Meeting of two riversArticle
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BLOG: ehfTV commentator Tom O Brannagain returns from a cauldron of noise in Skopje, where he was impressed by Arpad Sterbik both on and off the court.

Meeting of two rivers

Two teams named after rivers. One a mighty rivulet in Germany the other an obscure river in Skopje. And as the European handball community waited for the Vardar dam to burst against its mighty opponent, the smaller 'stream' flowed onward to victory and would 'brook' no opposition.  

A meeting of two rivers is called a confluence and it was a confluence of negative events that led to the downfall of the RNL.

The first half held no tangible connection to the second. The Germans began as they had done last week and took an early lead, battling into their playing style with ease. But the first half was a topsy turvy thirty minutes in which, one minute, one team led and then the other. It was fitting that it ended 13-13 and both teams would no doubt figure out how to stem the flow of the other in the dressing room.

Landin and Sterbik were head and shoulders above all other at the break and while others threatened to sink without a trace in the cauldron of noise, Schmid and Karacic somehow managed to rise to the surface and shine. Their goal shooting was outstanding albeit neither team could find the groove teamwise.

The second half was a different story altogether. RNL, who suffered a somewhat similar story last week, failed to appear, metaphorically of course. The Vardar fans, pumped the volume to 11 and their team responded.

They 'out-Rhein-Neckar-Lowened' RNL. They blitzed them with a ferocity of defence and counter attack that was reminiscent of their opponents. And RNL couldn't stop the flood. It washed over them like the torrents of sound that washed down from the adoring public.

The game was over after 15 minutes of the second half, barring a complete collapse. Demoralised and dejected Jacobsen's troops tried valiantly to adhere to his two timeout instructions, but they couldn't find the flow and when they could they found Sterbik in awe inspiring form.

He literally frightened the life out of the shooters to the point where normally laser accurate shooters failed to find the target or took limp shots that were mopped up by the giant. It was simply a master class, a water dancer (Game of Thrones) at the peak of his powers. And when someone did score, like a Borg from Star Trek he could adapt and make sure they didn't score that way again.

The confidence this instilled in his team led them to play a brand of handball that was equal parts fight and fluidity. They performed and the did it with a flair that shows the imprint of their coach. Some of the movement off the ball led to a normally compact RNL looking decidedly watery. Dujshebaev, particularly epitomised fight and flair and his dive horizontal to the floor, snide the 6m was a joy to behold.

RNL to their credit never stopped. They narrowed a gap to three goals which might mean something in the final shakeup.

And after the hubbub had died down and the last of the fans trickled to the exits, what did Sterbik do? He played handball with a bunch of kids aged 5-8. Why? Because even he knows the tides of time wait for no man and someday one of these young boys might be the man in goal for his new team.

TEXT: Tom O Brannagain, ehfTV commentator