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The players salute their fans before the game / GERMÁN PARGA-FCB

FC Barcelona are through to the grand final of the Champions League in Cologne. They always looked the better team in today’s semi-final with Kielce but things weren’t truly decided until the last quarter of an hour, when Karabatic and Saric came into their own. Now a ninth European crown is just one game away!

Kielce trail all the way

The Poles opened the scoring but one of their key players, Julen Aginagalde, was injured in the process. Karabatic, Entrerríos and Lazarov responded with three goals and Barça went on to lead right through to the end.

Kielce did get level at 4-4, with Karabatic sin-binned for the first of two occasions, but that did nothing to prevent FCB from slamming home four goals to no reply. Some great keeping from Gonzalo Pérez de Vargas kept them in front, and the difference at the break would probably have been greater than 16-14 had it not been for some stellar handball from Kielce’s Bielecki and Aginagalde, who had clearly recovered from the early knock and caused all kinds of problems for the Barça defence.

Gripping finale

FC Barcelona upped the ante in the second half and built-up their first five-point lead at 19-14. It looked like the game had definitively tipped in the Catalans’ favour, but Kielce suddenly blasted in four straight goals that brought back memories of the horrors of 2014.

There were some mesmerising exchanges of scoring as the game drew to a close, 25-25, 26-25, 26-26 and then 27-26, before Saric was the hero in the final episode of this thriller. Some wonderful saves from the Barça keeper meant his team could eventually enjoy a relatively calm last five minutes, safe in the knowledge that a place in the Champions League final was in the bag. Sixty minutes now stand between Barça and European glory for the ninth time.

MATCH STATS

FC Barcelona, 33
Vive Tauron Kielce, 28

FC Barcelona: Pérez de Vargas, Sigurdsson (5), Tomàs (3), Sorhaindo (2), Lazarov (7), Karabatic (8), Entrerríos (2) (starting seven), Sarmiento (2), Rutenka, Viran, Noddesbo (4), Gurbindo, Saric

Vive Tauron Kielce: Sego, Strlek, Tkaczyk (2), Chrapkowski (1), Musa (1), Buntic (2), Cupic (3) (starting seven), Szmal (gk), Aguinagalde (3), Bielecki (7, 2p), Jurecki (1), Zorman, Reichmann (2), Lijewski (2), Jachlewski (1) & Rosinski (1)

Five minute periods: 2-1, 4-3, 8-5, 10-6, 13-11, 18-16 (HT), 19-14, 22-21, 26-25, 28-26, 31-27, 33-28 (FT)

Referess: Stolarovs & Licis

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