Ugalde / PHOTO: ARXIU FCB

The spot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League will be decided next Sunday at the Palau Blaugrana. Both FC Barcelona and Montpelier are vying for the coveted playoff spot in the the next round of the competition. The first bout between the two sides took place in France with a Montpelier victory (30-28). However, the Barça squad can be content with the result of that match seeing that a two-goal comeback is more than possible for the team led by Xavi Pascual

The game started with Barça donning a shirt in support of Éric Abidal. Just like the other FC Barcelona professional teams, Barça Intersport came out onto the court with a shirt that read ‘Courage, Abi!’ with the intent of giving encouragement to the Barça first-team Frenchman. Abidal will undergo liver transplant surgery in the comping weeks.

Montpelier, superior in the first half

Montpelier was much more incisive in the first half than FC Barcelona Intersport. The French team were very alert on defence and their counterattacks, which allowed them to take an eight-goal lead (15-7), were lethal. Furthermore, the French team’s keeper, Prost, was having a spectacular night, especially in the first 30 minutes of the game. The match was hard-fought and in a couple of instances the referees were a bit permissive. Barça’s players, however, knew that they could mount a comeback and they never gave up. Both teams went to the half with 17-11 on the scoreboard.

Ugalde and Rutenka, instrumental

Barça Intersport came out in the second half with clear intent, while Montpelier started to show signs of weakness. A 2-8 run for the Azulgranas allowed the Barça team to even up the scoring at 11 apiece. Xavi Pascual’s men were playing good handball, they showed fantastic concentration and Ugalde and Rutekna, both with fantastic performances, were the Catalan team’s most dangerous men. Barça could have won in France, but their rival reacted and they went on a 7-2 run of their own to open up a bit of distance between the two teams on the scoreboard (25-21). In the final minutes of the match, Barça tried to catch Montpelier, but it wasn't to be. The Catalan team could have been within one goal of the French side if they hadn’t lost the ball in the last play of the game; Tej won the ball back to seal the 30-28 win.

Next Sunday, at 17:00, the return leg of the tie will take place.

MATCH STATS

Montpeller, 30
FCB Intesport, 28

Montpeller HB (17+13): Prost (Stochl, p.s.), Gajic (8), Kavticnik (1), Tej (2), Nikola Karabatic (5), Hmam (2), Grébille (5), Accambray (3), Bojinovic (4, 2p.), Luka Karavatic (-), Joli(-) and Salou (-).

FCB Intersport (11+17): Saric (Sjostrand, p.s.), Rocas (1), Igropulo (-), Sorhaindo (1), Jernemyr (-), Raúl Entrerríos (4), Juanín (2, 1p), Noddesbo (2), Rutenka (5), Mikel Aguirrezabalaga (1), Nagy (4), Víctor Tomás (3), Ugalde (4), Sarmiento (1) and Morros (-).

Referees: Vaclav Horacek and Jiri Novotny. Exclusions a Hmam (m.7 i 24), Tej (m. 49, 56 i 60), pel Montpeller. Victor Tomás (m.14), Jernemyr (m.44), Rutenka (m.56) i Noddesbo (m.56), pel FC Barcelona Intersport.

Partials in increments of five minutes: 4-2, 6-3, 10-5, 13-6, 15-9 and 17-11 (half time), 18-15, 19-19, 25-20, 27-24, 28-27 i 30-28 (final).