hummel Logo 160


Barca make first win in Europe this season

viktor tomas 4

FC Barcelona Lassa - IFK Kristianstad 34:32 (17:16)

What an epic clash defending champions Barcelona and VELUX EHF Champions League novices Kristianstad served to handball fans around Europe who were fortunate to watch this magnificent contest. Most pundits would not have given the visitors from Sweden a prayer of avoiding a rout against the winners of a record eight titles in the continent's premier club competition, but they captured the hearts of all neutral fans with a spirited performance which nearly resulted in what would surely have been one of the greatest shocks in club handball.

Buoyed by their impressive 33:26 win over Denmark's KIF Kolding Kobenhavn in the opening round, Kristianstad locked horns with their illustrious and more heralded rivals devoid of any pressure. They matched Barcelona in every department from start to finish as the game ebbed and flowed, garnished by a quick transition of the ball at both ends and superbly executed fast breaks. Barcelona held a slender lead throughout the contest but the valiant visitors, led by magnificent right wing Kristian Björnsen, refused to roll over and kept fighting back all the way, engineering a nerve-wracking finish for the holders. One must have thought Barca would pull away after getting into their stride to take a 10:6 lead midway through the first half, but the Swedish outfit were quick to breathe down their necks again as they bounced back to slash the deficit to just one goal at half-time.

The home side again carved out a four-goal lead shortly after the break (20:16) and for the third time in the closing stages of the rip-roaring contest (31:27), only for Kristianstad to snap right back at their heels and slash the advantage to a single goal (32:31) after their Iranian star Iman Jamali netted his sixth. Barcelona held their nerve in a dramatic finale as right wing Victor Tomas scored the game's final goal and Björnson's effort at the other end rebounded off the post. The champions ground out a precious win after the opening round's 22:21 defeat at Rhein-Neckar Löwen thanks to a deep roster in which 11 players got on the score-sheet, led by Tunisian Wael Jallouz who netted six goals. Kiril Lazarov and Filip Jicha added five each while Tomas chipped in with four, cancelling out a breathtaking display by man-of-the-match Björnson who led Kristianstad with 11 goals from 14 shots. Jamali and Fredric Pettersson scored six each for the Swedish title holders, who have instilled a breath of fresh air into the top flight and if their opening two performances are anything to go by, they will certainly be a handful for all their Group B rivals.