Third defeat of reigning winners, Skopje close to top eightArticle
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Russian title holders defeat defending champions THW Kiel in the first leg of the last 16, while Metalurg take the win from Minsk

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Third defeat of reigning winners, Skopje close to top eight

Chechovskie Medvedi and Metalurg Skopje took the first wins in the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 as the defending champions THW Kiel suffered their first defeat in 2013 and third in the season on the court of the Russian title holders and Macedonian outfit succeeded in the first part of the battle of two qualifiers in Minsk. However, in both cases the cushions which Chekhov and Skopje take to the second leg are too small and joy could prove as premature.

Last 16, first leg:

Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS) vs THW Kiel (GER) 37:35 (19:17)

"Bears" can hope to eliminate THW Kiel in the last 16. Thanks to a brilliant attacking performance including ten goals of top scorer Sergii Gorbok they beat Kiel on home ground.

In the third ever duel of those teams it was the first victory for Medvedi, while THW have to catch-up three goals in the re-match on 24 March. Additionally it was the first Medvedi victory against a German team in the current season after three draws and one defeat against Flensburg and Hamburg, and the third Kiel away defeat after losing at Celje and Veszprém in the group phase.

With the total output of 72 scored goals the encounter in Chekhov reached the fourth biggest number of goals in the current season only topped by 77 goals in THW Kiel – Sävehof IK (43:34), 75 goals at Kadetten Schaffhausen – Füchse Berlin (35:40) and 74 goals at SG Flensburg-Handewitt – Montpellier MAHB (37:37).

The whole match was only imprinted by the attack sides of both teams, defence was nearly not existing. And both leaders of their domestic leagues could count on their hammer shooters from the back court axis: Sergii Gorbok for Medvedi and Filip Jícha and Momir Ilić for THW. But the best scorer after 30 minutes was Russian counter-attack specialist Timur Dibirov who netted in five times, additionally the defending champions could not stop line player Mikhail Chipurin.

The first half was completely equal with full power and full speed. While Kiel were in lead most of the time in the first 20 minutes, Chekhov turned the page in the final minutes, scoring a 5:1 series after the 14:15 to 19:16. They had to replace their injured players Daniil Shishkarev and Dmitry Kovalev, but thanks to the goalkeeper change from Richard Štochl to Oleg Grams and the cold as ice penalties by Eduard Koksharov.

After the break the shooting and scoring without end continued. After 38 minutes 47 goals had already been stroke at 24:23. Thanks to a 3:0 series Kiel equalized at 24:24, but still lacked precision in defence, but now could count on some saves of goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer.

Boosted by more confidence, THW took the lead again at 26:25 and Marko Vujin extended it to two goals for the time in the second half at 29:27 in minute 45. But in contrast to the matches against Montpellier, Hamburg or Flensburg in the group phase, Medvedi did not run low on power, but stood strong, strengthening their defence and firing on all cylinders again. Thanks to a 7:2 series in eight minutes, the Russian team forged ahead to 34:31, when Gorbok scored his ninth goal.

Kiel were under pressure five minutes before the end. As the old star Koksharov scored his sixth penalty goal for 35:32 the victory for Medvedi was close to come. THW coach Alfred Gislason took his time-out 120 seconds before the buzzer, but Gorbok’s tenth strike even increased the gap to 37:33, before the THW scored the last two goals, which might be decisive in the end.

Dinamo Minsk (BLR) vs HC Metalurg Skopje (MKD) 23:26 (12:14)

Metalurg Skopje are on the way to their first ever quarter-final of the VELUX EHF Champions League. Thanks to a hard-earned away victory at Minsk the Macedonian team have a promising base for the second leg on home ground – and took revenge for the defeat in the final of the 2010 qualification tournament for the European top flight in Lisbon. Naumče Mojsovski was the top scorer with nine goals.

In contrast to the match in Chekhov, defence was the key in Minsk – and Metalurg was the clearly better team in this department in the opening period. Minsk scored only twice in the first ten minutes, allowing Skopje a 5:2 lead.

But from middle of the first half on the hosts found their rhythm, reducing the gap to 6:8, especially by back court goals like from Vasko Ševaljević. And when the Montenegrin scored his second penalty goal in minute 25, the match was open again at 10:10. Aside Sergij Onufriyenko and Pavel Atman had their guns on fire, causing a Metalurg time-out at 12:12 three minutes before the break.

The goalkeeper Nikola Mitrevski secured the two goal halftime lead for the Macedonian champions by saving another Ševaljević penalty right before the buzzer.

Metalurg coaching legend Lino Červar found the right words in the dressing room. His team clearly improved after the break, building up their solid rock defence wall again. Minsk had problems to score, while Skopje forged ahead to four goals, when Mojsovski hit the net by a penalty for 21:17.

Dinamo were running lower and lower in their shooting efficiency – and it took the Belarusian side 20 minutes to score their fifth goal after the break for 19:23, as Metalurg goalkeeper Mitrevski stood like a wall and his teammates in defence were made of concrete.

But when Dinamo had a two man advantage new hopes arose, as Atman & Co. were able to come closer to only 21:24, with Metalurg getting nervous. Another suspension against Renato Vugrinec continued the Macedonian downswing, causing hectic on the bench and another goal for 22:24. Five minutes before the end everything was open again and both coaches Sergej Bebeshko and Lino Červar took their time-outs to instruct their teams for the final stages in only two minutes.

With the “minister of defence” Darko Stanić back in the goal, Skopje remained on the winner’s way and had withstood the late Minsk storm by scoring the 25:22.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br