Vardar finish on top of Group 1Article
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GROUP 1 REVIEW: A confident victory against Thuringer HC allowed HC Vardar to return to top place, as FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria were narrowly beaten by Buducnost

Vardar finish on top of Group 1

Following two straight defeats which pushed them down to second place in Group 1, Vardar’s management appointed new head coach Irina Dibirova. The team got back on track by beating THC and grabbing the top place.

FTC finish second in the group, ahead of Buducnost on head-to-head, despite losing to them at home.

  • Vardar won their first game under the new head coach Irina Dibirova
  • FTC ended their six-game unbeaten streak and were defeated for the first time in the main round
  • Buducnost won their third straight match

Astrakhanochka (RUS) vs Metz Handball (FRA) 20:28 (13:11)

Metz had already secured their quarter-final spot prior to the game in Astrakhan, and nothing could move them from fourth place in Group 1. Nevertheless the French side -who last week had celebrated a stunning 42:28 win over Vardar- took the game seriously and confidently won by eight goals.

Tough start for Metz

It was not easy for Metz to play after a long trip to Russia. Early in the game, the visitors made many mistakes and struggled against last-place Astrakhanochka.

Just like a week ago at Buducnost, the Russian team’s young leader Karina Sabirova had little impact and finished the game with just one goal. However Liudmila Postnova, the most experienced player of the team, was more prolific, and Astrakhanochka dominated throughout the first half.

At one point, they took a four-goal lead (12:8), but Metz closed the gap by half-time, ending it 13:11.

The visitors improved after the break

The match took a completely different turn after the break as the French team looked much more focused and aggressive. It did not take them long to draw level, then get in front, and eventually to increase their lead minute after minute. The final score did not give an indication of Metz’s problems before the break.

Grace Zaadi Deuna and Xenia Smits finished the game as Metz’s top scorers with five goals each, while Liudmila Postnova and Natalia Chigirinova each netted four times for Astrakhanochka.

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs Buducnost (MNE) 23:24 (8:9)

If they won, FTC would have stayed on top of Group 1. However, they lost in a close game against Buducnost and hence slip to second place. The victory pulled the Montenegrin side level on points with their Hungarian rivals, yet FTC take a higher position as they won 33:25 in Podgorica.

Buducnost back in shape

Buducnost looked shaky in the first half of the main round, when they lost at home not only to FTC but also to another Group 1 favourite- Vardar.

However, the team of Dragan Adzic improved and took revenge on both heavyweights, and remarkably did it away from home. Buducnost now boast a 100% record on the road in the main round games.

The opening phase of the Budapest clash was a good illustration of Buducnost’s current power as they took a 4:0 lead after eight minutes.

However, Neli Irman then hit the post, and it was the start of a bad spell for the visitors- as they could not score for 11 minutes. FTC capitalized perfectly on that and turned the game around to 5:4, with three goals scored by Szandra Szollosi-Zacsik.

The match was level after that, yet Buducnost had the last word before the break as Itana Grbic put her team in front 9:8.

FTC fought hard

In the second half, both teams improved their attack. But the Montenegin side, generally dominated-their goalkeeper Marta Batinovic did particularly well.

Three times, Buducnost’s lead reached four goals – 15:11, 17:13 and 21:17- but FTC, greatly supported by their vocal crowd, fought hard.

Notably the Montenegrin Marija Jovanovic, who scored five goals against her country-fellows during the last six minutes, kept the hosts’ hopes alive. But ultimately her effort was not enough, and FTC suffered their first defeat in the main round.

Adzic enjoyed the match, and hopes that his team will meet FTC in the FINAL4: "First of all, there was a wonderful atmosphere in the hall, so it was a good experience to play in Elek Gyula Arena. After we lost against Fradi in Montenegro, the willingness to prove ourselves drove us. I am so happy about our win, and I hope, we will meet again FTC in the FINAL4."

HC Vardar (MKD) vs Thuringer HC (GER) 36:26 (19:12)

FTC’s defeat against Buducnost was a favourable result for Vardar – as a result they could take back the top spot in Group 1 by winning two points. They did this in style by clearly beating THC.

Dibirova’s debut

Vardar have gone through a turbulent period of time – following two straight losses in the EHF Champions League, including a 28:42 humiliation in Metz, the head coach David Davis stepped down and was replaced by Irina Dibirova.

The Russian, who will celebrate her 38th birthday on Sunday, had a successful debut as her team dominated throughout the whole game and ultimately won by a ten-goal margin against THC- who had lost their chance to advance from the group.

Following a tight opening period, Vardar enjoyed a good ten-minute run, moving the score from 2:2 to 7:2. That positive spell gave hosts the confidence they had lacked after recent setbacks, and they went on to win the first half 19:12.

Radicevic in good shape

After the break, Vardar’s dominance continued. Dibirova rotated her squad, and 12 players from the Macedonian side found their names on the scoresheet. Jovanka Radicevic was top scorer with nine goals.

Vardar's new coach looked forward to the quarter-final: "We have lots of work until the quarter final games, much more than those three days before today’s game. We don’t mind about which opponent we have to face, we just have to work harder and to try to focus on best possible performance and hope that my team will manage it."

12 minutes into the second half, Vardar’s lead reached double digits at 27:17, and although later on they had an even bigger lead, in the end the gap was ten goals, 36:26.


TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev/kc