Barcelona bring home long awaited 10th handball Champions League victory

The Spanish heavyweights put down an early assault from Danish underdogs Aalborg to win a dream tenth EHF Final4 Champions League trophy

By Ken Browne
Picture by (c) Copyright 2021, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten

Barcelona are handball EHF Champions League winners 2020/21 after they defeated Aalborg 36-23 in the FINAL4 in Cologne on Sunday June 13.

Big performances from big players like Aleix Gomez, Luka Cindric, Raul Entrerrios, match MVP Gonzalo de Perez Vargas and company were enough to hold off a plucky Aalborg who had stunned PSG in the semifinal.

This was a battle between debutantes Aalborg who became the first ever Danish team to reach a Champions League final and a seasoned Barcelona playing in their 13th European club showpiece.

But from the throw-off it was the Danes who looked like the old hands, firing themselves into an early lead at 4-1, then 5-2, before Barça upped their game, Mem, Aleix Gomez and Cindric scoring important goals as Barça went on a 6-0 run.

24-year-old Swede Felix Claar had eight goals and six assists to help put PSG to the sword in the semi-final, and Barcelona had a clear plan to stop him with Mem and Fabregas not giving him any room to breathe.

Brazilian Thiagus Petrus was enormous in defence too, and Barcelona played so well that they didn't even need Swedish giant Aron Palmarsson who watched on from the bench.

It didn't help the underdogs when big man Henrik Møllgaard picked up an injury and despite playing on, was not moving freely.

At halftime the Catalans led 16-11 and Aalborg needed a second half miracle.

Brilliant saves from goalkeeper Simon Gade and clutch goals from Lukas Sandell who scored 8/9 shots gave them hope, but Barcelona were relentless and marched unstoppably towards their 60th victory in 60 games for the perfect season.

Barça's most efficient shooter was a surprise: Goalkeeper De Perez Vargas shot 100% as he hit the net with three goals from three shots with Aalborg trying to go 7 on 6 and get back in the game.

Gomez was top scorer netting 9/12 and the winners spread the wealth with 11 different scorers, Cindric nailing 5/7 and Timothey N'Guessan burying six from nine.

Barça, the Spanish champions, were Kings of Europe once more, for the first time since the 2014/15 season, and deservedly so.

The elusive 10th was finally in their hands after failing on five previous occasions in the FINAL4, ending all the talk of hoodoo, voodoo, hexes and curses.

With a host of international stars on show over the weekend in Cologne, get ready for them to put on a show again in Japan as the clock ticks down to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

MVP De Perez Vargas: "We had to keep the ghosts away from us"

Asked if it was the perfect end to a perfect season, MVP Gonzalo De Perez Vargas told the EHF that:

"Yes I think we deserved that championship, we worked hard from the beginning to the end, even today we had to keep the ghosts away from us from the last FINAL4, the 2019 FINAL4 and I think we were the best, we deserve it.

"That's the end of a cycle, an era, because there's going to be a lot of changes next season but nobody in this group is prouder than myself to be part of this team, this club right now, and now it's time to celebrate."

Asked what this title means to him with all the changes coming he said:

"About the changes now is not the time, of course winning here I've done it before but not in the same way, I was too young to know what it means to win, to be a character [Protagonist] in the victory, I think not just me, the whole team, we suffered to much from the last five editions when we came here as the favourites."

We wanted to win so bad and we did it, sometimes in a weird way but in the end we kept going to lift that trophy, to feel that sensation again, to win the Champions League which is the first one for a lot of the guys here in the team and we've struggled a lot in the last four or five seasons so it means so much to us."

Barcelona say adeu to Xavi Pascual and Raul Entrerrios

It was an emotional farewell for Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual and captain Raul Entrerrios who ends a decorated club career in perfect fashion.

We should see the 40-year-old Entrerrios at the Tokyo Games for one final stand on the biggest stage there is and Pascual leaves the club after twelve years at the helm.

Over that time he has amassed 50 titles with Barça, including three Champions League trophies in 2011, 2015, and 2021.