Zagreb stay on course for knockout stage berthArticle
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GROUP A MATCH REVIEW: The Croatian champions ground out a precious home win against Meshkov Brest to keep alive their hopes of reaching the VELUX EHF Champions League last 16 after a gritty performance on home court

Zagreb stay on course for knockout stage berth

The physical encounter between Zagreb and Brest was by no means a classic but it still offered plenty of excitement as both sides sought precious points in a fierce battle to reach the business end of Europe’s premier club competition.

Having lost the reverse fixture in Belarus last weekend, Zagreb turned the tables on their rivals and had strong defence to thank for their victory to stay well-placed for a top-four finish in a tight group.
HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs Meshkov Brest (BLR) 25:23 (11:8)

Home fans in the imposing Zagreb Arena were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief after a nerve-wrangling climax to a game littered with fouls and technical errors, after the Croatian title holders held off a late rally by Meshkov Brest to stay ahead of them in the battle to reach the last 16.

Having carved out a 22:17 lead in the second half on the back of three successive goals by Sandro Obranovic, who had a quiet first half, Zagreb ran out of the steam in the closing stages and nearly spilled their lead.

But Obranovic netted his fourth to put the game beyond Brest’s reach and veteran winger Zlatko Horvat capped the win with a penalty on the buzzer after the visitors had twice reduced the deficit a single goal.

Meshkov made a brighter start as centre back Nikola Manojlovic and fellow Serbian pivot Rastko Stojkovic kept finding chinks in Zagreb’s armour, but a series of turnovers by the Belarusian champions allowed the home side to turn the tide and conjure a three-goal half-time lead.

It looked like Zagreb would stroll home after Obranovic made it 21:15 with 10 minutes left but the plucky visitors refused to lie down and led by the robust Stojkovic, they pressed forward relentlessly in the home straight.

Their comeback fell short, though, as the damage had already been done and Zagreb survived the onslaught after the home side survived a four-goal blitz by Brest and delighted a full house in the Croatian capital.

Stojkovic was the game’s top scorer with nine goals and Manojlovic added five for Brest, while Horvat led Zagreb with six.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br