Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb: Obrvan sackedArticle
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Croatian coach and former team-mate Goluza takes over.

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Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb: Obrvan sacked, Goluza takes over

Croatian national team coach Slavko Goluza has taken over in a caretaker role at the country’s champions and VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-finalists Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb until the end of the season after Ivica Obrvan was sacked on Monday (16 April), following the team’s 30:29 defeat by Macedonian rivals Vardar Skopje in their SEHA League semi-final at the weekend.

Goluza, who steered Croatia to the bronze medal at EHF EURO 2012 in January and who is aiming for a podium finish at the London 2012 Olympics will jump into the hot seat only a few days before the crucial VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-final first leg tie with German giants THW Kiel on Saturday 21 April.

Goluza and Obrvan were team mates at RK Badel Zagreb for many years, including the EHF Champions League Final matches in the 1994/95 season, when the Croats lost against FC Barcelona.

With the winners of the two-leg tie progressing through to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne at the end of May, Goluza faces the tough task of defying the odds to eliminate one of the strongest teams in the VELUX EHF Champions League, who won Europe’s premier club competition in 2007 and 2010.

Wednesday’s (18 April) Croatian league match with NEXE will be Goluza’s dress rehearsal for the first leg against Kiel which is set to draw a capacity crowd in the Croatian capital.

“They called me to help out and we took no time to reach agreement,” Goluza told the Croatian media after he was unveiled as Zagreb’s caretaker coach. “I saw good and bad things in the team’s last two games and we will do what we can to eliminate the weaknesses before the match with NEXE,” he added.

Obrvan was confident he would keep his job after Zagreb’s 31:29 win over Slovakia’s Tatran Presov in the third-place SEHA League play-off but the defeat by Vardar, who won the SEHA League with a 21:18 defeat of city rivals Metalurg Skopje in the final, cost him dearly.

“Finishing third in the SEHA League is the kind of failure that also inflicted financial losses so we had no choice but to make a tough decision,” Zagreb director Josip Guberina said, adding that the players too would be fined for a lacklustre performance against Vardar.
Instead of the perfect interlude they expected for the clash with Kiel, Zagreb failed to live up to expectations in the SEHA League after finishing top in the regular season and will now have to dig deep into their resources if they are to stand any chance against Kiel.

Vardar Skopje emerged as the unlikely winners of the regional SEHA League, incorporating teams from the former Yugoslavia and Slovakian side Tatran Presov, when they fought back to beat city rivals Metalurg 21:18 in a thrilling final in the Zagreb Arena last weekend.

Speaking to the Croatian media at the time his team were knocked out Obrvan was adamant that he would not be stepping down.

“Vardar spoiled our plans to win the SEHA League and thus set the tone for the clash with Kiel but one poor game should not overshadow what has otherwise been a very good season,” he said.

“I see no reason why I should step down but it’s up to the club’s board to decide at the end of the season.”

HC Metalurg beaten, Vardar clinch victory

HC Metalurg, beaten by Zagreb in the VELUX EHF Champions League Round of 16 this season, must have been relieved to be playing arch-rivals Vardar in the final after edging Tatran 26:25 in which they almost threw away a four-goal half-time lead.

While they got away with an inconsistent display in the semi-final, Metalurg paid a heavy price against Vardar as their attack once again came to a screeching halt in the second half.

They appeared to have the title wrapped up after taking a 15:10 lead early in the second period but Vardar came storming back as their Serbian goalkeeper Strahinja Milic outshone his Metalurg compatriot Darko Stanic in the closing stages. Czech sharpshooter Jan Sobol, Vardar’s top scorer in the final with six goals, was lethal at the other end as Filip Lazarov added four to turn the match on its head and give Vardar a well-deserved 21:18 win.

The outcome also presented Vardar’s Serbian coach Veselin Vujovic with a gratifying victory over Metalurg’s trophy-laden Croatian counterpart Lino Cervar, who had won a haul of major honours with his former club Zagreb and the Croatian national team before he moved to FYR Macedonia.

“We came here as the underdogs and showed that anything is possible if you believe in yourself,” a delighted Vujovic told Macedonian media after the final. “The team showed tremendous character in both games and of course we are overjoyed to go down in history as the winners of the inaugural SEHA League,” added Vujovic.

Vardar’s rivals were given the consolation of individual honours to cheer about, as Metalurg’s Stanic, who racked up 13 saves in the final, was voted the tournament’s best goalkeeper while Zagreb winger Zlatko Horvat clinched the event’s Most Valuable Player award with a total of 17 goals.

Zagreb also made some amends for their defeat by Vardar after beating Tatran 26:25 in the third-place playoff.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic