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21.03.2019, 18:30
Cuenca haven’t spoken their last word yet
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FEATURE: Cuenca are left with only a minor chance of reaching the Men’s EHF Cup Quarter-finals but they hope to keep their dream alive by upsetting Group C leaders Porto on Sunday
 

Cuenca haven’t spoken their last word yet

For Liberbank Cuenca a dream has come true this season as they are playing in a European Cup competition for the first time in the club’s history. But two matches ahead of the end of the Men’s EHF Cup Group Phase, the Spanish side is the last-ranked team in Group C with two points.

However, Cuenca haven’t spoken their last word yet.

Next up are group leaders FC Porto Sofarma, who are visiting the El Sargal arena on Sunday at 12:00 CET (live on ehfTV.com). Cuenca are focussing on a victory, not only to make their many fans happy, but also to possibly keep that tiny quarter-final chance alive.

"We must be optimistic and fight until the end"

With four wins from as many matches, Porto have been the strongest team in the group and have put one foot in the quarter-finals already.

“We know it’s not going to be easy, but we must be optimistic and fight until the end for our fans and for our team, who deserves everything,” says Angel Montoro, world champion with Spain in 2013 and one of the most experienced players of the team.

In the first round, Cuenca suffered a big 11-goal defeat in Porto, 37:26.

“It was our first match in the group stage and against a team which can easily become the champions,” Montoro says. “We blame that defeat on our inexperience and nervousness.”

While the Spanish right back is aware of Porto’s strength, he believes that it’s “not impossible” to beat them.

“They have more quality but we know what they will play,” Montoro says. “If we are good enough to stop their first attacks, they will have doubts and we will have our chances. It’s important to not stop fighting and to have an open match until the last minutes.”

For Montoro, Cuenca’s tactics for Sunday are clear: “Come out with intensity and be very strong in the first defensive actions.”

Cuenca have grown since that opening defeat in Porto six weeks ago. Also, the team is stronger at home, playing in front of their fans, which belong to the biggest and most passionate in Spain.

Cuenca got their sole victory in the group stage a week later at home against TTH Holstebro (26:24). Then they lost twice against HC Dobrogea Sud Constanta, 34:26 in Romania and by just two (28:26) at home the following week.

In their domestic ASOBAL League, Cuenca are fighting to finish on one of the European places again. They won eight of their last 10 matches, with only a defeat against Barça Lassa and an away draw with BM Logroño La Rioja.

The Spanish league is more competitive than ever. Barça are the exception, but there is a big fight going on between many teams just below the dominating champions.

“Our goal is to qualify for Europe again to confirm the good job we are doing and to continue the upward trend of the club over the last seasons,” Montoro says.

It's Montoro's first season with Cuenca - but also his last

The 2.13-metre tall right back is the second-best scorer for Cuenca in the EHF Cup with 21 goals, while Brazilian left back Leonardo Dutra stands out with with 40.

Montoro is only in his first season with Cuenca - after two years in Logroño - but it will also be his last. In the summer he moves to Kadetten Schaffhausen in Switzerland.

“I came here because I needed to gain confidence and playing time. Now it’s time to go back to a team in the Champions League,” he explains.

Montoro, who turns 30 next month, played for Ademar, Barça, Tolouse, Wisla Plock and Logroño in the past. In Cuenca he felt stronger again.

“I’m very thankful to Cuenca and coach Lidio Jiménez. He has always supported me, even in bad moments. He has played a key role in the club’s achievements,” says Montoro, who hopes to say ‘goodbye’ with a win on Sunday and with qualification for Europe again for next season.


TEXT: Laia Coll / ew
 
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