Vardar triumphant in Balkan derbyArticle
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GROUP 1 REVIEW: HC Vardar further their lead in top position of the group after claiming an away victory against Buducnost in their first Women's EHF Champions League match of 2017

Vardar triumphant in Balkan derby

The Balkan heavyweights are very familiar with each other as they have regularly played each other in recent years.

This time, their duel took place in the Women's EHF Champions League Main Round, with Vardar winning 31:28 in a tight fight.

  • This is Vardar’s sixth straight EHF Champions League win and they top Group 1 with nine points

  • With six points, Buducnost are now in third place behind FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria

  • Cristina Neagu scored ten times for Buducnost, while Andrea Penezic was Vardar’s top scorer with eight goals

Buducnost (MNE) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 28:31 (16:16)

Both teams are among the favourites to win this season's top flight, so their clash in Podgorica raised a lot of interest. It lived up to expectations, as it was a dynamic, exciting battle between the two European heavyweights.

The hosts were missing three important players

Just two weeks ago, Buducnost beat Vardar in a game of the newly established Regional Cup. However, it was clear that this match in the European top flight competition would be a different affair. The hosts were lacking some important players- Milena Raicevic, Durdin Malovic and Biljana Novovic. They struggled in the opening minutes of the game without this trio.

Buducnost did not have an answer for Vardar’s Andrea Penezic and Andrea Lekic, who made use of the opponents’ defensive mistakes, while also scoring from fast breaks. As a result, the visitors from Skopje were in the lead 10:5 by the 14th minute.

Buducnost’s coach Dragan Adzic called for a time-out, and this was followed by a 4:0 scoring run during the next three minutes, with the hosts almost drawing level at 10:9.

The game was back and forth after this, with both teams exchanging fast goals. Led by the unstoppable Cristina Neagu, who found the net eight times before the break, Buducnost pushed hard to equalize. Their persistence was rewarded a few seconds from half-time as Katarina Bulatovic scored a penalty shot to make it 16:16.

Vardar’s late scoring run

Due to a solid, aggressive defense, led by the excellent Marta Batinovic in goal, Buducnost conceding only two goals for the first opening minutes of the second half. They claimed the lead 20:18.

Vardar quickly drew level, but only to see another scoring run from Buducnost which brought them to 23:20. The Macedonian side did not give up, however, the rival teams were level again at 24:24.

With the final whistle approaching, the tension grew in this game of two equal opponents. A draw would be a fair result given the performance of both teams, but each side clearly desired the two points.

In the end, the points went to Vardar. With the score at 27:27 in the 55th minute, they scored four goals in a row at this crucial part of the match, eventually clinching the 31:28 victory. This furthers their lead in top position of Group 1.

David Davis, Vardar's head coach, gave respect to Buducnost, and was very happy with his teams performance: "I have great respect for Buducnost and we knew it would be difficult, but also a very high-quality match. Buducnost is a very good team. We had a lot of problems stopping them, but we succeeded and got the important victory. I congratulate my players and I am very happy with this victory."

Buducnost's coach Adzic took some positives from the match, despite the loss: "We expected a tough match and that's what happened. Vardar are a great team with great coach. Our young players played well with the top players of Vardar and I am satisfied with 90 per cent of things, but I think that we are on the right track. Our ambition is to be among the top two teams in the group."

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / kc