Although the Rhein-Neckar Löwen had won all previous eleven games in the league so far and came off a cup win against the Füchse Berlin on Wednesday, many thought that their game at Hamburg could be a crucial one in the fight for the club’s first ever league championship. They proved to be right as the game was tied until the dying seconds, when Swiss playmaker Andy Schmid scored the winner. The lions won by a final score of 29:28 (15:15).
Schmid, not known for his emotional outbursts, ran all over the court to celebrate, just to be mobbed by his teammates. Pivot Rafael Baena, who recently extended his contract until 2018, took a pass from Schmid, but had no chance to get a free shot against two players of Hamburg. He smartly passed the ball back to Schmid, who then beat HSV-keeper Johannes Bitter from a sharp angle.
While the Löwen are heading into the national team break with a record of twelve wins in twelve games, the mental aspect of the win might be even more important than the pure numbers. Especially winning such close encounters could push the team to even further highs. Captain Uwe Gensheimer pointed out that “it’s only two points, but it’s very important to win those kind of games.”
On the other hand HSV coach Michael Biegler was satisfied with the performance of his players. “Today my team didn’t deserve to lose. But a loss against such a great team won’t be too hard to handle for my players.” He wasn’t that calm while talking about the referees. “Comparable situations have been evaluated in a different way. That’s unacceptable.”
The game was tight throughout, as Hamburg seemed a bit fresher with a week off. Allan Damgaard once more showed he is up to the task of leading a Bundesliga team and scored seven times. The Löwen defense didn’t look as strong as earlier this season, but their offense found enough solutions against a well-organized HSV. Schmid (7), Gensheimer (6/3) and Kim Ekdahl du Rietz (5) led a balanced side in scoring.
Biegler, apart from the game, seemed to be quite happy with the development of his team. “My players are able to play in different defense formations and also play quite will in the transition offense. But we still have a long way to go.” Next stop for Hamburg in two weeks is Kiel, where they can show how much they really have improved compared to last season. The Löwen will host newly-promoted Leipzig after the break.