When the MT Melsungen won in Flensburg early in the season many thought it might be a fluke. Steadily the team collected win after win and ranked second in the standings prior to Saturday’s showdown with the Rhein-Necker Löwen. Now the Hessians have to be considered serious title contenders after beating the lions 25:23 (12:14) in an absolute classic.
However it took a while until the guys of Michael Roth found their rhythm and the guests looked concentrated early on. The blue and yellow led by two after six minutes, but midway through the first half the hosts were finally able to find solutions on the offensive end. It came as no surprise the score was tied various times.
Melsungen used a very aggressive 5:1-defense to make sure the back-court of the Löwen had to fight hard to get into scoring situations. But line-player Rafael Baena was almost impossible to control at the beginning and Uwe Gensheimer converted the ensuing penalty shots. Germany’s captain scored eleven times overall, while using five of six chances from the line.
Once the MT took better care of Baena the guests surely missed the shooting power of Harald Reinkind, especially after the break. Swiss playmaker Andy Schmid looked tired at times and Kim Ekdahl du Rietz and Alexander Petersson didn’t have the power to create enough chances. When they did Johan Sjöstrand stood in their way.
The Swedish goalkeeper, who had replaced his counterpart and compatriot Mikael Appelgren in the Melsungen net this summer, saved 40 percent of the shots he faced. Appelgren, and newly-acquired Borko Ristovski, weren’t able to come anywhere close to that number. They saved less than 29 percent, another reason why the lions lost for the first time this season.
The game was close all the way through the second half, but once the hosts had taken the lead (17:16, 41st) they never looked back and the crowd celebrated one of the biggest wins in club history once time expired. Melsungen can finally prove all doubters wrong on Wednesday when it travels to Kiel, while the Rhein-Neckar Löwen host the Füchse Berlin.