Injury-hit Zagreb take revenge on BesiktasArticle
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GROUP A REVIEW: Croats back on track for the Last 16 after their fourth win – Pavlovic in hospital.

Injury-hit Zagreb take revenge on Besiktas

Croats back on track for the Last 16 after their fourth win – Pavlovic in hospital

HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs Besiktas JK (TUR) 31:26 (14:11)

Missing an incredible number of key players – six in total – HC PPD Zagreb won on home soil to continue their push for Last 16 qualification.

After Stipe Mandalinic, Luka Stepancic, Josip Sandrk and Leon Susnja had all been ruled out for this game before throw-off, the Croatian record champions were shocked by the news that their shooter Domagoj Pavlovic had to be brought to hospital with heart problems just hours before the match whilst Sandro Obranovic was on the bench and did not play a single second.

Despite this long list of injuries Zagreb took their fourth victory in the VELUX EHF Champions League this season which brings them back to fifth place in Group A and they also took revenge after losing the first leg by 32:30 in Turkey Besiktas JKs only group win so far.

“We stuck to our plan despite all those injuries and we were in control for nearly all the 60 minutes,” said Zagreb coach Veselin Vujovic after the match. “The win was deserved in this tough situation.”

The hosts started in express mode, easily leading 5:0 after just seven minutes as their goalkeeper Filip Ivic saved four of the first six Besiktas shots and the Turkish champion nearly needed eight minutes to score their first goal.

“Our first five minutes we were like on holiday,” Besiktas coach Mufit Arin said after the final buzzer. “We then managed to reduce the gap, but Zagreb took a deserved win.”

Zagreb kept the distance until 9:4 as Besiktas were lucky to have Miroslav Kocic between the goal posts as without him the gap could have been much bigger. But backed by Kosic and by improving their defence, Istanbul found their rhythm as Zagreb let control slip from their hands.

Somehow the advance had melted to only one goal at 11:10 in the 26th minute, as on one hand the hosts had problems to stop Besiktas’ Serbian duo of Nemanja Pribak and Darko Djukic (who also top-scored for Besiktas with seven goals) but on the other hand Croatian left wing Ivan Nincevic made too many mistakes in attack.

Thanks to a strong final three minutes before the break, Zagreb managed to keep a strong lead and in the second half, the match became a combative battle on both defence sides with a high number of suspensions.

 In the 38th minute, the two wingers Zlatko Horvat (Zagreb) and Nincevic had a nasty collision of head against shoulder and the Besiktas player had to be treated on court for several minutes, before retiring from the game.

Due to all those breaks, both sides lacked a fluid style as most of the goals were scored after individual actions - but the hosts got back on track despite their injury problems and five defeats in the previous six matches.

Mainly backed by the nine goals of left back Stefan Vujic, Zagreb extended the gap to six goals for the first time at 23:17 with 15 minutes remaining and though Besiktas started to get closer, the deal was sealed when Josip Valcic scored to make it 30:25 two minutes before the end.

“We have put a tough period - a crisis - behind us,” said Vujic after the match. “Today we played as a team, which was the key to success.”

TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / amc