Wisla Plock surprise, as powerhouses progress to the quarter-finals of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League

31 Mar. 2023

Wisla Plock surprise, as powerhouses progress to the quarter-finals of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League

Four doubleheaders provided some exciting action in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League play-offs. The four winners progressed to the quarter-finals, with only eight teams left standing for the big prize, which will be awarded in Cologne in June.

The biggest surprise came in the form of Orlen Wisla Plock, the Polish side, which clinched their place in the knockout phase of the competition only in the last round of the group phase. Finishing in sixth place, Plock had to face the third-place team from the other group, HBC Nantes, with the second leg played in France.

Few would have awarded chances for Plock to deliver a big surprise, but the Polish side had two outstanding games, starting with a 32:32 draw in the first leg. Travelling to Nantes, Plock knew that their only chance was to slow down the game, and after 60 minutes, the game was tied (25:25).

As per the new rules of the competition, the games went directly to penalties, where Plock converted all shots, while Nantes’ wing Kauldi Odriozola missed his shot. This is the first time Plock qualified for the quarter-finals in 15 seasons in the European premium competition, becoming only the second Polish side to clinch such a place after Industria Kielce.

The biggest clash of the play-offs was definitely the Hungarian derby between Telekom Veszprém HC and OTP Bank – Pick Szeged, a rekindling of a rivalry that produced exciting matches throughout the last decade both in the Hungarian league and in European competitions.

But Veszprém, who lost the domestic title last season in the last second against Szeged, never let their opponents have a chance and cruised to a 36:23 win in the first leg, played in Szeged.

With the qualification already virtually decided, Veszprém doubled down on that win on their home court (38:33), taking a 74:56 aggregate win, the biggest gap recorded in this phase of the competition this season, with 18 goals coming from Slovenian right wing Gasper Marguc.

Another interesting battle was a 100% Danish doubleheader, as the top two sides of the country that won the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship fought for the quarter-finals ticket.

Aalborg Handbold sealed a 30:28 win in the first leg, but they were depleted, with a plethora of injuries derailing their campaign. They could not challenge GOG as the Danish champions cruised to a 32:24 win in the second leg, securing a 60:54 aggregate win.

THW Kiel cruised to a 72:60 aggregate win against Romanian side Dinamo Bucuresti. The German powerhouse cleared their path towards the quarter-finals with a clear 41:28 win in Bucharest in front of a packed “Polivalenta” Arena. The second leg fell in Dinamo’s hands (32:31), with a last-gasp goal from Andrii Akimenko, who clinched Dinamo’s win in the last second.
The top goal scorer standings have seen changes as the former top scorer, Celje’s Aleks Vlah, fell to third place, with two of GOG’s players taking over. Both Simon Pytlick, the All-Star left back of the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship, and right back Emil Madsen have scored 92 goals, earning a big chance to seal the individual title come to the end of the season.

The quarter-finals of the 2022/23 season of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League will take place on 10-11 May and 17-18 May, with the second legs hosted by the teams that have already sealed a quarter-finals berth via the group phase. 

The headliner looks set to be the tie between PSG and Kiel, two of the continent's powerhouses going head-to-head for a place in the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4. Veszprem will face Kielce in another crunch tie, while reigning champions Barça face GOG, with the tie between Magdeburg and Plock delivering a debutant in the business end of the competition.

Machineseeker EHF Champions League – play-offs results

M1: Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) vs OTP Bank – Pick Szeged (HUN) 74:56 on aggregate
M2: Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs HBC Nantes (FRA) 62:61 on aggregate
M3: GOG (DEN) vs Aalborg Handbold (DEN) 60:54 on aggregate
M4: CS Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) vs THW Kiel (GER) 60:72 on aggregate

Machineseeker EHF Champions League – quarter-finals schedule

Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) vs THW Kiel (GER)
SC Magdeburg (GER) vs Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Industria Kielce (POL) vs Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) 
Barça (ESP) vs GOG (DEN)

Photo: Orlen Wisla Plock