“That was our worst play-off game”: Linz suffered a clear defeat in the final

“That was our worst play-off game”: Linz suffered a clear defeat in the final
Mislav Grgic (right) and the Linz team got stuck in the Harder defense too often.

On Tuesday, HC Linz AG lost the first final game of the “Best of 3” series for the Austrian handball championship title against favorite HC Hard with 26:32 (13:16).

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“That was definitely our worst game in the play-offs, but I’m confident that we’ll do better at home,” said Linz backcourt player Nicolas Paulnsteiner.

HC Linz must win the second final game on Friday (8.30 p.m.) in Linz-Kleinmüchen to force a deciding match. This would take place next Wednesday in Hard.

Strong Constantin Möstl

The Upper Austrians were the first team in the history of the domestic handball play-offs to make it into the finals as eighth in the preliminary round. The Vorarlberg team – winners of the preliminary round – started off in style:

Constantin Möstl became a factor early on. The national team goalkeeper in the Harder goal recorded seven saves in the first 15 minutes.

In the end, the 24-year-old, who can once again become champion this year after winning the title with West Vienna last year, made 15 saves and had a save rate of 36 percent. Möstl thus helped the home team to a calm start. For much of the first half, the Vorarlberg team led by three goals.

There was no sign of the disadvantage that they had to play a third semi-final against Krems last Friday – Linz had a week’s break. “There was enough time to regenerate,” said Hard coach Hannes Jon Jonsson. His counterpart, Linz coach Milan Vunjak, felt that his team lacked the necessary punch at the back and at the front. “Don’t rush, stay calm,” the Slovenian instructed his players when Hard pulled ahead to 15:10 shortly before the break.

Red card for Antanavicius

In particular, the powerful Lithuanian Karolis Antanavicius often made the Linz defense look like extras. “He bombed the things in from ten, eleven meters,” analyzed Linz defense specialist Moritz Bachmann.

But the more offensive the defense became, the more space Dejan Babic found: The Harder pivot, who had worn the Linz jersey last season, was almost unstoppable with seven goals. Only his teammate Ivan Horvat (11) was better. Antanavicius was sent off with a red card in the 41st minute after hitting Mislav Grgic (7 goals) in the face with his elbow.

This didn’t change the outcome of the game much. Hard kept the Linz team at bay until the end and ultimately won comfortably with 32:26.

Demand for tickets for Friday’s home game in Linz-Kleinmünchen is high. Given the advance sales, club officials are assuming that the tickets will be sold out. Tickets are being sold via the ticketmaster.at website.

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