Mighty Lions roar as Vardar overpower SzegedArticle
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GROUP B REVIEW: Rhein-Neckar Löwen deliver a masterclass performance to down KIF Kolding Kobenhavn while Vardar outlast Szeged

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Mighty Lions roar as Vardar overpower Szeged

Rhein-Neckar Löwen delivered a masterclass performance to down KIF Kolding Kobenhavn while Vardar outlasted Szeged in highly entertaining Group B action

German giants Rhein-Neckar Löwen justified their early status as a top contender in the VELUX EHF Champions League after an overwhelming away win at KIF Kolding Kobenhavn, who suffered their second successive defeat in Europe’s top flight comptition.

In the day’s derby fixture, FYR Macedonia’s HC Vardar capitalised on a strong second half to get the better of Hungarian rivals MOL-Pick Szeged thanks to a flowing team effort.

KIF Kolding Kobenhavn (DEN) vs Rhein-Neckar Lowen (GER) 18:30 (8:12)

Any lingering doubts that Rhein-Neckar Lowen’s opening 22:21 win over holders FC Barcelona Lassa was a one-off were emphatically dispelled by the Bundesliga leaders, who stretched their impressive winning streak in all competitions to 11 games.

The match appeared set for a different course after Kolding Kobenhavn, looking to bounce back from a 33:26 defeat by newcommers Kristianstad in the previous round, raced into an early 4:1 lead.

But the Lions from Mannheim then let out an almighty roar, turning the match on its head with a thunderous comeback which converted a 6:4 deficit into a 12:7 lead, effectively vanquishing the home team’s timid resistance.

Stifling the Danish side with an ironclad defence, the 6-0 defensive formation transformed in the blink of an eye into an aggressive 3-3 half-court press, and the German side poured in the goals relentlessly from all angles at the other end.

The second half produced more of the same, with Kolding Kobenhavn struggling in attack and Löwen taking advantage of every fast break that came their way.
They were equally devastating with long-range shots from the nine-metre line and darting raids down either wing, leaving the home side’s defending in tatters.

Löwen triumphed as their awesome roster boasted 10 scorers, led by Andre Schmid and Harald Reinkind who fired in six goals each for the winners.

Long serving stalwart Uwe Gensheimer, Rafael Baena Gonzales and the dynamic Mads Mensah Larsen chipped in with three each complementing a fabulous afternoon for their goalkeeper Mikael Appelgren who racked up 14 saves before he made way for his understudy in the closing stages.

If RNL can consistently deliver at this level in Europe’s premier club competition this season, there is little doubt they will be one of the prime candidates to lift the coveted trophy.      
HC Vardar (MKD) vs MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) 27:23 (11:11)

Macedonian powerhouse Vardar chalked up their second successive win in Group B after an early second-half blitz traced the path to a hard-earned win over plucky Szeged.

The opening period served up a rollercoaster as Vardar carved out a 6:3 lead, but they had it wiped out as the visitors from Hungary replied with a tide-turning 8:3 run.

Jonas Källman netted four goals from as many shots for Szeged in the first half, while Russian Timur Dibirov led the home team’s pack after scoring three times.

"During the first half we didn’t play defence and we couldn’t make fast breaks as we planned. In the attack we faced some problems because they had strong 5-1 defense, with Kallman in front of it," explained Vardar coach Raul Gonzalez.

With Croatian back Igor Karacic finding his range for Vardar, the hosts came up with a 5:1 run after the break, which put them in the driving seat and they held on to their cushion comfortably.

Thriving from strong defence and a patchy afternoon for Szeged’s sharpshooter Dean Bombac, Vardar easily carved out the supply routes in attack with quick transition of the ball.

Szeged didn’t lie down though and tried to stay within touching distance but were undone by a flurry of fast breaks and smooth perimeter attacking which gave Vardar a plethora of options up front.

Serbian pivot Mijajlo Marsenic was three from three from the six-metre line as Dibirov and Croatian back Luka Cindric scored four goals each to prop up Karacic, who topped Vardar’s scoring chart with five.

Källman had a fine game for Szeged. He finished with a game-high of six goals from seven attempts and was satisfied with his side's effort: "They played very good game, but I think that we responded the same way, especially we played well during the first half."

Bombac added five for the visitors, but he will rue missing two penalties and three more shots from play.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / bc