Clinical Veszprem beat Vardar to retain top spotArticle
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GROUP C MATCH REVIEW: Veszprem prevail against Macedonian rivals Vardar and stretched their perfect start to five wins.

Clinical Veszprem beat Vardar to retain top spot

Few pundits could have predicted such a dramatic head to head in Skopje’s Jane Sandanski Arena, where Veszprem accomplished what few European giants could have hoped for in a fervent atmosphere.

Raul Gonzalez got the better of Carlos Antonio Ortega in a battle of Spanish coaches as Veszprem snatched victory from the jaws defeat after Vardar staged a gritty second-half comeback.

HC Vardar (MKD) v MKB-MVM Veszprem 23:24 (11:13)

It was looking like Vardar were going to come out on top of this top clash. However, it was the Hungarians who dug deep in the last 90 seconds and stunned the home crowd with a converted penalty by Momir Ilic ending this rip-roaring encounter.

The home side had a 23:22 goal lead and a penalty with a little more than a minute left on the clock, but Roland Mikler saved Matjaz Brumen’s shot and Chema Rodriguez made no mistake at the other end to level the score.

Vardar then threw away possession almost straight after the restart and Ilic kept his nerve after a defensive foul presented him with the opportunity to produce one final twist which silenced the jam-packed terraces.

It was Veszprem who dominated the first half as Ilic and German right back Christian Zeitz were continually able to find gaps in the home team’s defence while goalkeeper Roland Mikler pulled off a string of superb saves at the other end.

But Croatian centre back Igor Karacic, who finished as the game’s top scorer with eight goals, led a spirited Vardar charge which turned the tide after the home team nosed ahead 18:17 midway through the second half to gain the upper hand for the first time.

It seemed Vardar had swung the tie in their favour after Karacic netted his seventh to give his team a 21:19 lead, but Veszprem struck three times in quick succession to regain the lead.

Vardar went on to score twice without reply to move within touching distance of what would have been a memorable win against one of the competition’s favourites, but basic errors cost them dearly in a dramatic climax.

Ilic was Veszprem’s leading scorer with six goals and Zeitz added five for the Hungarian outfit, whose confidence will have soared after an impressive performance on one of the most intimidating away courts in Europe.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / bc