Medvedi and Celje give favourites a fight on home courtArticle
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GROUP C REVIEW: While Chekhov made a goal feast of their game’s first half against Veszprém, the Macedonian powerhouse Vardar stole both points from Celje and Rhein Neckar Löwen easily cruised past Montpellier.

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Medvedi and Celje give favourites a fight on home court

VELUX EHF FINAL4 contender MKB-MVM Veszprém left Chekhov with a well-deserved but hard-fought victory over Medvedi. The Russian champions managed to keep the visitors' pace for the first half but when Veszprém put their defence together Chekhov lost their attacking edge, which kept them in the game for much longer than expected.

In the second game of the group's action on Saturday RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko, the team with the youngest age average (22 years) took on the oldest (30 years) and heaviest (100,4 kg) squad of the European top flight, HC Vardar and were very close to a big upset. However at the end Vardar took both points from Slovenia (27:26).

Rhein Neckar Löwen took the top position in the group after the first round as they had an impressive start to the new season spoiling the Champions League return of the 2003 winners Montpellier Agglomeration HB with a 35:24 win.

Chekhovskie Medvedi vs MKB-MVM Veszprém 32:37 (17:19)

One could tell right after the start that this game was not going to be about defending. Both Chekhovskie and Veszprém put emphasis on attacks and the spectacular game soon turned into a shooting duell between the two left backs, Momir Ilic and Alexander Dereven.

An astonishing 36 goals were scored in the first half showing the true attacking potential of the Russian side but the tides were changed after the start. Veszprem coach Carlos Ortega must have had a couple of words with his players, who started defending the way they were supposed to right from the start and left the hosts standing.

When the Hungarian favouriets toughened their wall Medvedi lost their grip of the game. Veszprém started to outrun their opponent and managed to score easy goals from fastbreaks and the margin started to grow.

Veszprém quickly built an eight-goal lead, which they kept even when their reserves took the court as Medvedi seemed to run low on fuel from 45th minute. The young Russian team fought with courage and managed to come back to five goals in the end but the second half was all about Veszprém.

Ortega congratulated Medvedi and said that the Russian side had players they had no information about thus it had been hard to prepare against Chekhov. "We didn’t show our defensive potential today but still won and that’s what counts," said the Spanish coach.

RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko vs HC Vardar 26:27 (12:12)

One of the youngest sides ever to take part in the Champions League put up a real fight against FINAL4 contenders HC Vardar. Celje youngsters made an incredible start, the Slovenian champions quickly built up a six-goal lead and seemed unstoppable with their lightning quick attacks and surprisingly organised defence.

But when summer signing superstar Arpad Sterbik started built a concrete wall on his goal line the home team stopped and Vardar took the initiative. The Macedonian side responded to the hosts’ brilliant start with a 7-0 run and not only took the lead but grabbed firm controll of the game.

Timur Dibirov was once again unstoppable but Vardar still could not obtain a comfortable lead as the Slovenians showed true fighting spirit. It was an entertaining and even game. Shooters and wings were at it at both ends, Dibirov was frequently joined on the scoreboard by Dujshebaev, while Zarabec and "Goldhanded” veteran Zvizej were the most prolific scorers at the other end.

Sterbik mesmerized Celje players as the Spanish international proved decisive, without him Celje could have caused an even bigger upset. In the exciting finish Vardar ’s two heroes put an end to the game: Dibirov scored from a penalty and Sterbik saved Zvizej’s shot one minute from the end giving the Macedonian outfit a two-goal lead. Celje lost, but the Slovenian team proved age does not matter, talent does.
Rhein-Neckar Löwen vs Montpellier Agglomeration HB 35:24 (18:11)

Löwen crushed Montpellier, the German runners-up cut the French hopes short after just 20 minutes. The visitors managed to keep pace with the home side thanks to a couple of nice saves from Venio Losert but the Croatian was soon to be overshadowed by the outstanding performance of Niklas Landin at the other end.

The German side found fifth gear after a relatively even first 20 minutes, when the margin grew to seven goals after a 6-0 run by the home side. Löwen put up a real international show, Sigurmannson, Guardiola, Du Rietz and Myrhol scored most of their goals with Landin stealing the spotlight from the above in goal.

Löwen defence was simply awesome and by the 40th minute the home side built up a ten-goal lead, which they held on to as the French seemed to be out of ideas for most of the second half.  Simonet and Kavticnik did their best to keep up the tempo with the hosts but their efforts were only enough to avoid the complete humiliation.

Rhein-Neckar Löwen immediately jumped to the first place of the group and handball fans all over the world are at the edge of their seats for next week’s EHF Match of the Week, when the German club pays a visit to their fierce rival MKB-MVM Veszprém.


TEXT: Bence Martha / br