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Flensburg clinch title in the EHF European League Men with exquisite performances


Mon 27 May 2024 | 04:16 PM
Flensburg clinch title in the EHF European League Men with exquisite performances
Flensburg clinch title in the EHF European League Men with exquisite performances
Mohamed Mandour

With three German teams and one Romanian side in the line-up of the EHF Finals Men, the business end of the season in the second-tier European competition, the EHF European League Men, the chances were big to have another German side clinching the title.

Reigning champions Füchse Berlin, challengers Rhein-Neckar Löwen, powerhouse SG Flensburg-Handewitt and the odd one out, Romanian champions Dinamo București, challenged for the trophy, in a packed Barclays Arena in Hamburg, with some excellent handball on display.

Played in a final four format, with the winners of the two semi-finals advancing to the title match, the first semi-final saw Flensburg, which lost only two matches this season, face Dinamo, a plucky side, coached by Xavi Pascual, in his third year at the helm of the Romanian champions.

But backed by three world champions at the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship last January, Flensburg were totally dominating, as left wing Emil Jakobsen, right wing Johan a Plogv Hansen and the All-Star left back at Poland/Sweden 2023, Simon Pytlick, combined for 26 goals to lift the German side to a clear win.

After a 18:11 lead at the break, Flensburg did not let Dinamo get closer than five goals in the second half, scoring at free will, with a 38:32 win enabling them to live another day and fight for the coveted title, which would have been their second in the competition.

The second semi-final had a clear favourite and Füchse Berlin lived up to the expectations, cruising to a 33:24 win, after leading Rhein-Neckar Löwen at the break, 14:9. Three Danish players, Lasse Andersson, Mathias Gidsel and Hans Lindberg also stole the show, combining for 20 goals, as the 2023 IHF Male Player of the Year, Gidsel, led the way with seven goals.

Therefore, Füchse and Flensburg clashed again for the fourth time in the last four months, with the team from the German capital and Flensburg trading wins in the first three matches, while another match ended in a draw. Until the final, Füchse won 32:31 on their home court and drew at Flensburg, 31:31, in the Bundesliga, while Flensburg won the match in the German Cup final, 31:28.

This time around, Flensburg led the way in the first half, taking a 15:14 lead at the break, but in the second half their attack got the best of Füchse, as Jakobsen (seven goals) and Simon Pytlick (six goals) were virtually unstoppable.

As goalkeeper Kevin Moller also saved 13 shots for a 31.7 per cent saving efficiency, Flensburg cruised to a 36:31 win, confirming their status as the best attack in the competition this season, also earning the second title in the European second-tier competition, after the one in 1997.

In the bronze medal match, another world champion in 2023, Niclas Kirkelokke, scored six goals for Rhein-Neckar Löwen, to help his side clinch a 32:31 win against Dinamo.

It was the 27th title in 42 editions for German sides in the EHF European League Men and also the 18th title in the last 20 editions won by German teams.

For Flensburg, this is the sixth title in European competitions, after having won the EHF Champions League Men in 2014, the EHF Cup Winners’ Cup in 2001 and 2012, and the EHF City Cup in 1999.

Emil Jakobsen was named the MVP of the EHF Finals Men 2024, while Dinamo’s right wing Andrii Akimenko was the top scorer of the competition this season, with 95 goals.