Title holders make the cut in emphatic Last 16 phase of EHF European League Men

06 Apr. 2022

Title holders make the cut in emphatic Last 16 phase of EHF European League Men

The Last 16 phase of the EHF European League Men, the second-tier competition of the European club pyramid, made for an impressive outing from underdogs, who put the favourites to test, with some powerhouses bowing out after two competitive legs played over the last week.

The Men’s IHF Super Globe winners and reigning champions, SC Magdeburg, needed a last-gasp goal from left wing Lukas Mertens to down Portuguese side Sporting CP. After a 29:29 draw in the first leg, Sporting took the fight to the German team in the second leg, displaying grit and courage throughout the 120 minutes of the doubleheader.

Despite being three men down after Mamadou Gassama Cissokho, Jonas Tiedemand and Edmilson Araujo received red cards, Sporting took a two-goal lead late in the game, but Magdeburg capped off an impressive comeback to take a last-gasp 36:35 lead, which was enough for a 65:64 aggregate win.

After the competition was dominated in the last two decades by German teams, who won the trophy in 18 of the past 19 seasons, only one side – SC Magdeburg – made it through to the quarter-finals, as TBV Lemgo and Füchse Berlin were eliminated in the Last 16 phase.

In one of the most balanced double-header in this phase of the competition, Füchse Berlin lost both games against HBC Nantes, despite leading by as many as three goals in the second half of the second leg. Eventually, Nantes, led once again by the 41-year-old right back Kiril Lazarov, who had the best outing of the season, took a 58:54 aggregate win to progress to the quarter-finals.

Polish powerhouse Orlen Wisła Płock, who are eyeing the trophy once again, eliminated TBV Lemgo after another balanced double-header, with a 59:56 aggregate win after the second leg, played in Poland, ended in a 28:28 stalemate. 

The away goal rule was put to test in the tie between Swiss champions Kadetten Schaffhausen and Swedish champions IK Sävehof. In the first leg, Schaffhausen took a 32:26 win, which was cancelled by Sävehof’s 34:28 win in the second game. Owing to the 28 goals scored in the away game, Kadetten made it through to the quarter-finals.

The tie with the most goals scored was the one between Fenix Toulouse Handball and SL Benfica, as 138 goals were recorded. After conceding a 34:38 loss in the first leg, Benfica bounced back admirably, embarked on a 15:6 run between the 20th and the 40th minute and sealed a 36:30 win. From Benfica’s 70 goals in the two games, 27 were scored by Serbian left back Petar Djordjic.

Yet, the biggest surprise was the elimination of French outfit USAM Nimes Gard, who finished first in their group with 12 points. Paired with RK Gorenje Velenje, who finished fourth, Nimes failed to complete a comeback in the second leg, after dropping the first game, 22:29. Despite their 35:30 win, Nimes were eliminated, the only side to fail to progress to the quarter-finals after winning their group.

The quarter-finals pairings have already been drawn, with the games scheduled on 26 April and 3 May. The highlight will pit SC Magdeburg and HBC Nantes together, with eight nations – Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Switzerland – being still represented in the competition.

Only one team from the eight still standing has previously won European silverware, as HBC Nantes were the runners-up in the EHF Champions League Men in 2018 and in the Men’s EHF Cup in 2013 and 2016.

EHF European League Men – Quarter-final pairings

Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) vs Orlen Wisła Płock (POL)
RK Nexe (CRO) vs GOG Håndbold (DEN)
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs SC Magdeburg (GER)
SL Benfica (POR) vs RK Gorenje Velenje (SLO)

For more information, visit eurohandball.com.

Photo: Franzi Gora / NebHandball