Penalty at the buzzer keeps Metalurg in thirdArticle
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MATCH REVIEW: Thrilling Match of the Week: Minsk let victory slip from their hands, while Macedonian side take lucky but crucial draw.

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Penalty at the buzzer keeps Metalurg in third

It was a thriller, it was a stunner, and the final result was decided by a penalty shot right with the final buzzer: There’s nothing more to expect in terms of thrill in a Match of the Week.

Although they had already been eliminated from contention for the knock-out stages, Dinamo Minsk gave all to say farewell with their fans in their last home match of the season. But with the dying seconds, Metalurg Skopje scored to make it 23:23 and exactly gained the result they wanted and they needed to secure the third position in VELUX EHF Champions League Group C.

Group C:

Dinamo Minsk vs. Metalurg Skopje 23:23 (13:11)

(Reverse fixture: 33:29)

Even if their local rivals Vardar beat Wacker Thun later on Sundaý, they are level on ten points and both Macedonian sides are clear underdogs in their final group matches at Paris St.Germani (Vardar) and at home against Barcelona (Metalurg).

“We got the point we wanted to have, I am really satisfied,” said Metalurg right back Renato Vugrinec, who regularly takes the penalty shots for his team – but not in the crucial moment of the last second, when Goce Ojleski hit the net from the seven metre line. “I was not good today, so I told him: Do it, Goce! And he did it,” said Vugrinec.

The Match of the Week was imprinted by the tactics of two coaching masterminds. Boris Denic on the Dinamo side, who led the Slovenian national team to the semi-finals of the 2013 World Championship, and Lino Cervar, who was the key for the Croatian gold medals at the 2003 World Championship and the 2004 Olympic Games.

Denic managed to mix the “good old Russian school” with tall shooters and a strong defence with the Slovenian influence (and four Slovenian players) of fast counter-attack match play.

But in the opening stages, the low-goal and low-speed tactics of Cervar dominated the game. After nine minutes the spectators in the Minsk Sport Palace had only seen four goals with the host leading by 3:1, ten minutes later the score was only 6:3 in a real defensive battle, already imprinted in the early stages by the great saves of Metalurg goalkeeper Darko Stanic, who kept his team in the game, which was quite weak in attack in the first 25 minutes.

Even a Cervar time-out did not stop the downswing of the Macedonian side, as Minsk took full control – mainly thanks to their Slovenian back court axis. So it was no surprise that strong Dean Bombac was the one to bring the first five goal lead for Dinamo at 11:6.

This goal was something of a wake-up call and turning point for Metalurg. Scoring four consecutive goals in a period, when they, unusual for them, accelerated and the game a contest once again at 11:10.

Wasteful Dinamo

At the break Minsk were ahead by only two goals, as the number of technical mistakes and missed chances had risen significantly in Boris Denic's team.

It was only a matter of time before Metalurg would level the scores. And the time had come at 15:15 just nine minutes into the second half. Minsk were shaken by Stanic and his saves, on the other hand Metalurg did not manage to take the lead in this period of a match, which had become a tough and combative battle.

When they were ahead by 17:15, Minsk missed five chances to get the first three goal lead in the second half – either Stanic saved or they completely missed the goal.

On the other hand, Metalurg tried their luck in counter-attacks, but also failed, so experienced Renato Vugrinec, former Minsk player Pavel Atman and Croatian newcomer Luka Cindric took the responsibility from the back court positions with long range shooting and inspired passes to the line players.

The match was on a knife-edge, Minsk always took the lead, while Metalurg directly equalised in their next attack. When crunch time had started three minutes before the end the score was 22:22.

Thanks to a spectacular lob goal by Ivan Nincevic, Minsk took the lead again, while on the other side a Vugrinec shot was blocked. 90 seconds before the end. When Velko Markovski received a two minutes suspension, Metalurg were short-handed in the final minute.

But thanks to a Stanic save, the Macedonians had the chance to equalise once again. Time-out Cervar and 20 seconds on the clock. Metalurg replaced Stanic for an additional court player. And when Luka Cindric broke through the defence and was fouled by Bundalo at the final buzzer, the decision was a penalty. Goce Ojleski was cold as ice to hit the net to make it 23:23.

“We started very badly without concentration in defence and took the wrong decisions in attack at the beginning. But after the break we improved, played much more concentrated and allowed less mistakes,” reflected Lino Cervar.

“It was a tough match of two strong teams. We had the chances to increase the gap, but missed. So we are disappointed that we could not present a victory to our fans,” concluded Minsk coach Boris Denic.

TEXT: Björn Pazen