Four champions fight for the title in Cologne
While Veszprém had to endure some serious bumps on the way, Kielce, Barça and Vardar duly did their part, enjoying thorough wins in their domestic leagues this season.
Therefore, all four teams arrive in Cologne with a huge morale boost, and the tenth edition of the VELUX EHF FINAL 4 looks like a treat one week before the throw off.
A simple march to the trophy
For the ninth season in a row, Barça Lassa had no rivals in the domestic league, clinching another trophy, the 26th in their history, after a flawless year.
Bar a blip against La Rioja, a 28:28 away draw that did not impact the championship at all, the Spanish powerhouses marched on to another title, with a series of impressive and overpowering performances.
With an average of 38.2 goals scored per game, Xavi Pascual’s side obliterated their opponents at a huge pace, creating a 413-goal difference over 30 games - the second best ever in the history of the ASOBAL.
Barça also completed the domestic double, winning the Copa del Rey final against Cuenca, 24:18.
A superb win for Veszprém
It was a roller-coaster season for Telekom Veszprém, but a swift coaching change that saw David Davis take charge, replacing Ljubomir Vranjes in October, helped the Hungarian side establish themselves as a powerhouse in European handball.
Back for the VELUX EHF FINAL 4 after one season away, Veszprém also clinched the Hungarian title in emphatic style this week.
The Hungarian powerhouses lost both regular season games against Szeged, but came back roaring in the final, sweeping away their rivals, who won the title last season.
A 35:24 win on home court was followed by a 27:27 draw in the second game in Szeged. The aggregate win means Veszprém clinched a record 26th Hungarian title.
It was an emotional farewell for Momir Ilic and Lazslo Nagy, as the two backs ended their careers with another domestic title. Goalkeeper Roland Mikler also signed off with a superb win, as he already confirmed his move to Szeged as of this summer.
Eight in a row for Kielce
The Polish Ekstraklasa is always fascinating to watch, despite the fact that the last eight titles have been clinched by the same team, PGE Vive Kielce.
Yet there is always opposition from Orlen Wisla Plock, with the two sides winning 17 of the past 18 titles in the Polish domestic league. It was no different this time around, with the two-legged final pitting Kielce and Plock against each other once again.
Wisla held their ground in the first leg, salvaging a 26:26 draw against Kielce, but the second leg was more straightforward.
A quick 9:4 lead in the first half was enough for Kielce to build upon. Plock could not come back, with the second leg of the final ending in a 32:25 Kielce win.
It was Kielce’s 16th domestic league win and the 11th in the past 19 seasons.
Moreover, three of Kielce’s players were recognised for their contribution this season. Wing Arkadiusz Moryto was the top goal scorer of the season for the second season in a row, Luka Cindric was elected the best playmaker in the league, and Mateusz Jachlewski was named the top defender of the Ekstraklasa.
A successful season for Vardar
It has not been the easiest of seasons for HC Vardar, with a serious exodus of players in the summer, financial trouble, players who failed to perform at the highest levels and a flurry of injuries.
Yet the Macedonian club are back in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne and also enjoyed a fruitful season in their domestic league.
While last week brought their first loss of the season against Pelister Bitola, 26:30, all of Vardar’s stalwarts were rested for the final battle in Cologne, as their 13th domestic league title was mathematically secured one match day before.
Roberto Garcia Parrondo’s side won the SEHA League for the third time in a row, by disposing of HC PPD Zagreb in the final, 26:23.Author: Adrian Costeiu/jh