SUMMARY: Comebacks and big wins, but Magdeburg beaten again
The Machineseeker EHF Champions League 2023/24 continued with round 2 this week as Europe's topflight featured three matches on Wednesday – including GOG winning the MOTW at Orlen Wisla Plock (30:26) – and five on Thursday.
- round 2 of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League 2023/24
- on Wednesday:
- GOG take a late 30:26 win against Plock in the MOTW
- Porto have a stunning second-half comeback to beat Celje 30:29
- Aalborg rewrite the club's history books with a 38:23 win over Pelister
- on Thursday:
- Veszprém come from behind to beat Montpellier 33:31
- Barça outclass titleholders Magdeburg from start to finish: 32:20
- Kiel defeat Szeged 35:32 for their second win
- PSG overcome slow start against Zagreb for 35:31 victory
- Kolstad suffer first defeat, going down 32:30 against Kielce
- read the day review from Wednesday and the day review from Thursday
- all matches on demand on EHFTV (geo-restrictions may apply); highlights on YouTube Home of Handball channel
- follow the official EHF Champions League socials on Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and Facebook
- Eric Willemsen reported; all photos courtesy of the home teams
Thursday 21 September 2023
Two days full of handball highlights finish here... it is a wrap for our coverage of the eight games in round 2 of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League.
It was our pleasure to guide you through those two nights and hopefully you join us again on another edition of the live blog for round 3 next week, when we have a MOTW in Poland again: Industria Kielce against Paris Saint-Germain Handball on Wednesday at 18:45 CEST, so you don't want to miss that one!
For now, it is goodbye and take care, and enjoy the best images of the night in our gallery:
And remember, you can watch highlights from Barça vs Magdeburg and all matches on our Home of Handball channel on YouTube:
Here you go, all the results from round 2:
Round 2 has brought us exactly the excitement we expected from it! But, which team stand out the most for you? Tell us in the poll below:
22:26 RESULT | Veszprém vs Montpellier 33:31
Well done to Veszprém, who underline they are a force to be reckoned with again this season. Montpellier were leading for most of the match but came off the winning path near the end of the match. Yehia Elderaa with seven and Mikita Vailupau with six goals the best shooters for the home side, Sebastian Karlsson also nets six times for Montpellier.
22:15 RESULT | Barça vs Magdeburg 32:20 (14:8)
What. A. Dominance!
Exceptional night in Palau Blaugrana as Barça outclass titleholders Magdeburg from start to finish and take a 12-goal win. Dika Mem with eight and Aleix Gómez with six the leading scorers; no one netted more than three (Matthias Musche, Philipp Weber) for Magdeburg.
Veszprém have turned the tide against Montpellier, to the relief of the many fans in their arena. It is 27:24 to the hosts, and we have 12 minutes left to play. After their win in Magdeburg, are Veszprém starting with back-to-back victories against EHF Champions League winners?
Not the typical Dika Mem goal...
We are back level in Veszprém: it is 22:22 against Montpellier! Yehia Elderaa with six goals a key element for the hosts' comeback after trailing for most of the match so far.
Wow, Barça's lead over Magdeburg reaches a double-digit figure a few minutes into the second half: 22:12.
Emil Nielsen with an otherworldy save percentage of over 55 (!) in the first half. Definitely a key factor to the size of Barça's six-goal lead over Magdeburg at the break:
21:27 HALF-TIME |
What a display of power by Barça! Truly fired up for this one, they outclass titleholders Magdeburg in the first half (14:8, both from 25 attempts), leaving the German side with likely zero points after two games into the 2023/24 season.
Elsewhere, Montpellier are showing a mature game, holding off Veszprém for a two-goal lead. This is still anybody's game, though.
Meanwhile in Hungary, hosts Veszprém have dropped three down against Montpellier (13:10)
Team timeout Barça. So far so good for the record champions as they lead Magdeburg 12:8. Youngster Pol Valera Rovira among the best scorers with three goals.
Zagreb lose in Paris tonight, but that is no shame – and especially not after the week the club have had. let's hear from new head coach Andrija Nikolic:
I think we can be satisfied with this game, regarding our club context. We changed our head coach last week, so it was a messy week for us. We tried to collect ourselves and I think we succeeded in this process in order to play a good game. Unfortunately we were not able to stay in the game at the end.
The record champions with the better start against the defending champions: Barça lead Magdeburg 7:4 in th 13th minutes. A spicy duel this, since Magdeburg dethroned Barça in Cologne last June on their way to their first EHF Champions League title in over two decades.
Now, what a way to close round 2: two matches and all four teams have been to multiple EHF Champions League finals, and three of them have actually lifted the trophy more than once:
- Veszprém vs Montpellier
- Barça vs Magdeburg
It is all live on EHFTV for you. Enjoy!
Zagreb gave PSG a tough ride for their money, keeping up with the French favourites until (almost) the end. Certainly something to build on for Zagreb interim coach Andrija Nikolic – but the points stay in Paris.
19:24 RESULTS |
Kolstad do well to close the gap near the end, but Kielce take their first points of the season. Elsewhere, Kiel and PSG are made to work hard but both get their second win in group A.
If you are a Zagreb fan, better Skip this one:
Don't write off Kolstad too early! They claw their way back into this game against Kielce and reduce the deficit to just three: 21:18. Could be some interesting last 20 minutes in Norway!
PSG now three ahead against Zagreb. It took them quite some effort, but it looks like the French side have found the right solutions. Kamil Syprzak leads for the hosts with four goals, followed by three players on three; Yoel Cuni Morales has six for Zagreb.
So, Kielce clearly in the driving seat in Norway. Talant Dujshebaev warned for Kolstad in the build-up to this match, but it seems the Kielce head coach has done his homework well – and his players are delivering...
... also with spectacular goals:
19:25 HALF TIME |
Kiel and PSG do get their nose in front just before the break, but Szeged and Zagreb have turned out tougher nuts to crack than many might have expected. And Kolstad have lost touch with Kielce in the second quarter, certainly an important learning experience for the up-and-coming Norwegian side.
Team timeout Kolstad. We said it before the match, and Christian Berge and his team of course knew it, too: Kielce are of a different level than, with due respect, Pelister. Kolstad trail 13:9 with five minutes left on the clock. Interestingly, nine different Kielce have players have scored so far, but no one more than twice.
With about seven minutes left in the first halves, in all three matches the visitors are leading – and that is some surprise for Szeged (in Kiel) and certainly for Zagreb (in Paris).
Tomas Mrkva picking it up for Kiel where he left it last week, when he was named Player of the Match of the MOTW in Zagreb.
Raul Gonzalez calls his first team timeout. PSG are surprisingly trailing Zagreb 10:9 after the opening quarter. What a difference for the Croatian side, who lost the match against Kiel last week basically in the first quarter.
No early run-aways: 6:5 to Kielce, 6:5 to Kiel, 8:8 between PSG and Zagreb...
Kielce missed the chance for an early two-goal lead, but so far nothing in it between Kolstad and Kielce after the opening seven minutes: 3:3.
Let's go! You can see all matches live on EHFTV (and yes, there is a tool in the right bottom corner that enables you to see up to four matches at the same time on one screen.)
The third match in the early time slot this evening is PSG against Zagreb – two teams that started the season in contrasting styles. While the French side took both points home from their challenging trip to Szeged, the Croatian team remained empty-handed after hosting Kiel in the MOTW, and then released head coach Slavko Goluza from his duties. Former assistant Andrija Nikolic is taking over temporarily and makes his EHF Champions League debut as coach tonight.
Also starting at 18:45 CEST is Kiel against Szeged. The German side opened with an easier-than-expected win against Zagreb in round 1's MOTW and will host Szeged with a lot of confidence. Even more so now two of their players return from long-term injuries: Sven Ehrig and Hendrik Pekeler.
Szeged went down on home court against PSG last week (31:29) and now face the next challenge... You could think of an easier start into a season than meeting PSG and Kiel as your first two opponents. And I don't want to say it too loud, but waiting in round 3 are... Aalborg, who are having a dream start into their 2023/24 campaign with a win at Kielce last week and a record 38:23 victory over Pelister yesterday.
All five matches tonight feature at least one team that played an EHF Champions League final in the recent past – and five (former) champions are in action. What a line-up!
A lot of attention, however, will go to a team that has never featured in a final... just because they are topflight debutants this season: Kolstad won their season opener with ease at Pelister last week, but at 18:45 CEST start a true tester for the Norwegian side: Kielce, runners-up in the past two seasons, are coming to Norway.
That is certainly a different cup of tea for Kolstad, even more so now Kielce are under a but of pressure since their opening game defeat against Aalborg a week ago.
Good evening and welcome to part 2 of round 2 in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League 2023/24!
We got the round off to a great start on Wednesday, but we have no less than five matches coming up tonight. Here is the menu:
Wednesday 20 September 2023
Here ends our coverage of the opening night of round 2. And what a night it has been: a hard-fought MOTW win for GOG, a jaw-dropping comeback for Porto, and a club record for Aalborg.
The best thing: there is still much more to come on Thursday, when we have no fewer than five matches, which involve no fewer than five (former) champions:
- at 18:45 CEST: Kiel vs Szeged, PSG vs Zagreb, Kolstad vs Kielce
- at 20:45 CEST: Veszprém vs Montpellier, Barça vs Magdeburg
Thanks for joining us here tonight and I hope to see you again on the live blog tomorrow evening. For now, it is goodbye and enjoy the best images of the night:
The live footage is over for tonight, but remember you can always watch highlights of all matches, including the MOTW between Plock and GOG, on our YouTube Home of Handball channel.
Three interesting matches, each with their own story, have opened round 2 of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League tonight. Here is the day review written by EHF journalist Kevin Domas:
There is the confirmation: a record-breaking night in Aalborg:
Fair to say the return of Mikkel Hansen after his half-year off works wonders for Aalborg. The win in Kielce last week was excellent, the drive against Pelister tonight to keep going in a match that was already decided at half-time shows the hunger of this team.
22:13 RESULT | Aalborg vs Pelister 38:23 (18:10)
There you go: Aalborg claim their biggest ever win in the club's EHF Champions League history: the 15-goal margin against Pelister beats the previous, 10-year-old best mark by one goal. New arrival Aleks Vlah and Mikkel Hansen with seven and five goals respectively the leading scorers; Pavle Petrovic nets seven for Pelister.
What a start to the season for Aalborg, the 2020/21 runners-up!
Aalborg might well be in for a club record here: their biggest ever win the EHF Champions League was 14 goals, from a 37:23 drubbing of Swedish side Halmstad almost 10 years ago, in November 2013.
The lead is 15 for Aalborg against Pelister (32:17) with 10 minutes left. The Danish crowd is satisfied:
Aalborg just keep going and stretch their lead to 10 goals: 24:14. Aleks Vlah with five their best scorer now; goalkeeper Niklas Landin is also on the score sheet:
Earlier tonight, Porto came back from a seven-goal deficit at half-time to beat Celje 30:29. Porto head coach Carlos Resende said after the match that
"I saw four different teams: two teams in the first half and the other two teams in the second half. We made a lot of mistakes in the first part of the game ... but we played aggressive in defence in the second half. In the end, it happened that Celje started making mistakes like we did at the beginning."
21:21 HALF-TIME | Aalborg vs Pelister 18:10
It has taken Aalborg about 10 minutes, but since that opening phase, the hosts have been all-dominant and open an eight-goal lead over Pelister. After that important win in Kielce last week, this looks like a dream start for Aalborg into the 2023/24 season!
We have seen some outstanding goalkeeping in the two early matches tonight. So, who really stands out for you?
Team timeout Pelister. Aalborg have now opened a three-goal gap (11:8), so head coach Aleksandar Jovic must interfere as his team need to stay in touch with the hosts. Aalborg's Mikkel Hansen and Pelister's Pavle Petrovic the best scorers so far, both with three goals.
Back to the MOTW: this is an interesting stat. Plock had four more shots on goal than GOG, but score four goals less. Fair to say efficiency is a key factor to GOG's triumph tonight:
Pelister were clearly defeated by Kolstad last week but so far tonight, they are keeping up well with another opponent from Scandinavia, Aalborg. It is 6:6 after 14 minutes.
Right on to Denmark now, as Aalborg host Pelister in the last match of today. Tune in to EHFTV to see this match live on the screen of whatever device you use.
Plock and GOG break with their tradition: never before in their six previous meetings did the home team not win, but tonight that is the case in the MOTW as GOG take both points home to Denmark with a 30:26 victory in Poland.
Here are the first court-side reactions from GOG's Morten Olsen, who scored 10 times, and Plock's Gergö Fazekas, who has been named Player of the Match:
We have been here four times now, this is the first win we have in Plock. So, we are really happy with this win, it is a great start for us in this competition. We are so satisfied. I think in the second half we managed to not make so many mistakes and pass the ball directly to them. They make a very good defence, they steal a lot of balls, so we had to be more careful. That second half was much better.
I am sad, because we play the first match in our arena, we are at home, so we wanted to win today. The problem was we miss a lot of shots.
20:28 RESULT | Celje vs Porto 29:30 (16:9)
The season is still very young, but tonight we might already have seen one of the best comebacks of 2023/24! Porto are down by seven at the break in Celje but completely turn the match upside-down with an unlikely 10:1 run midway through the second half, and ultimately win by one goal. What a start to the season for them, their second very late win after beating Plock in their home game last week.
20:21 RESULT | MOTW Plock vs GOG 26:30 (13:13)
A strong finish earn GOG both points in Poland. Disappointment for Plock, who came oh so close to qualifying for the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 last season but start the new campaign with two straight defeats, in two matches they will feel they could have won as well.
Experience matters: GOG edge ahead by three (27:24) with three minutes on the clock in the MOTW mainly thanks to 38-year-old Morten Olsen who has contributed 10 goals so far.
Well, what is happening over in Slovenia?! Porto have closed the gap with Celje to a single goal: from 25:17 to 26:25! Remember, the Portuguese side were seven down at the break. Another match going into a close finish!
Team timeout Plock. Coach Xavier Sabaté wants his players to be more patient: "One more pass," he tells them. GOG leading by two now: 19:17.
This MOTW looks like going down to the wire. Still nothing separating Plock and GOG in the opening stages of the second half. What a contrast to last week's MOTW between Zagreb and Kiel, which was more or less decided after the opening 20 minutes, as EHFTV commentator Chris O'Reilly has just pointed out.
Let's get ready for the second halves in Plock and Celje!
19:29 HALF-TIME | Celje vs Porto 16:9
What a first half from the hosts! Celje outplay Porto for a seven-goal lead at half-time, with Mitja Janc (five goals from five attempts) and goalkeeper Rok Zaponsek (seven saves from 16 shots) the standout performers so far.
19:26 HALF-TIME | MOTW Plock vs GOG 13:13
They have a tradition of close matches and this MOTW is no exception: Plock and GOG are all square at the break. After the fiery opening 10 minutes, play slowed down a bit but still a very entertaining, and unpredictable, encounter in Poland.
30 per cent is good. 40 per cent is great. 50 per cent is... otherworldly?
Celje goalkeeper Rok Zaponsek has saved seven from 14 Porto attempts. Can he keep it up? Celje lead 14:7, by the way.
Can you find an angle when there is none? GOG's Alexander Blonz can:
Meanwhile in Slovenia, Celje have taken a commanding 8:4 lead against Porto. Can they take the win tonight they had already been so close to last week?
Fascinating start to this MOTW, with initially a slight advantage for Plock who led by two, but meanwhile GOG are back at 9:9. Gergö Fazekas and Morten Olsen both with three goals after 14 minutes, after probably the best one has come from Oskar Vind:
What a start in Plock! Five minutes into the MOTW and we are at 3:3.
Yes, we are underway! If you haven't already done so, tune in to EHFTV now for the MOTW Plock against GOG (with English commentary from Chris O'Reilly) as well as Celje versus Porto.
Five minutes until throw-off of round 2. Who are the players to watch out for tonight?
You can feel the MOTW tension when the players arrive at the ORLEN Arena...
The countdown is running for Plock vs GOG: just 20 minutes to go until the Match of the Week throws off the exciting round 2.
This is what Plock centre back Gergö Fazekas said on the eve of the game against GOG:
I am sure there will be a great atmosphere and of course we want to win our first clash at home. I think we have a really difficult task ahead of us, because GOG are also a great team that presents a lot of quality, despite the changes in staff and players. The difference between us and them is really small, so in my opinion the final result will be decided by the details.
The head-to-head comparison for Plock and GOG is completely in the balance: both teams won three of their six encounters so far; even the number of goals scored is almost identical: 167 vs 166.
Remarkably, all six matches ended with a win for the home team:
About 50 minutes to go until round 2 throws off with the MOTW in Poland between Plock and GOG, and another group B encounter in Slovenia: Celje against Porto.
Time to briefly look back to last week's round 1. These were the seven best players as selected by legend Vid Kavtičnik, among them three players from debutants Kolstad Handball:
Plock mean business this year. The Polish side made it all the way to their maiden quarter-final last season and are hungry for even more this campaign. Why not get their first points on the board against GOG tonight?
EHF journalist Danijela Vekić talked to Plock's experienced teammates and friends, Mirsad Terzić and Mirko Alilović, for this MOTW feature:
No better way to start a new round than watching the Match of the Week! Orlen Wisla Plock and GOG, who both reached their first quarter-final last season, contest this week's highlight game. Here are some interesting facts and figures for you – taken from the official media information for this match.
- GOG won their CL 2023/24 season opener against RK Celje Pivovarna Laško last week, but still parted ways with head coach Ian Marko Fog the following day.
- Fog’s former assistant Mikkel Voigt has taken over as GOG head coach until the end of the season.
- Plock suffered a narrow 24:23 defeat in their season opener against FC Porto in Portugal, after having led by up to four goals several times.
- Plock and GOG have met six times in the past four years, including twice in the EHF European League; each match ended in a victory for the home team.
- Plock play their 16th CL season; GOG their 10th.
- Plock are experts for close results: from their last six CL matches, two ended with a draw, three with a one-goal margin, and one with a two-goal margin.
- GOG lost several key players last summer: CL 2022/23 MVP Simon Pytlick and Lukas Jørgensen both
joined SG Flensburg-Handewitt, and Jerry Tollbring moved to Füchse Berlin.
- Next summer, Emil Madsen, the CL 2022/23 top scorer, will also move to Germany, joining THW Kiel.
- Plock reinforced their squad with experienced goalkeeper Mirko Alilovic (from OTP Bank - Pick
Szeged) and centre back Miha Zarabec (THW Kiel).
- Alilovic has started in his 21st CL season; only Paris Saint-Germain HB star Nikola Karabatic has
played more seasons in Europe's topflight: 22.
- GOG wing Frederik Pedersen is the smallest player in the CL 2023/24 season, at 1.65 metres.
Alongside the MOTW in Plock, one more game is starting at 18:45 CEST tonight: RK Celje Pivovarna Laško against FC Porto.
Both teams had an intriguing start to the season last week: Celje led several times at GOG in Denmark, but ultimately returned to Slovenia empty-handed. On the contrary, Porto trailed Plock for large parts of their match, but in the end kept the two points in Portugal.
This is a hard-to-predict match, and certainly an exciting one to watch.
We will close the evening in Denmark, where Aalborg Håndbold are eager to build on their strong season opening. Last week, they downed Industria Kielce in Poland, so the 2021 finalists will be full of confidence going into their first home game of the new season, against HC Eurofarm Pelister. The Macedonian team lost their opener against Kolstad Handball – can they do better against another Scandinavian opponent?
The match at 20:45 CEST is live on EHFTV for you!
Before we take a closer look at the matches coming up tonight, here is some little fun created by our social media team. Who would win this (fictional) match: North or South Europe?
Round 2 has everything that it takes to become a memorable round: a great opening tonight at 18:45 CEST (MOTW with Plock taking on GOG) and a great finish tomorrow at 20:45 CEST (record champions Barça hosting defending champions Magdeburg).
Read all you need to know about the eight matches in our round 2 preview written by EHF journalists Kevin Domas and Björn Pazen:
It is Wednesday, four o'clock. You know what that means...
... so, welcome to the live blog covering round 2 of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League 2023/24!
We have two great nights of topflight handball in prospect again. We start it all off with the Match of the Week in Poland between Orlen Wisla Plock and GOG, but get ready for a lot more excitement coming your way.
Here is the full schedule: