Fourth victories for Barcelona and MetalurgArticle
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Spanish and Macedonian champions top their groups after clear wins on Saturday.

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Fourth victories for Barcelona and Metalurg

Clear victory, clear defeat for Balkan teams: While HC Metalurg remain with a clear spot by beating St. Petersburg, Zagreb were defeated by Barcelona on home ground despite a great support of 12.000 spectators. Like the Macedonians, Barca remain on top with the optimum of eight points.

Group C:

HC Metalurg (MKD) vs. St. Petersburg HC (RUS) 32:19 (15:11)

Who else than goalkeeper Darko Stanić could have been the tower of power for Metalurg Skopje – the Serbian international broke the resistance of the Russian team very early, backing his side by some spectacular saves. When he had sealed the deal for his team with 15 saved shots, Stanić was allowed to rest in the middle of the second half.

The match was as one-sided as the result looks like, though St. Petersburg was quite close until the break. But then Metalurg accelerated, while the guests lost power. The icing of the cake was a “kempa” goal by Renato Vugrinec, the top scorer of the match with 11 goals.

Thanks to this clear victory Metalurg top the table by eight points, at least until Sunday evening when Kielce (six points) play at Chambéry. In Round 5 the powerhouses face in Poland. St. Petersburg could not continue the way they played against Chambéry last week, when they took their first and only victory.

Group D:
RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) vs. FC Barcelona Intersport (ESP) 21:32 (12:13)

In contrast to the previous season, when the final result was a +1 for the record winner of the EHF Champions League, the Catalans this year had no problems in taking their fourth victory. And in contrast to the weak performance against Minsk at home in Round 3, Barcelona only had to struggle hard in the first 30 minutes.

On the other hand the rejuvenated Zagreb team stood strong, but in the end the alternatives were missing to endanger the top ranked team of the group. Top scorer for the winners was Juanín Garcia, who scored six goals. In the starting minutes the hosts were in lead, but in minute 12 Barca equalized for the first time. But the Croats again went away to 10:6, before the defense of the guests improved – at the break Barcelona were in lead by 13:12.

Thanks to goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik, Barcelona then took control after 15:14 and extended the gap to 24:15, allowing Zagreb only one goal in 15 minutes. Latest then the game was decided – the seventh victory in the eighth match of Barcelona in Zagreb.

The hosts remain with three points before the four weeks break. Zlatko Horvat and Luka Stepančić scored 6 goals for Zagreb.

It was in the end well-deserved win for the Spanish champion, but it was also a great match for Zagreb youngsters to gain experience in front of 12.000 spectators and to learn from one of the best teams in the world.

After the match Barcelona coach Xavier Pascual said: “It was a good match. In the first half Zagreb played well in defence and it prevented us from making a bigger goal difference. In the second half we played a lot better in defence and that led to a lot of easy goals from counter-attacks and in the end it may seem as an easy win.''

Goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik added: “I'd like to congratulate to Zagreb especially to their goalkeeper Filip Ivić who was their most important player, and had a lot of great saves. In the first half they surprised us as we expected them to play faster but they didn't and it slowed our rhytm as well.”

Slavko Goluža was full of mixed emotions. “Too bad we didn't use the first half and make some bigger goal difference. In the second half we had too many technical mistakes which surely helped Barcelona. I gave the chance to all of our younger players to see how it is to play big matches in front of 12.000 people. We have a lot to work on but I believe in us.  What more can I say? It's Barca, you have to play at the highest level all the time. You slow down, they speed up and win. That's it,” he said.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br