Fortunately, handball is a sport that is played indoors. On the last day of November, it was -10°C in Kiel in northern Germany. Thankfully, the atmosphere quickly heated up in the Wunderino Arena when the German club's 10,00 fans all stood up as one to pay tribute to Nikola Karabatic before kick-off. The "boss" was a player of the "Zebras", the nickname of the German team, between 2005 and 2009.
With him, Kiel won their first Champions League in 2007. The city has not forgotten him and the three-time Olympic champion received a standing ovation worthy of the mark he left there. He left with a gift, well wrapped, the contents of which are unknown. After retiring at the end of the season, Nikola Karabatic will not return to play for Kiel, a club that has also seen Thierry Omeyer, Daniel Narcisse, Jérôme Fernandez and PSG's Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Palicka among many others.
60': It's over in Kiel... Despite a good second half, Paris lost in the final moments...#Handball #Paris #PSG #PSGHand #Sport #EHFCL #ChampionsLeague #Kiel #KIELPSG pic.twitter.com/yzQMmjIoib
— PSG Handball (@psghand) November 30, 2023
Now, another Frenchman wears the colours of the German club: goalkeeper Samir Bellahcene. Selected on the same day in the extended list of players called up to prepare for the Euros next January, he played for Massy and Dunkirk, and arrived in September as Vincent Gérard's medical joker. The number 1 goalkeeper of the France team will have to be strong to dislodge him because Bellahcene is breathtaking.
Samir Bellahcene, Kiel's French goalkeeper, disgusted the PSG players. Photo by Icon sport PictureAlliance / Icon Sport
In any case, he quickly disgusted the Parisian attackers from the start of the match. He stopped everything to give Kiel a big lead: 4-0 after 5 minutes and 7 saves for Bellahcene. Paris, which has made the bold choice to put several youngsters in the 7 Major such as Sadou N'Tanzi or Adama Keita, did not panic. But he had all the trouble in the world to make up for this initial delay. At the break, PSG still had that significant lead (15-10) from the start of the match. But it melted despite the polar cold of northern Germany.
Paris won't finish in the top two
Paris started the second half in strong mode to come back to 16-15 (38′) and even take the lead (18-19, 41′). PSG held on until money time. But after missing the first five minutes, PSG also missed the last five before losing 26-24.
With this defeat, the third in the group stage, to which must be added a draw against Kolstad, PSG's situation in the standings is not getting any better. Paris are also on a 4-match winless run in the tournament, a record run. It's almost official now: Paris will not finish in the top two of Group A and therefore will not qualify directly for the quarter-finals of the Champions League. We will have to go through the tricky round of 8. It's not dramatic and doesn't prevent the champion club from still claiming the European title at the beginning of June. It just complicates the timeline a little bit more and makes the path longer and more difficult.