Vardar tame the Barca favouritesArticle
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Macedonian team tie with Karabatic & Co., while local rivals Metalurg win at Thun. Hamburg, Zagreb, Velenje and Paris today’s additional winners.

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

Vardar tame the Barca favourites

A thriller in Skopje, a closer than expected victory in the French capital: Barcelona and Paris, two main contenders for the VELUX EHF FINAL4, had enormous problems in their openers, but in contrast to the Catalans (29:29 at Vardar), PSG took both points against Minsk.

Defending champions HSV Hamburg left La Rioja chanceless behind, Zagreb won the “old duel” against their neighbours from Celje, Metalurg started victorious at Thun and Velenje closely beat Halmstad on Saturday.

Group A:

HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) vs. Celje Pivovarna Laško (SLO) 24:21 (13:10)

After Löwen tied with Zaporozhye and Veszprém took a clear 13-goal victory at St. Petersburg, Zagreb have taken an enormous important victory against their old rivals from Celje, cheered by more than 7000 spectators. Youngster Stipe Mandalinić was top scorer of the Croatian champions by seven goals, while five strikes of Gašper Marguč were not enough for the visitors.

Both sides called it a “path-finding duel”, and in the end the rejuvenated hosts took a well-deserved and never endangered opening victory.

After the equal start (6:6) Zagreb were in lead all the time, but could not cast off their neighbours before the break. Right at the start of the second half, the gap was four goals for the first time at 14:10 – and latest when leading 17:12  the hosts were on the winners’ way – paved by Mandalinić and Ivan Stevanović.

Though Marguč scored some spectacular goals in the final stages, Celje could not catch-up closer than to four goals.

Zagreb coach Boris Dvoršek was satisfied with the opening win: “We played very good in defence, as Celje only scored 21 goals. I am not happy with our performance in attack, but I know we can do better and so I am not worried.” Stipe Mandalinić, the man of the match, was also not happy with the offensive performance: “We have to work on that and do what we do in training. I am sure we can play better.”

Surprisingly Celje's coach Vladan Matić was also not happy with the attack but satisfied with the defence performance: “It was a really hard match for us. We have to work on offence. I believe that hard matches like this one are very important for both of our young teams.”

Group C:

PSG Handball (FRA) vs. HC Dinamo Minsk (BLR) 34:30 (12:11)

After missing the goal to win the French Super Cup, PSG handball managed to start their international campaign successfully – but it was high mountain to climb until reinforced Belarusian champions had been defeated.

In the end, Paris had the better alternatives on the bench and a brilliant Luc Abalo on the right wing, scoring eight times for the French champions.

On the other hand, Minsk newcomer Sergey Shelmenko hit the net seven times.

Despite the clear advantages by the names on the match report, Paris had enormous problems to take their first points. The first 40 minutes were on the edge, and Minsk were even close to a major surprise, when they were away by 22:19 in minutes 45.

But then Abalo started his mission, and after a double strike of the two times Olympic, world and European champions Paris re-took the lead at 24:23 and later another Abalo goal was starting point for the winners’ strike, forging ahead to 28:24.

“It was a tough game, and we lacked concentration in some periods of the match. But we know that we need to go step by step. But when you win a match like this without being on regular level, it is really encouraging,” said Paris coach Philippe Gardent.

And PSG player Marko Kopljar recognised: “We still need to work, because playing in Skopje next week should definitely be tougher than today. Minsk played very well, and without our finally improved defence, Minsk might have deserved to win."

On the other hand, Dinamo newcomer Ivan Ninčević stated that “when we were four goals ahead at some point, we should have nailed it. But we missed easy shots, and Paris didn't stop believing in their fate, and when you face players like Narcisse and Abalo, you can't afford that”.

Watch the highlights of the match on:

Wacker Thun (SUI) vs. HC Metalurg (MKD) 22:23 (9:13)

Last season’s VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-finalist Metalurg nearly failed at the Swiss debutants.

But the lucky Macedonians prevented a draw in the last second of the match, by ticking down the clock in Bern.

The last Thun’s chance was a direct free throw with the final whistle, which was blocked.

Wacker showed a brave fighting spirit in their first Champions League match.

But in the end ten weak minutes right before the break were enough to get defeated.

In this period Metalurg increased the gap from a 7:7 to the 13:9 halftime result – and after the break this cushion was enough to take the first two points of the season without any glamour or glory.

After the 23:18 four minutes before the end they “stopped” playing, allowing Borca Franić to score for 22:23 32 seconds before the end – but then the deal was sealed, mainly thanks to the overall of 17 saves of Metalurg goalkeeper Darko Stanić.

“We’re obviously disappointed with the result, but this match showed that we can compete on international level. I am very pleased with our performance defensively today, but we missed too many clear opportunities in the offence, Darko Stanić was world class,” Wacker coach Martin Rubin stated after the match.

Stanić congratulated Wacker Thun to their game: “They put up a great fight today and were a tough opponent. But we have to improve our game if we want to keep up with teams like PSG.”

Metalurg assistant coach Aleksander Petrovski was not fully satisfied with his team’s performance: “It was a good game by both teams but I felt that at the beginning and the end Thun were the better side. Especially in the last ten minutes we lacked concentration in the defence.”

Top scorers were Naumče Mojsovski (Metalurg) by seven goals and Jonas Dähler, who scored five times for Wacker.

HC Vardar (MKD) vs. FC Barcelona (ESP) 29:29 (15:19)

What a match, what a thriller, what an atmosphere: All handball fans, who did not attend the opener of Vardar, missed a giant performance of the hosting team, which was close to beat big favourites from FC Barcelona in the brothers duel of Filip and Kiril Lazarov.

After the break Vardar turned a six goals backlog around and finally even gave a victory from their hands, while Barca were stumbling, but did not fall.

In the end the Catalans had to thank their goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik, who saved brilliantly twice against the last two Vardar shots, after Nikola Karabatic had levelled the score to 29:29 in the final Barca attack.

Vardar were clear dominant in the opening stages and put enormous pressure on the seven times Champions League winner. The Macedonians – led by their Russian reinforcements – forged ahead to 7:3 – a wake-up call for Barcelona.

Boosted by top scorer Siarhei Rutenka (in total eight goals) the Catalans equalized at 10:10, and then had taken full control of the match, taking a clear four goal advantage to the dressing rooms.

When the result was 21:15 for the guest team, one could believe the deal was sealed – but then the incredible ten minutes of Vardar newcomer Alex Dujshebaev had started: By scoring three goals he started the catch-up chase against his Spanish country-fellows, added by goals of additional newcomers Matjaž Brumen and Timur Dibirov (best Vardar scorer by eight goals). The hall went crazy, when Skopje first equalized and the even took the lead at 25:24.

And in the final stages the host were highly close to send Barcelona home empty-handed.

Vardar coach Zoran Kastratović was highly satisfied: “Against a strong team of Barcelona we showed what we had announced before the start of season. If we manage to keep Barca below 30 goals we could play on equal level with Spanish champions. Sometimes David is able to beat Goliath, and this evening Vardar was the David.

For Barcelona coach Xavier Pascual his team “showed a really good period in the last 15 minutes of the first half and the start of the second half. It was very hard to play in this atmosphere and we know that game will be difficult especially because as it the first Champions league match of the season.”

Macedonian Barcelona super star Kiril Lazarov shares the opinion of his coach, knowing the atmosphere in Skopje, but: “During the game we though we already had finished our work, but our rival knew how to punish our mistakes.

Vardar showed an excellent game, and in future I think they will be much better. We could not win the games just with our name – Barcelona. VELUX EHF Champions League just begun and this result is good to take next matches more seriously.”

Group D:

Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) vs. HSV Hamburg (GER) 24:33 (8:14)

Like final, like opener: By a victory against a Spanish side HSV Hamburg started the Group Phase, like they had finished last season’s final. The clear result proves the HSV ambitions also in this season, while La Rioja were taught a lesson – especially by the Hamburg defence in the first half.

Backed by the saves of newcomer Marcus Cleverly, HSV forged ahead very early. After the 3:3 the defending champions scored five straight times, as La Rioja did not hit the goal for eleven minutes. As left back Blaženko Lacković and right wing Stefan Schröder were unstoppable for the Spanish defence, Hamburg easily extended the gap to pre-decisive six goals at the break.

And Schröder, who became top scorer by nine goals, remained the driving force for the Germans in the second half, acting like a goal machine. Thanks to him the pre-decision was taken latest in minute 39, when he scored for the 19:11.

When La Rioja reduced to 17:23, HSV coach Martin Schwalb took his time-out – and found the right words, as his players extended the margin to double figures for the first time at 29:19 seven minutes before the end. Best scorer for La Rioja was Aidenas Malasinskas by five goals.

“It was much tougher then it looked like,” Hamburg coach Martin Schwalb said adding: “You need to be fully concentrated against opponent like La Rioja, otherwise the match can turn around quite quick. A lot of things went right for us today, but not all.”

His Spanish counterpart Jesus Javier Gonzales was impressed by their opponent: “We still live our dream – and it is something very special to start against the defending champions. We were taught a lesson, Hamburg have an outstanding defence with a brilliant goalkeeper – so they were out of reach for us.”

RK Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs. HK DROTT Halmstad (SWE) 35:33 (19:16)

RK coach Ivan Vajdl mentioned before the start of the season that Gorenje Velenje need to win all their home matches if they want to proceed to the Last 16 – and right at the start his players did what the coach had ordered. But it was a highly close win for the hosts, which had lost a huge number of key players before this season.

Velenje were in lead most of the time, but the Swedish champions stood strong in their first ever Group Match of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

After the break Velenje were away mostly by three goals, but Halmstad never surrendered and came close to 27:28 in minute 46, causing a time-out of the hosts, led by their top scorer Anton Halen (in total eight goals).

The message of Ivan Vaidl was clear – but still his players could not decide the match.  Four minutes before the end, the result was 33:31 – and both sides took additional time-outs. But latest when Velenje scored for the 35:32 the first two points of the season had been sealed.

All matches of Group B will take place on Sunday.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br