HC Linz AG entered the play-offs of the Handball Liga Austria as seventh in the regular round – now the club is in the final for the title for the first time since 2003: coach Milan Vunjak’s squad also won the second game of the “Best of 3” semi-final series against Krems with 31:30 (13:12).
For the defending champion from Lower Austria, the season came to an end with the first away defeat of the season. “We’re not dead yet,” was Ibish Thaqi’s declaration of war before kick-off. However, the Krems coach had to watch as his team’s attacks often bogged down in Linz’s strong defense. Behind him, goalkeeper Markus Bokesch was in top form again before the end of his career. With 15 saves, the 32-year-old was the match winner for the home side. Linz started well on this foundation and took the lead from the start.
Turbulent final phase
Only when they switched to a 5:1 defense did the guests open up the game, and Daniel Dicker equalized for the first time after 18 minutes (9:9). “We then played too statically,” analyzed Alex Hermann. Although the right-handed player was the best pitcher in the first meeting, Vunjak used him mainly for cover yesterday – to save energy for the decision. Max Hermann, who played despite meniscus damage, only came on to relieve the pressure for a short period of time. After the restart, Linz quickly pulled away to 20:15 (40 th ). Next to Bokesch, youngster Elmar Böhm showed nerves of steel. The 18-year-old replaced the injured Christian Kislinger as a left winger and sunk all five of his shots.
Krems reared up again in a turbulent and punishing final phase, came back again, but ultimately had too many free throws wasted. The people of Linz, where Moritz Bachmann had to leave the pitch, are now dreaming: The last of seven titles was 27 years ago.
The opponent in the final series that begins on June 3rd could be determined on Thursday at Fivers Margareten against city rival West Vienna (8:20 p.m., ORF Sport+). The first duel went to the Fivers at 33:28. Linz President Bernhard Ditachmair would be right with the Margaretners.