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Despite a breathtaking atmosphere: HC Erlangen loses to THW Kiel

Nuremberg, 05-05-2019

HC Erlangen suffered a defeat at the hands of THW Kiel, the club that holds a record number of German championship titles, in the completely sold-out ARENA NÜRNBERGER Versicherung on Saturday evening. 8,600 “handball-crazy Franconians,” to use the words of Erlangen’s keeper Nikolas Katsigiannis, set a new attendance record for HC Erlangen. Its fans welcomed their team before the encounter with a sea of blue and red flags and helped create a spine-tingling atmosphere right before the throw-off. The first-division club from Franconia began with a lot of courage in its Nuremberg cauldron, but eventually lost to the cup winners by 21:30 (12:14) after a strong first half.

Both teams were evenly matched in the first 30 minutes. In a neck-and-neck affair, Kiel did not manage to open up a decisive gap. HC Erlangen fought selflessly in defense from the outset and went 4:3 ahead in the 6th minute through Nicolai Theilinger. After the lead changed hands several times, German international Steffen Weinhold made it 5:7 in the 12th minute. Yet HC Erlangen was not to be shaken off and Overby tied the scores again (7:7). The THW, which operated with its offensive 3-2-1 defense to begin with, adopted a 6:0 tactic in the 20th minute in view of the fact that the HC kept on finding ways to unlock it. That change did not initially bear fruit, as Erlangen repeatedly found ways to score – such as in the 28th minute when Nikolai Link equalized (12:12). Fired on by its vociferous fans, the team of captain Michael Haaß went in at half-time trailing by 12:14.

The visitors from Northern Germany got off to the better start after the break. Although Büdel stormed through to reduce the deficit to 13:14, Overby and Haaß were forced to sit out two-minute penalties early on – and they proved crucial. The reigning cup winners capitalized on their extra man to produce a 7:0 run and surge 14:21 ahead. “The opening spell of the second half decided the encounter, unfortunately. The THW was difficult to stop in that phase and we didn’t manage to get back into our stride,” said Head Coach Aðalsteinn Eyjólfsson afterwards. HC Erlangen did not give up and reduced the gap to 19:26 with goals from Florian von Gruchalla and young star Benedikt Kellner, but succumbed to their mighty opponents as the game progressed. In the end, the visitors from Kiel ran out winners by 21:30 in the sold-out ARENA NÜRNBERGER Versicherung.

Despite the defeat, HC Erlangen aims to take a few positives away from the game. “I think we did quite a few things right, especially in the first half, and kept on carving out good chances. We intend to build on the positive aspects in the coming week of training,” said a confident Nico Büdel, who finished with six goals, afterwards.