Passion, cohesion and fighting spirit – those were the virtues that enabled the first-division club from Franconia to capture an important 25:22 home victory against SC DHfK Leipzig on Sunday afternoon. Spurred on by 5,004 spectators who created a spine-tingling atmosphere throughout the entire encounter, Erlangen managed to chalk up its 11th and 12th points of the season.
“Look to move forward” was the motto that guided Erlangen in its home game against Leipzig. Yet it needed to defend at the outset and was compact in that department right from the throw-off. Leipzig then went ahead, but Sime Ivic equalized right away. However, then came a shock in the third minute, when Nikolai Link was shown the red card for a foul. “But we didn’t let that perturb us,” said Erlangen’s Sporting Director Kevin Schmidt in analyzing the game afterwards. Indeed, the decimated home side fought its way into the game with passion and went 3:2 in front after a goal from Petter Overby and another from Ivic. The encounter was evenly poised in this spell, also due to the strong saves by Nikolas Katsigiannis and Quentin Minel’s first goal. The Frenchman also made it 4:3 after nine minutes. The game lived more from its excitement and aggressive defending rather than goals in this phase. The arena was fired up and that also infected the players, who fought tooth and nail to keep the game evenly balanced. In particular, “we defended with passion and resolve,” said the HCE’s Head Coach Aðalsteinn Eyjólfsson – and that was also reflected in the fact that his team conceded just eight goals in the first half. Despite being short-handed, the HC managed to maintain its stability and irritate the opposing side in offense. The crowd had to wait eight minutes until another goal was scored, although it was for Leipzig (6:5). That made the atmosphere even more charged and, despite their side conceding a another to fall 5:7 behind, the fans got behind their HCE and urged it on unflaggingly. A save by Erlangen’s keeper in the 23rd minute sparked a strong final spell in the first half, as Sellin added two goals, followed by one apiece from Minel and Ivic. As a result, Erlangen benefited two-fold from having one man more on court and so went in at the break with a two-goal advantage.
The objective for the home side in the second half was to carry over the momentum from the first and stretch its 10:8 lead – which it promptly did: Sellin bagged his fifth goal to make it 11:8. Keeper Katsigiannis also got off to a good start in the second half, making another spectacular save and so preventing the opposing side from pulling a goal back in the 32nd minute. However, Leipzig had cut the deficit to 11:10 four minutes later and then, after Ivic had scored, the visitors equalized. Both sides now traded blows at a far higher pace than in the first half, and Michael Haaß and Sebastian Firnhaber were also able to chalk up their first goals (14:12). Martin Murawski also hit the mark in the 43rd minute and, together with Ivic, helped his side move 16:14 ahead. Leipzig recaptured the lead again (16:17), but Erlangen stepped up the pace to produce a 3:0 run and move back ahead by 19:17 with ten minutes to go. Spurred on by an emotional crowd that transformed the arena into a sea of noise, the home side did not let victory slip and crowned its fighting display by running out deserved winners by 25:22.
Following the games on the road in Minden and Hanover, handball fans in Franconia have to wait until December 22nd for their team’s next home game, this time against Berlin Foxes.