Wins see La Rioja and Porto stay on topArticle
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GROUP C REVIEW: La Rioja beat Vojvodina comfortably 31:26 and lead the table, while Porto nearly squanders a five-goal half-time lead and edges Meshkov Brest on a last-minute winner by 29:28

Wins see La Rioja and Porto stay on top

La Rioja moves top of Group C in the VELUX EHF Champions League after their convincing win in Novi Sad, with Porto behind on worse head to head following their super dramatic clash and a winner from Rodrigues 14 seconds before the final whistle. Meshkov Brest second consecutive defeat leaves them in third place.

Futebol Clube de Porto (POR) vs Meshkov Brest (BLR) 29:28 (16:11)

One of the most thrilling matches of the season so far was played in Dragao Caixa Arena in Porto. Meshkov Brest fell behind by five goals at half-time, yet had a great chance to take home a precious win, which they gave away in the final minute of the game.

Porto gambled with their comfortable lead, but burst with joy at the end in front of their home fans as they move runner-up to La Rioja because of their head to head.

Brest coach Sergey Bebeshko has beaten Porto with Zaporozhye last year. But he will have felt dissapointed after Brest conceded their second consecutive loss in the competition, which slowed down their high flying start.

Rastko Stojkovic almost matched his season‘s maximum against Medvedi, with nine goals. However the Serbian´s performance was not enough for Meshkov against an outstanding team performance by Porto. 12 out of 14 outfield players have scored at least a goal, which was a key to success for the home side, together with the leadership from their regular performer Gilberto Duarte with five goals.

Very few would have thought about such a drama after half-time. The game was close until the 15th minute when Almador Salina made it 8:5. Porto built on their lead through patient play and successful counterattacks to be up 16:11 at half-time.

Dmitri Patotski stood successfully in the Belarussian goal in second half as he replaced their injured number-one goalkeeper Ivan Pesic.

As the teams came out of the dressing rooms, Meshkov had completely changed. The Dragons scored only three in the first 10 minutes of the second half to give away their lead. Rutenka equalised at 19:19 in the 40th minute.

Porto took more risks as Ricardo Moreira was coming on and off as flying goalkeeper, though without significant difference to the Portuguese side. It was a tight affair until the very end. Nikulenkau hit the bar in 59th minute as Meshkov Brest missed a chance to get into a two-goal lead.

Cesar Rodrigues equalised and Areia Rodrigues scored a fast counterattack winner after a brilliant pass from Alberto Quintana, 14 seconds before the end. Brest will be eager to take revenge a week from now when both teams meet again, this time in Belarus.

Vojvodina (SRB) vs Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) 26:31 (11:16)

“Don’t judge a book by its covers” seems to be a perfect fit for Naturhouse La Rioja. The Spanish side’s start in this year’s VELUX EHF Champions League was marked by a 27:26 defeat against Chehovskie Medvedi. But they bounced back superbly, with four wins on the trot, which propelled La Rioja straight into top spot of Group C.

After a pivotal win against Meshkov Brest last week, La Rioja continued their stupendous form with another positive result. It was another case of a start gone wrong for Vojvodina, who had a mountain to climb after 20 minutes with La Rioja already enjoying a seven-goal advantage, 15:8.

A 7:2 series between the 15th and the 24th minute was decisive, as Pedro Rodriguez Alvarez and Angel Fernandez Perez, La Rioja’s wings, ran riot in Vojvodina’s defence.

Every attempt from Vojvodina to change the outcome failed, whether it was displaying a more aggressive defence or trying to open the game on the wings.

With Cristian Malmagro Viana in perfect form with seven goals from eight shots, the Spanish preserved their lead in the second half. After scoring 14 times against Tatran Presov two weeks ago, Angel Fernandez Perez was La Rioja’s top scorer again, this time with eight goals.

The 31:26 win was a convincing one for the Spanish side, who made a key step in earning their second consecutive Last 16 berth in the Champions League.

TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / Adrian Costeiu /ew / ts