Vardar get away victory at homeArticle
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MATCH REVIEW: Clear win in All-Macedonian duel against Metalurg, while Barca and Löwen easily grab the points in Thursday’s matches.

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

Vardar get away victory at home

Vardar Skopje are the winners of the first ever VELUX EHF Champions League duel of two clubs from one city – and the Macedonian champions clashed the runners-up (and hosts of the first leg) Metalurg clearly in a fully packed Boris Trajkovski Arena on Thursday evening.

Aside Rhein Neckar Löwen and FC Barcelona continued on the winners’ way by two clear victories.

Group A:

Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) vs. HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) 34:26 (21:11)

Rhein Neckar Löwen easily ended their home curse against RK Zagreb – and took their third straight victory to consolidate their second position in this group. A strong performance in the first half was enough to take their first ever home victory in the third attempt against a Croatian team, which showed great moral after the break, never gave up and had the top scorer in their squad: Stipe Mandalinic, who netted in nine times.

But the match had already been decided at the break, when the distance were ten goals – the highest advance of the German team were twelve goals.

The crucial period in this later-on one-sided encounter was, when Löwen marched ahead from 9:7 to 15:8 to break the Zagreb resistance very early.

The Croats remain on four points like the team from Celje, which will host table topper MKB Veszprem on Sunday.

Boosted by six of an overall of seven goals of Uwe Gensheimer before the break, the compact defence and the saves of goalkeeper Niklas Landin, Löwen were in a full control. In the final stages they decelerated and gave playing time to young Croatian-born goalkeeper Roko Peribonio, who not only had his debut in the VELUX EHF Champions League, but also faced the club his father had played for before.

Group C:

HC Dinamo Minsk (BLR) vs. FC Barcelona (ESP) 25:35 (15:16)

The brothers’ duel of the Rutenka family  - attended by the record number of 15,320 spectators in the Minsk Arena - was a clear matter for Siarhei: Not only his eight goals – compared to three of his brother Dziannis – were the key for the fourth Barcelona victory in their fifth match. The Catalans remain the unbeaten leader of this group by nine points now, while Minsk remain on four points.

Boosted by their fans and despite a hectic start of both teams, Dinamo took their first two goal lead at 12:10, after Barcelona more or less had controlled the match. Until the break the seven times Champions League champions turned the match around again – and decided the duel finally in only eight minutes right after the break.

While the Belarusian champions did not score in this period, Barca added six straight goals to their tally for the pre-decisive score of 22:16.

Goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik stood strong and the counter-attacks broke the necks of the hosts, who did not recover from this series until the end and finally were beaten by a double-figured result – the third time in five matches, in which Barcelona outdistanced their opponent by ten or more goals.

Aside Rutenka, Kiril Lazarov was Barca’s top scorer with seven strikes, Maxim Babichev stroke six times for Minsk.

HC Metalurg (MKD) vs. HC Vardar – Skopje (MKD) 22:27 (9:14)

They were dancing on the court, singing with their vociferous spectators and having a party right after the final whistle: Vardar Skopje players, staff and spectators jumped for joy after winning the “away match” in their regular Champions League venue, the Boris Trajkovski Arena. On the other hand, Metalurg left the court empty-handed and heads held low after getting defeated in an unexpected clear manner.

Like in the final and decisive match of last season’s Macedonian league, Vardar took the upper hand and are equal with their local rivals by six points now in the ranking. Next week Vardar will be hosting this highly emotional duel.

"I have to congratulate to Vardar. They were the better team tonight and deserved to win. I have to admit our defeat, as we can play much better. Tonight I like to congratulate, not to speak about things that I don't like,” was the opinion of Metalurg coach Lino Cervar.

On the other hand, interim Vardar coach Andon Boskovski, especially praised his goalkeeper: “We had more players for a bigger rotation and we had Strahinja Milic. If you have the better goalkeeper, it is much easier to win. I don’t like to underestimate other players, but our goalkeeper was the key for success. For us this was a normal win. I hope both teams will secure their spots for the Last 16.”

The key to success was already the brilliant initial period of Vardar, when they beat Metalurg by their own weapons – strong defence, patient and efficient attacks. The loud and frenetic fans on the stands went crazy when their team forged ahead to 7:3 after only 12 minutes and causing a Metalurg time-out at 12:7. Even a goalkeeper change from Darko Stanic to Rade Mijatovic did not stop the downswing in this All-Macedonian duel, which intermediately was a personal duel of two Russian internationals.

On the one hand Timur Dibirov – finally overall top scorer by nine goals – hit the net from all cylinders - wing position, counter attacks and penalty shots - and was the most significant player of the game. On the other hand his country fellow Pavel Atman prevented Metalurg by his power shot goals from the back court area from an early decision.

Led by Atman, Metalurg reduced the gap, but were not able to get closer than four goals before the break.

In the second half Metalurg coach Lino Cervar changed his defence tactics to a more offensive version, but in the beginning nothing changed, in contrast: Vardar again went ahead to six goals at 19:13 and 22:16.

But then the game became tougher and combative – and Metalurg were clutching at their last straw, when Naumce Mojsovski reduced the gap to only 20:23. But finally the goals of Igor Karacic (7 in total) and Dibirov, who scored the 26:22, decided the emotional game.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br