Barça Borges qualified for the Champions League Final after beating Rhein-Neckar Löwen in a hard fought semi-final. The Barça know-how at difficult moments was decisive.
RHEIN-NECKAR LOWEN, 28
FC BARCELONA BORGES, 30
Rhein-Neckar Löwen (12 +16): Szmal, Gensheimer (7), Roggisch, Sesum (3), Tkaczyk
(1), Stefansson (4), Cupic (4) (starting seven); Fritz, Schmid (1), Bielecki (4), Myrhol (2),
Müller (1), Groetzki (1).
FC Barcelona Borges (12+18): Saric, Noddesbo (1), Juanín (5), Tomás (4),
Entrerríos (3), Nagy (2), Rutenka (5) (starting seven); Pérez de Vargas, Sorhaindo (1), Sarmiento
(1), Ugalde (2), Jernemyr, Oneto (3), Igropulo (1), Rocas (2).
Partials each 5 minutes: 0-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-9, 8-10, 12-12 (half-time); 14-14,
16-17, 19-20, 20-25, 25-27, 28-30 (Full time)
Referees: Nenad Krstic i Peter Ljubic (SLO).
Venue: Lanxess Arena, Cologne. 19,500 spectators
Xavi Pascual’s team will be in the Final in Cologne again. On Sunday they’ll have a
second chance to lift the Champions League trophy in the German city, after falling dramatically in
last year’s final. Barça went through due to a remarkable second half, which changed the game
their way after struggling for a long time. After a pretty poor first thirty minutes, Barça
suffered but won the match well in the 2nd half, thanks in great part to Saric, and they go into
the Final with every chance.
On top early on
The first half was full of tension as expected, with more passing inaccuracies than
Pascual would have liked, and for a long time the game went how the Germans wanted it. Slawomir
Szmal and Daniel Saric both made good saves in the opening minutes; Roggisch proved that it
wasn’t going to be easy to break down Mannheims defence, but Barça stood firm too. It was a
hard fought start to the match, but Barça handled it better, and took an early lead (4-0).
Stefansson Olfur, in a fine personal play, finally got past the Barça defence, after over 7
minutes had gone. Rhein-Neckar Löwen stayed in the game based on individual sparks of talent. Barça
Borges, with the better team game, worked hard for more goals, and took command of the semifinal
Gudmundsson's team realised that they’d have to change the pace of
the game and started to find the path to goal, due to their tough defence and quick counter
attacks. Barça held on to a 2 or 3 goal lead for a while, but Rhein-Neckar were in the ascendency
and tied the game up at 10-10. Such was the tension in the game that the Germans even started an
attack with 8 players on the court. The exclusion of Roggisch helped Barça to regain their 2 goal
cushion, but just before half-time the Lions from the Black Rhine tied up the game again (12-12)
with a long second half to come
Barça’s second half
The Germans missed the chance to go ahead early in the second half. Saric, huge and
ultimately decisive, responded to Szmal’s saves, but the team from Mannheim persisted and it
finally paid off. The appearance of the brilliant Gensheimer, and Myrhol’s first goal,
complicated matters for Barça. Victor Tomás restored Barca’s lead (17-16), but the magic
Gensheimer, Szmal’s saves, and Bielecki’s cannons did a lot of damage. Barça Borges
lost 2 players (Nagy and Jernemyr) and went behind for a couple of minutes.
Fortunately, Saric gave the team a boost with two good saves and
Entrerrios and Ugalde struck again. In the best minutes of the game, Barça Borges got back on top
thanks to their two wide men and regained their lead (22-20). Another goal from Entrerrios forced
Gudmundsson to call a time-out he replaced Szmal with the legendary Fritz.
The game had changed radically. Oneto made it 24-20 and Gonzalo Perez de Vargas saved a
Gensheimer penalty. Rocas made no mistake from 7 metres and gave Barça their maximum advantage
(25-20) amid the euphoria of the Barça bench and their hundreds of travelling fans. Gensheimer, up
until then the Germans only solid argument, brought them closer, but Barça Borges had the game in
their hands with seven minutes to go (27-23). The exclusion of Oneto gave one last shred of hope to
the Mannheim team, cheered on by their fans, but Barça were up to the challenge, and saves by Saric
and 2 goals from Oneto gave them the win, the first of two needed to win the trophy.