The title-race in the DKB Handball-Bundesliga is now officially wide open once again after the SG Flensburg-Handewitt conquered the SAP-Arena in Mannheim, beating the Rhein-Neckar Löwen 25-22 (13-13), thanks to an outstanding performance by goalkeeper Mattias Andersson. The Swedish backstopper saved 42 percent of the shots he faced. That made all the difference, because the lions starter, Mikael Appelgren, was substituted after 12 lackluster minutes.
His backup, Borko Ristovski, was almost as good as Andersson, but simply came on too late. A few more saves might have allowed the hosts to win the game, but afterall Flensburg was just the better team. The defense was able to control Swiss playmaker Andy Schmid for most parts of the game and the finished with just two goals on six shots. Early on the Löwen missed the chance to take the lead as Marius Steinhauser wasn’t able to convert two very good chances.
The game was dominated by boths defenses, the first goal was scored by Anders Eggert on a penalty shot 5:05 minutes into the match. The hosts then got an emotional boost as right-wing Patrick Groetzki came back from an injury, which had sidelined him for two months. But his teammates were extremely nervous and obviously felt the pressure of being close to the club’s first championship with a win. Flensburg didn’t mind and took a 6-goal lead (11-5) after 20 minutes.
At that point Löwen coach Nicolaj Jacobsen had already taken his first timeout, but it didn’t help. Suddenly, though, at the end of the first half, Flensburg made several mistakes and Ristovski, like he did in Göppingen on the weekend, was stellar coming from the bench. The league leaders, just like that, were able to tie the game until the half-time whistle was blown.
Once the game continued the guests never looked back. Andersson was outstanding, while the Löwen lacked the fire of “Ljobus Jungs”. Especially the backcourt disappointed. Schmid scored twice, Mads Mensah Larsen and Harald Reinkind combined for seven goals, Kim Ekdahl du Rietz and Alexander Petersson each scored once. Flensburg took profit of a great night from Rasmus Lauge. The Dane finished the game with nine goals, often winning one-on-one situations and being able to score from close range.
The guests were even able to rest starters like Eggert and Lasse Svan. Eggert just came on to convert all five of Flensburg’s penalty shots. Frenchman Kentin Mahe missed the game due to a minor ankle injury. Afterall it seems like investing in a deep bench is paying off. After destroying archrival THW Kiel in the EHF Champions League on the weekend, the North Germans seem to be strong enough to compete for all three major competitions.
Rhein-Neckar Löwen: Gensheimer (4/1), Larsen (4), Pekeler (3), Reinkind (3), Baena (2), Groetzki (2), Schmid (2), Ekdahl du Rietz (1), Petersson (1)
Flensburg: Lauge (9), Eggert (5/5), Djordjic (2), Jakobsson (2), Mogensen (2), Radivojevic (2), Toft Hasen (2), Gottfridsson (1)
Attendance: 13.200 (sold-out)