Schülke shines as Leipzig stun VardarArticle
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GROUP 1 MATCH REVIEW: The home team’s goalkeeper made the difference as Leipzig celebrated an unlikely victory against Macedonian powerhouse Vardar in the opening game of the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round

Schülke shines as Leipzig stun Vardar

The long winter break marked by EHF EURO 2014 and then a proper lull lasting several weeks could not have ended with a more exciting curtain raiser to the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round.

Last season’s German league runners-up HC Leipzig, considered little more than also-rans before the season started, boosted their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals after an inspired performance by goalkeeper Katja Schülke steered them to a precious win over WHC Vardar SCBT.

The defeat left the Macedonian title holders in a precarious position, as they now have only three points from five games and plenty of work to do in order to avoid what would constitute an embarrassing early exit.

Women’s EHF Champions League Group 1

HC Leipzig (GER) vs WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD) 26:23 (13:10)

Leipzig produced by some way their best performance of the season which gave them a memorable win over one of the competition’s favourites and last season’s third team Vardar, who are now in peril of not reaching the knockout stages.

The opening 15 minutes offered little to suggest that Leipzig would spring one of the season’s biggest upsets as Vardar’s free-flowing attack ran by Serbia playmaker Andrea Lekic conjured a 6:4 lead for the visitors.

However, Leipzig goalkeeper Katja Schülke, then took centre stage and stole the show from the expensively assembled Macedonian outfit, pulling off one brilliant save after another while Karolina Kudlacz and Saskia Lang kept finding chinks in Vardar’s armour.

The home team’s defensive steel allowed them to take a solid-three goal lead into the dressing room at half-time and the start of the second period hinted Vardar would struggle to force another twist.

With Kudlacz and Lang keeping Leipzig in the driving seat along with the impregnable Schülke between the posts, the visitors only stayed afloat thanks to some good goalkeeping by Amandine Leynaud, who replaced the despondent Inna Suslina.

But when the home struck in the closing stages and extended their advantage to 24:19, it was clear there would be no way back for Vardar whose star-studded attack was ground to a halt.

Kudlacz led Leipzig's scoring with seven goals while Lekic netted six for Vardar. 

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / cor