History set to repeat itself when the Macedonians come to townArticle
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PREVIEW: Kielce’s VELUX EHF Champions League campaign this season has been remarkably similar to two seasons ago, when they got the better of HC Metalurg to reach Cologne for the first time

History set to repeat itself when the Macedonians come to town

Once upon a time there was a team lead by a legendary coach. They had won all of their group phase matches and overcame a minor stumble to win the Last 16 duel. Then a visit to Skopje in the quarter-final saw them bring a two-goal advantage home from the first leg. Sound familiar?

When Kielce opened the gate to Cologne for the first time in 2013, their run was remarkably similar to this season. After going through unbeaten in Group C and defeating Pick Szeged in the following round, the only team standing between them and a place in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 was HC Metalurg.

Now history repeats itself, but it is the turn of another Skopje side, Vardar, to do what Metalurg could not do two years ago.

VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final, second leg:
KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) vs HC Vardar (MKD)
Sunday 19 April, 15:30 hrs local time live on ehfTV
First leg: 22:20

Kielce coach Talant Dujshebaev remains confident: “I’ve got 16 (Lijewski is still fighting with his injury and probably will not appear – ed.) experienced players. We are playing at home. Now, when we won away already, we are definitely favourites on Sunday.”

However the coach added with respect: “I expect that Vardar will be better prepared than in the first game. We need to do more if we want to win.”

The first leg was an even battle and only in the end did Kielce manage to build a cushion of two goals. The hosts of the upcoming match underline that the duel is not over yet and they have to remain focused until the last whistle.

A useful lesson

“It doesn’t matter if we have a one, two or three-goal advantage. In any case we need to win again if we want to be sure of qualification,” ensured Julen Aguinagalde.

He was accompanied by Karol Bielecki: “We drew a conclusion from Montpellier case. I think we neglected them a bit at home, or maybe we just had a bad day. Anyway, now we are preparing ourselves to be more concentrated and serious because we can’t afford any tiniest moment of distraction.”

“Actually, maybe it’s good that after we had defeated the French team in their hall, we lost on our floor. It was a useful lesson for us,” added Dujshebaev.

Maybe the lesson was required for the players, but their coach definitely did not need it, as he always does his homework perfectly. Like he did with Dragan Gajić in Montpellier, when it came to Skopje he gave his boys guidelines on how to eliminate the threat of their most dangerous opponents, including his son Alex and Timur Dibirov. The players that score an average of 5-6 goals per game each managed just three between them last weekend.

“This was a special tactic of our coach. He plumbed our rival’s game so well that actually it was really hard for Vardar to make anything in the attack as we eliminated most effective players,” said Bielecki.

Even without their attacking prowess, Raul Gonzalez’s team still have hard assets in the defence, which lead to a bitter experience for Aguinagalde in the first leg.

“This is how my job looks like,” he laughed. “They aren’t more aggressive than the others; however, they play more individually on the six metre line, so I always have one or two players watching over me no matter what I do.”

In each fairy tale there is always a twist and the journey can never be too easy. Kielce are ready for the challenge and to convert the dream into reality.

“It will be the most important game in the club’s history. Everyone has been waiting for this moment since 2013,” said Dujshebaev.

“We have the Macedonians on our way again, I hope that history will repeat itself and we will be victorious again,” added Bielecki.

“It will be a big party. Maybe not for us, we have to focus on our job, but definitely for the fans. I hope that for all of us this will be a great day,” concluded Julen Aguinagalde.

TEXT: Magda Pluszewska / cor