Decreased by injuries and Covid-19, the Parisian handball players failed to reach the final of the “Final Four” of the Champions League, after their defeat against Barcelona 37 to 32, Monday, December 28, in Cologne (Germany ).
In the match for third place, the Parisians will face the losing team of the second semi-final, which opposes Monday evening, at 8:30 p.m., the Hungarians of Veszprem against the Germans of Kiel. The small final will take place on Tuesday, with a kick-off at 6 p.m.
The PSG players considered themselves before the meeting as “outsiders” against a team that had dominated them twice in the group stage last season.
To these sports results was added the injury in mid-October of Nikola Karabatic, winner of three Champions League. The Paris playing master suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will be away from the field for about six months.
Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic had to disrupt Parisian plans just hours before the meeting. Luc Steins, first, had tested positive on Sunday, leaving his teammates without a center-back (training). It was ultimately Nedim Remili who had been chosen to occupy this key position. Then, on arrival in Cologne, it was the turn of Danish pivot Henrik Toft Hansen to test positive.
A formidable Barcelona goalkeeper
Monday, during the first quarter of an hour of the first period, the players of Raul Gonzalez were, in a Lanxess-Arena behind closed doors, shown impeccable, as much in defense as in attack, counting up to three goals of advanced. But the Parisians then came up against the Barcelona goalkeeper, Kevin Møller, formidable efficiency in the first period.
The Barcelonans, for their part, took advantage of seven minutes without scoring the Parisians, and several times reaching five lengths in advance, in particular thanks to the individual performance of the French back Dika Mem (6/6 in the first period).
At 18-14 at the break, the Parisians knew that nothing should be let go, nothing more wasted.
Returning from the locker room, Vincent Gérard managed to keep the ship afloat, stopping three shots in less than four minutes. “We tried to fight thoroughly with the weapons we had. What was our best weapon, the 7v6 [joueurs de champ] did not work as we wanted; our defense did not work either ”, Nedim Remili analysis.
Too many ball losses in the second half got the better of the Parisians, like the one lost by Dainis Kristopans, and which would have made it possible to return to two goals (43e).
Despite the efforts on the left wing of Dylan Nahi, 21, top scorer of the game with nine goals scored, and Mikkel Hansen, perfect at 7 meters (5/5, 7/9 in total), Luka’s teammates Karabatic have never managed to catch up.
They will now have the small final in their sights, and with it the hope of clinching third place in the Champions League.