it is working wonders against Vardar's attack. Behind it, goalkeeper Rodrigo Corrales has become a wall with a total of 10 saves now.  

19:35

I mentioned Swedish line player Andreas Nilsson's goals as one of the keys for Veszprém taking the upper hand, and below you can see one in action. 

But Nilsson was outscored in the first half by Filip Taleski, who is having a phenomenal game for Vardar, with six goals in the first 30 minutes.  

19:22 HALF-TIME | VARDAR VS VESZPRÉM 11:15

A rollercoaster first half comes to an end with Veszprém clear in front after a tough first 15 minutes finding their feet. But both sides have been delivering a great performance and it is clear Vardar could turn the tide fast.

An exciting second half awaits!

19:20

The momentum is all over the place in this match! In the final minutes before half-time, Veszprém hold a 14:11 lead after completely turning the tables. The top scorer for the Hungarian side is line player Andreas Nilsson, with five goals so far. 

Vardar are pulling out some great goals but Veszprém's 5-1 defence with Manuel Strlek in front is helping contain the back court, particularly a top form Filip Taleski. 

19:04

We reach the midpoint in the half after a timeout from Veszprém where coach Momir Ilic made a change on the back court, bringing in Mate Lekai. The visitors are rewarded with a couple of quick goals that see them come within one, at 6:5. 

Below, enjoy the first goal of the game, courtesy of Veszprém's Kentin Mahe. 

18:59

Veszprém stumble after a solid start and Vardar grab the upper hand, allowing the Hungarian side only one goal since the third minute. At the 13-minute mark, the Macedonian team lead 6:3. 

Filip Taleski has contributed half of Vardar's goals so far, with three strikes from the back helping his side take the advantage. 

18:48

Three minutes in. Three goals. Veszprém have the narrow upper hand, 2:1, in an electric Jane Sandaski. 

So far our poll (scroll down to earlier in the afternoon) indicates a completely even split in votes for who the winners will be in tonight's encounters. The opening minutes in Skopje certainly indicate we have an exciting game ahead. Can Vardar make the most of the support behind them and create an important lead to carry into Veszprém's cauldron? 

18:30

We are just 15 minutes away from the first of tonight's games and warm up is almost done in Skopje. 

Head over to EHFTV now to watch the action live.

16:59

Looking at the top scorers for the four teams in the spotlight tonight, Vardar versus Veszprém will pit two players with a tally of 68 goals scored in the season against each other: Vardar wing Timur Dibirov and Veszprém back Petar Nenadic. 

For Montpellier, the top scorer of 2021/22 is back Julien Bos — the 23-year-old right back who has had a breakthrough season this year, scoring 58 goals after a previous high of 15 in the top flight (in 2019/20). 

Rounding out the collection of top scorers from these teams nicely, representing a different position, is line player Victor Iturriza. The Porto pivot has netted 47 times this season. 

20220216 Veszprem Porto Magnus Andersson
There are no weak teams in the Champions League, so if we are playing the play-off to access the quarter-finals we have to expect the greatest games. We will fight and do our best to continue in this competition. Montpellier is a great team but FC Porto also. They have their weapons and so do we. We are excited to play this game.
Magnus Andersson
Porto coach

16:28

The second and last first-leg quarter-final sees Porto hosting Montpellier. Among the four teams on court tonight, Porto are the only team who have yet to reach an EHF FINAL4. But it is the third straight time the Portuguese side have made it to the knockout stage of the Champions League. In 2020/21, they missed out on progression from the play-offs due only to having scored fewer goals away against Aalborg. 

Montpellier memorably snatched the title in 2018, before a troubled season for the French team, in which they met Porto for the only two mutual duels to date. Those matches ended with a 27:22 win for Porto in France and a 23:23 draw in Portugal. 

Montpellier had a strong group phase campaign at first but tapered off towards the end, taking no wins in the last five games (two draws and three defeats). On the other hand, Porto ended the group phase with some great results, including a draw against Veszprém in Hungary and the same versus Flensburg in Germany. They also defeated Kielce in the latter half of the group phase. 

15:47

Taking a closer look at tonight's encounters, let's dive into some key facts about Vardar vs Veszprém. 

This play-off tie is a rematch of last season's, which was won by Veszprém after victories in both legs — 41:27 and 39:30 (80:57 aggregate). Those play-offs also started with the first leg in Skopje, yet it was on Vardar's home court that Veszprém paved the way to their aggregate victory with the bigger win of the two legs. 

In 2020/21, Veszprém's EHF FINAL4 dream came to an end in the quarter-final against Nantes, which they lost by two goals on aggregate, 60:62. That was the first time the Hungarian side had not reached the EHF FINAL4 since the 2017/18 season. 

But as any Champions League fan knows, the title has long eluded Veszprém, despite three final appearances. On the other side, Vardar have topped the podium twice, although the squad has changed significantly since the last win in 2018/19. 

The 2018/19 season was also the last time Vardar progressed to the quarter-final stage. 

In total, the teams have met 13 times in the Champions League, with 10 wins for Veszprém. 

The history favours Veszprém, but Vardar have a big trump card: the knowledge of coach David Davis, who formerly led the Hungarian side. Davis left Veszprém as late as the summer of 2021, before taking over at Vardar six months later. 

15:24

Flensburg put in a four-goal gap ahead of Szeged last night, while Elverum and PSG will start their second leg on equal footing after a draw. Who do you think will come out on top in the two clashes tonight? 

14:53

As Vardar prepare to meet Veszprém tonight in Skopje, have a read of our special feature on the Macedonian side's line player Jeremy Toto. 

Enjoying what is his first season in the Champions League, Toto is set to return to his home country France at the end of 2021/22, joining Nantes. Before that, Toto is highly motivated to repay Vardar for the valuable season where he has been able to show a new side of himself as a player, as he was previously most often thought of as a defender only.  

"It allowed me to show the world of handball I could play at the top level. Before, some so-called experts would put me in the box, whereas I showed them that I could do a lot of things on the court. And that is thanks to Vardar. So I want to help the club until the day I leave." 

Check out the feature below!

Thursday 31 March

14:36

Good afternoon and welcome to our continued live blog coverage of the EHF Champions League Men 2021/22 play-offs! 

Today four more teams take their first steps on the court in the knockout stage, as the first-leg encounters in the following ties take place:

Read about the matches in our round preview.

Wednesday 30 March

23:20

A great start to the play-offs tonight, and we are only halfway through the first leg. Join us again on Thursday for Vardar vs Veszprém and Porto vs Montpellier.

Thanks for being with us on the live blog tonight, and we are leaving you with a bunch of great pictures. Have a good night!

23:09

Two matches done, two matches to go on Thursday. Take part in our poll after day 1 of the EHF Champions League play-offs:

22:54

Elverum snatch a draw against PSG in the MOTW with that last-second equaliser, and Flensburg hold on to a four-goal half-time lead against Szeged. Here are the match reviews:

20220330 CLM FLESZE Full Width 2

22:34

An important win for Flensburg, but the German side is wary ahead of the return game in Szeged next week. Will four goals be enough? Johannes Golla is not so sure: 

20220330 CLM FLESZE Quote 1
It was the hard game we expected. It was a very good game from both defensive lines and both goalkeepers. First of all, we are very happy with the win. We know there is coming a very hard game in Szeged with a full hall so we would have liked to have two or three goals more.
Johannes Golla
SG Flensburg-Handewitt line player

22:26 | RESULT: FLENSBURG VS SZEGED 25:21 (14:10)

It was four at the break, it is four in the end: Flensburg take a useful, but far from decisive lead over Szeged in their play-off tie. Hampus Wanne and Imanol Garciandia the best scorers, with five each.

22:17

Team timeout Flensburg. They are four up (25:21) with one minute to play. Can they make it five ahead of the return game in Hungary next week?

22:11

Spin it like Steinhauser:

22:06

Szeged avoided defeat earlier this season in two group matches against another German team, THW Kiel, winning 30:26 at home and drawing 32:32 in the away game.

Can they keep their record intact tonight?

21:55

Precision matters!

21:49

Szeged are getting back into this. Also thanks to Mirko Alilovic, who comes on to save a Marius Steinhauser penalty. The difference remains only two.

20220330 CLM FLESZE Full Width 1

21:26 | HALF-TIME: FLENSBURG VS SZEGED 14:10

Better start for Szeged, better finish for Flensburg: the German side come from behind to take a four-goal lead at the break. Should make for an interesting second half!

21:18

Flensburg take control and build a five-goal lead near the end of the first half, thanks to goals like this one:

21:09

Team timeout Szeged. Coach Juan Carlos must talk to his players, who were 3:1 up early on but are meanwhile a few goals behind Flensburg.

21:01

He has let slip that one (see 20:55), but Roland Mikler is doing Roland Mikler things again tonight: 

20:55

Save Roland Mikler... or not? This one just rolls over the line as Flensburg and Szeged are at 3:3 after eight minutes.

20:39

The play-offs could hardly have started any better, but there is no time to waste as we travel to Germany for the second game of the night: SG Flensburg Handewitt versus Pick Szeged.

The head-to-head stats tend to favour the hosts tonight: Flensburg and Szeged faced each other eight times in the EHF Champions League since 2011. The German side won six confrontations; Szeged one. (And, yes, well counted, there was one draw.)

20220330 CLM ELVPSG Full Width 3

20:27

Confirmation that Thomas Solstad has been the standout player this MOTW:

20:25

And here is that decisive moment, the last shot of the MOTW that earns Elverum a point against PSG:

20:23

What a big, big night for the line players - most notably Thomas Solstad, who has netted nine times and picks up the Player of the Match award:

20220330 CLM ELVPSG Text 12
It was a crazy game. I am just proud of my team. We were fighting for 60 minutes and it paid off with a draw.
Thomas Solstad
Elverum Handball line player

20:11 | RESULT: MOTW ELVERUM vs PSG 30:30 (13:15)

What. A. Comeback. Elverum recover from five goals down early in the second half to take a draw against PSG in the MOTW. A last-second rocket from Eric Johanssen ends their eight-match losing streak - and what a time to do it! It marks the first time in five matches against PSG that they do not lose.

20:03

It have been goals like these that helped Elverum back into this MOTW:

20:00

Wow, respect for Elverum, who were five down but have completely closed the gap and are back on level terms with PSG in this MOTW, with 10 minutes to go!

19:53

It is the MOTW of the line players so far. This one from Kamil Syprzak:

19:42

Team timeout Elverum. PSG have quickly gone five up (20:15) in the second half so Elverum need to react rather sooner than later - especially in attack, you feel. 

19:38

Here is that strike from Elohim Prandi just before the half-time buzzer:

20220330 CLM ELVPSG Full Width 2

19:29

Eric Johansson = P.O.W.E.R.

19:24

Let's hear about the first half of this MOTW from EHF journalist Björn Pazen:

"How would PSG tactically cope with the long-term injury of top star and top scorer Mikkel Hansen? This was the main question before the MOTW. And who could replace injured Dominik Máthéin Elverum’s attack?

In the first, quite nervous minutes, both questions could not be answered, but suddenly tall Polish line player Kamil Syprzak became the key player in the PSG squad, playing in an unstoppable way, and Luc Steins showed his one-against-one class.

And as on the other end of the court, Yann Genty was in a stable form, Paris pulled ahead quite easily, as the respect of the host was too huge, and they might had in mind that they had lost the last eight group matches. Endre Langaas is Elverum’s strongest weapon in attack, but some of his teammates lacked efficiency in their shots.

But still, the gap is only two goals. Elverum still can take their first ever points against PSG."

19:19 | HALF-TIME: MOTW ELVERUM vs PSG 13:15

A last-second strike by Elohim Prandi gives PSG a two-goal lead at the break. But nice to Elverum keeping up with the pace in this MOTW.

And, interestingly, eight goals from Elverum from the line, evenly devided between Endre Langaas and Thomas Solstad. PSG's Kamil Syprzak, though, the best scorer with five.

19:08

Trademark Luc Steins:

18:59

Meet the MOTW top scorer of the first 14 minutes... Endre Langaas with four!

18:54

Elverum a bit sloppy on their shooting in the opening minutes as PSG go 4:2 up early on.

18:45

Let the play-offs begin!

18:37

Both teams are missing a key player for the rest of the season - and both these players will move to another club in the summer.

PSG top scorer Mikkel Hansen, who netted 75 times in the group phase, is ruled out after undergoing right knee surgery and suffering from subsequent complications. He will return to Denmark to join Aalborg next season.

And Elverum’s Hungarian right back Dominik Máthé underwent left knee surgery but should be fit again for the next season when wears the jersey of... PSG!

18:31

We already saw that PSG have won all four previous duels with Elverum - most recently in March 2021, when the French side took a 44:29 win in Norway.

The historical stats, for whatever they are worth on a match day, are even better for PSG, who have never lost a European Cup game against a Norwegian opponents, claiming a win by at least three goals each time. Impressive!

18:24

Of course, PSG are aware of their role of the favourites. In this interview on their Twitter page, Mathieu Grébille warns his team to be cautious and to take nothing for granted. Rightly so!

20220330 CLM ELVPSG Full Width 1

18:14

For five seasons, Elverum failed to advance from the group phase. Now they have done it for a second straight season - though, again, they are not very fortunate with their opponents: last season they lost to eventual champions Barça, this season they face an uphill task again: PSG.

This article from EHF journalist Adrian Costieu provides some insight in the Norwegian club's development, where youth has been written with a capital Y:

18:06

Whatever happens tonight, it won't be happening because of a lack of motivation at Elverum. They are labelling the MOTW "a magical night" on their Twitter page:

17:58

So, what to expect from our MOTW?

Elverum were always going to be the dark horse in this pairing, but even more so when you realise they have lost their last eight (!) EHF Champions League matches in a row. Their last win came at the end of October 2021 in Brest, so they will be eager to finally stop the rot tonight.

However, what will PSG allow them to do? The French champions have won five of their last seven matches, though they lost their most recent one - against Veszprém on the closing night of the group phase earlier this month.

The head-to-head comparison is clearly in favour of PSG: four matches, four wins.

17:53

Similar jackets, different teams: Elverum and PSG have arrived at the Terningen Arena: 

17:03

What better way to start a playing night than Match of the Week? Elverum and PSG are getting these play-offs underway at 18:45 CEST in what is the featured MOTW in the first leg of the play-offs.

It has become a good tradition that we catch up on Instagram Live with two players on the eve of a MOTW, and this week is no exception as Markus Floth has chatted with Elverum's Emil Imsgard and PSG's Henrik Toft Hansen.

See what the guys had to say here on our official Instagram channel:

16:54

Have you noticed?! You don't have to miss a single minute of the first-leg action this week! The four games are spread out nicely: two games today at 18:45 and 20:45 CEST respectively, and the same schedule for tomorrow.

While we cover Vardar vs Veszprém and Porto vs Montpellier here on the blog tomorrow, we are going to Norway and Germany tonight:

16:51

A good starting point to get up to date on all matches that are coming your way is our preview, with bullet point-style info on each play-off game in the first leg:

16:45

Only two more hours and the EHF Champions League Men 2021/22 is back again!

Good afternoon to the live blog, where we are guiding you through all the action on Wednesday and Thursday. We are heading into the knockout phase with the first leg of the play-offs. Here is what we have on offer for you tonight and tomorrow:

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