Vardar go top after comeback win at SävehofArticle
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GROUP 2 REVIEW: Macedonian giants HC Vardar leapfrog their rivals into the section’s top spot with a hard-fought victory at IK Sävehof, who threatened to cause an upset after making a bright start to the game.

Vardar go top after comeback win at Sävehof

Harder than they expected, Vardar ground out the win they needed at Sävehof to go top of Group 2, albeit temporarily, with holders Budućnost and former champions Győr playing their games in hand later this weekend.

Vardar now have their eyes firmly fixed on the Women's EHF Champions League Quarter-Finals, played over two games, with the first leg taking place over 1-3 April weekend and the second leg being played a week later, over the period 8-10 April.


IK Sävehof (SWE) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 26:29 (14:14)

Vardar may need something of a miracle to win Group 2 and earn easier opposition in the Women’s EHF Champions League Quarter-Finals, but the Macedonian title-holders did their job and made sure that Budućnost and Győr, who now trail them by one point, will have to work hard in order to push them back into third place.

This win lifted Vardar to the top of the table with 14 points from 10 games, while Budućnost and Győr each have 13 points from nine games.

Budućnost, the defending Women’s EHF Champions League champions, are at home to FC Midtjylland while Győri Audi ETO KC visit CSM Bucuresti on Sunday (28 February).

The opening 20 minutes of the vastly entertaining encounter at the Partillebohallen in Partille, Sweden - the last game to be played at the hall before the team move to a bigger new hall - suggested the visitors would come away empty-handed, as Sävehof took full advantage of the visiting team’s flurry of turnovers.

The home side converted one fast break after another, with the speedy Louise Sand taking centre stage as they built a six-goal (10:4) lead.

Vardar regained some of their composure after a timeout and change of goalkeeper and promptly went on to score three unanswered goals, but Sävehof held firm and it seemed they would take a healthy lead into half-time after going 14:10 ahead in the closing stages of the opening period.

But Vardar conjured a strong finish and netted four times in just three frantic minutes to draw level at the interval, setting the stage for what followed in the second half.

Predictably, the stronger and more experienced visitors quickly engineered a four-goal lead as Croatians Maja Sokač and Andrea Penezić spearheaded their attack at crunch times.

Sävehof, who moved the ball around with lightning speed in the opening period, fizzed out in the first 20 minutes of the second half, but made a valiant effort in the home straight to try and salvage at least a point.

They were denied by a stirring performance from Vardar’s Slovenian right back Barbara Lazović and the reinvigorated Penezić, as the backcourt duo scored their team’s last three goals.

Sokač led Vardar with seven goals from nine shots, Lazović chipped in with five, while Penezić and Serbian playmaker Andrea Lekić added four each. Sand capped a fine individual performance with six goals for Sävehof, Julia Eriksson netted five and Emma Ekenman-Fernis scored four.

"Our young team did not have the experience that Vardar has,” said Sävehof coach Henrik Signell after the match. “We made mistakes and must be without any to win a game like this.”

With that goalkeeping change after 15 minutes Vardar’s shot-stopper Inna Suslina was quick to not take credit for the turnaround in her sides’ fortunes. “It was not entirely because of me,” she said. “The whole team started to play normally, but it was a tough game - we knew it would be as Sävehof are a good team.”

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic/amc