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Disastrous Start — 20-25 home loss to newly promoted Coburg

The new season started for MT Melsungen with a bitter pill. Newly promoted HSC 2000 Coburg surprisingly handed the team its well-deserved first loss 20-25 (10-11). Playing before 3,268 spectators at Kassel's Rothenbach Hall, the team from North Hesse was simply unable to continue the outstanding performance from last season. After falling behind quickly 0-3, the MT never found its rhythm and was unable to extend or sustain its leads. Seven goals from Jeffrey Boomhouwer, including four from the seven metre line, could not compensate for the team's poor form. For the HSC, Steffen Coßbau struck home five times, including two penalty throws.

Harung photo: Left wing Jeffrey Boomhouwer and his 7/4 tally made him top overall scorer.

An easy and relaxed season opener this was not for coach Michael Roth and the MT Melsungen. Four players were out with injuries for the match against HSC 2000 Coburg, including three starters and workhorses from last season: keeper Sjöstrand, left wing Michael Allendorf and pivot man Marino Maric. Newly acquired Gabor Langhans was also forced to sit out injured. In their place were three players from the club's youth teams: Johannes Golla and Jan Grolla, both of whom played with the Bundesliga side last year, and Fin Backs, currently a member of the Juniors A side. Coburg had its own personnel issues, with key player Florian Billek banned after a disqualification in the DHB Cup match from last weekend.

The HSC started into its first Bundesliga match in club history with the ball, and immediately converted its first goal, from the hand of Romas Kirveliavicius. The host's start was much more choppy. Neither Jeffrey Boomhouwer nor, shortly thereafter, Johannes Sellin could put the ball past Jan Kulhanek in the guest goal. Momir Rnic continued the poor luck after Kirveliavicius' 2nd goal, and then Nico Büdel punctuated the disastrous start for Melsungen with his shot for 0-3 (6th minute).

It would take a while for the favourites to climb back in. They were clearly aided by Büdel's first suspension, but also through strong defensive work by Philipp Müller and Felix Danner in the inner block. The MT would nevertheless have to live through a missed Sellin penalty through before Momir Rnic finally scored the season's first goal on ten minutes (1-3, 11th minute). Boomhouwer's deadly accuracy helped the hosts shrink and ultimately reverse the deficit, with the Dutchman's fifth goal putting the MT ahead for the first time at 7-6 (19th minute).

It didn't last long, however, with Kirveliavicius swinging the advantage back to the HSC with a brace of goals (7-8). His day was soon over after hitting Tim Schneide in the face for a disqualification (22nd). The match remained unsettled in all degrees, with tense moments coming from the many intense duels requiring close watch by the referee duo of Behrens/Fasthoff. Further goals however were scarce up to the half. Even so, Arjan Haenen threw his first goal in the North Hesse kit (9-9, 28th minute), only to see his team head to the dressing rooms behind after a last-second strike from Adnan Harmandic.

For the second half René Villadsen took over for the largely ineffective Svetislav Verkic in the Melsungen goal and immediately made two lovely blocks against Harmandic and Tom Wetzel. On the other side of the court, Boomhouwer was unfortunate as his penalty throw struck the lower edge of the crossbar and bounced back into the court. Timm Schneider and Felix Danner then struck for a 12-11 lead by the host. The home side was clearly under strict instructions to avoid unnecessary turnovers. Coburg was not particularly effective on offence either, although it managed to equalise the MT's strikes each time. Up until Philipp Müller had to have a seat on the bench, Villadsen left his goal in favour of a court player and Stefan Lex grabbed a loose ball on defence and threw it half court into the empty MT goal (14-15, 39th minute).

The goal for 16-15 was a product of brotherly love: Philipp Müller lobbed the leather high into the guest's goal zone, where Michael Müller plucked it from the air and put a bouncer past Jan Kulhanek into the near corner (42nd). But the pretty play couldn't secure the lead. Coburg kept after it, taking advantage of every opportunity. Stand-out players: pivot Sebastian Weber, who oversaw a great deal of action at the edge of the goal zone, and left wing Steffen Coßbau. The pivot on the other side earned top marks as well. Felix Danner proved more than just a sharpshooter, repeatedly earning seven metre fouls that Momir Rnic dutifully planted in the net (19-18, 47th minute).

But the normal flow of play was less successful. Coburg's defence stood stout and when the MT did manage to penetrate, as Momir Rnic did eight minutes before the end, the woodwork seem determined to help block the hosts too. Weber put the guests back in the lead, which was extended by Girts Lilienfelds to 22-20 (55th minute). A suspension on Stefan Lex put Melsungen a man up just three-and-a-half minutes before the end. With seven court players against five guests Arjan Haenen broke through but was thwarted by Koulhanek. Even a man down Harmandic shot his team's 23rd goal before Lilienfelds struck for 24-20, while for the MT Boomhouwer and Haenen each failed to get past Koulhanek. It was all over but the shouting at that point, with the newcomers deservedly earning their first Bundesliga points in their first match, on the road no less.

What they said

Michael Roth: Congratulations to Jan and HSC Coburg on a well-earned win. We were as much surprised by our own performance as our opponent was to have won. You had the feeling that the players might have been looking ahead. We never managed to dig deep and show our grit. The keeper on the other side played an outstanding match as well. Even so, that was a disastrous showing for our part, one that really hurts. The match was still up in the air until just a few minutes before the close, but all aspects of our team failed to perform and all our experience and training weren't enough to carry us. I'm hugely disappointed and we will just need to live with it for now. We have to accept this as a loss and examine each player's performance critically.

Jan Gorr: To walk away from a match with a team like Melsungen with two points, that's probably only going to happen in one of those first games of a season. If you'd laid out the ideal scenario for this match, it would have run pretty much just like it did. Things weren't looking so good for us at all in the beginning, where Nico Büdel already pulled two suspensions and Romas Kirveliavicius, our best backcourt marksman, had been disqualified. But the team came together and worked brilliantly as a unit. During the half we came up with some strategy for the event that the MT got things rolling and we fell behind. So hats off to the team, because when we encountered those situations they managed to find a solution again and again. Our ability to adapt in those situations was the foundation for the win.

Statistics

MT Melsungen: Verkic (3 saves / 11 goals allowed), Villadsen (5 S / 14 GA); Sellin 1, Golla, Fahlgren, Danner 2, P. Müller, Boomhouwer 7/4, Rnic 5/3, Schneider 3, Vuckovic, M. Müller 1, Haenen 1, Backs, Grolla.

HSC 2000 Coburg: Kulhanek (15 S / 18 GA), Krechel (two seven metre throws, 0 S / 2 GA); Hagelin, Wucherpfennig 1, Kelm 1, Weber 4, Lex 3, Coßbau 5/2, Riehn, Büdel 2, Harmandic 2, Lilienfelds 2, Wetzel 1, Kirveliavicius 4.

Referee: Peter Behrens (Düsseldorf) / Marc Fasthoff (Düsseldorf)

Suspensions: 12 – 6 minutes (M. Müller 13:48 20:01, Danner 21:22 39:56, P. Müller 37:28, Rnic 52:14 - Büdel 6:30 12:04, Lex 56:38)

Disqualification: Kirveliavicius (HSC, 21:01)

Penalty throws: 9/7 – 2/2 (Sellin blocked by Kulhanek, Boomhouwer struck crossbar 31-02)

Attendance: 3,268 in Rothenbach Hall, Kassel

Next match:
Sa., 10/9/16, 7:00 pm, HC Erlangen - MT Melsungen (Arena Nürnberg)
We., 14/9/16, 7:00 pm, MT Melsungen (Rothenbach Hall, Kassel)

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