Kielce prevail as Vardar comeback falls shortArticle
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GROUP B REVIEW: The Polish champions, KS Vive Tauron Kielce, celebrated a precious home win over HC Vardar after their ironclad defence reigned supreme.

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Kielce prevail as Vardar comeback falls short

KS Vive Tauron Kielce kept their hopes of finishing top, after an impressive home win over Vardar allowed them to leapfrog the Macedonian giants into third position of Group B in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 23:20 (10:6)

A rock-solid defence in the first half propelled Kielce to victory against HC Vardar, who suffered their third successive defeat and now face a tall order to stay in the hunt for an automatic quarter-final berth.

Only the winners of groups A and B will get a bye into the last eight and Kielce boosted their hopes of achieving the feat after stifling their opponents in the opening half.

The Polish side thrived in a physical contest littered with crunching fouls and tight marking as they romped away into a 5:2 lead.

The Macedonian side stayed afloat thanks to excellent goalkeeping by Serbia’s Strahinja Milic, who racked up 11 saves after he was preferred to first-choice Arpad Sterbik.

Sorely missing the playmaking skills of injured centre back, Igor Karacic, Vardar struggled in attack against Kielce’s 6-0 zone and were superbly marshaled by goalkeeper, Slawomir Szmal.

Although the home team’s defence specialist, Mateusz Kus, was shown a straight red card for an ugly foul on an opponent, Szmal kept his side firmly in control with a series of superb saves, including two penalties in the early stages.

With the home side firing on all cylinders after the break too, their lead soared to 19:12 and it was clear there would be no way back for Vardar, whose towering Serbian pivot, Mijajlo Marsenic, led a spirited but belated fightback.

Kielce's coach, Talant Dujszebajew, said: "In the first half, our defence looked sensational – Slawek play great – and defended incredibly.

"He gave us a chance to quietly play to end the game and win 23:20. I hope that in Tuesday's meeting, we will also be as focused."

Marsenic scored all his five goals in the second half as Vardar slashed the deficit to three goals in the closing stages.

Michal Jurecki led Kielce with five goals, Croatian winger, Ivan Cupic, scored four from as many shots, whilst Denis Buntic, Krzysztof Lijewski, and Spanish pivot, Julen Aguinagalde, chipped in with three each.

Lijewski said: "The key to victory in today's meeting was very good and strong defence in the first half.

"It seems to me that we deservedly won and secured these two points. We have shown that we want to fight for the top place in the group."

Marsenic and Sergei Gorbok scored five each for Vardar, while the latter’s Russian compatriot, Timur Dibirov added four.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / gs