Stirring win gives Vardar another FINAL4 spotArticle
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QUARTER-FINAL REVIEW: Vardar earned their fourth consecutive FINAL4 berth after an emotional roller-coaster against FCM.

Stirring win gives Vardar another FINAL4 spot

There were perplex looks early in the second half in the Jane Sandaski Arena in Skopje, with FCM taking a 15:12 lead in the 33rd minute of the game against Vardar. If the score line was mimicked at the end of the game, Vardar would have been out of the competition.

But the Macedonian side made an expected comeback and won the second quarter-final leg against the Danish side, 26:24, to earn their fourth TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 appearance in a row.

• The Danish side led by three goals in the first part of the second half, but Vardar came back to tie up their FINAL4 berth
• Andrea Penezic is still in the hunt for the top goal scorer trophy, scoring six times against FCM to extend her lead on the top on the rankings
• Vardar only lost two games this season, against Buducnost and Metz, and is one of the favourites to win their first ever Women’s EHF Champions League trophy


HC Vardar (MKD) vs FC Midtjylland (DEN) 26:24 (11:12)
Vardar win 54:50 on aggregate

There was no easy task for FC Midtjylland after losing the first leg against Vardar, especially when the Danish side won only one away game this season from their six in the group phase and Main Round phase.

However, the Danish side came in the hot Jane Sandeski Arena with a winning mentality and forced their way into the game.

While Vardar started the game better and led 4:3 after seven minutes, the Danish side continued to bet on their excellent 9-meter line, as Veronica Kristiansen and Stine Jörgensen took FCM into the lead, 5:4.

The two sides continued to trade goals, but neither Vardar nor FCM managed to open a gap bigger than one goal.

But the Danish side kept their dream alive at half-time with a 12:11 lead that almost cancelled out Vardar’s 28:26 win from the first leg.

Experience works wonders for Vardar

It went from bad to worse for the hosts as their defence briefly collapsed in the first minutes of the second half. Midtjylland took control with a 15:12 lead.

Surprisingly, there was no time-out from Vardar as Irina Dibirova trusted her players to make the comeback in the game on their own.

The experience of players like Andrea Penezic, Andrea Lekic or Jovanka Radicevic proved to be enough for Vardar, who had a 4:0 run between the 33rd and the 36th minute to turn the game around.

It was the decisive moment of the game as FCM simply ran out of steam both in defence and in the attack. While their shot efficiency was steady, the flurry of turnovers and mistakes was enough to assure the Macedonian side of their fourth TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 berth.

FCM had no answer in the business end of the game with Vardar controlling the pace until the end.

With a 54:50 aggregate score, Vardar earned their fourth consecutive FINAL4 berth, and they are hoping to break their curse as the Macedonian side are yet to win a semi-final in the Laszlo Papp Arena in Budapest.

Post-match statements

Kristian Kristensen, FC Midtjylland coach: “We tried hard in both games but it simply wasn’t enough. It was a high-intensity game and we were in good position to win until the middle of the second half. We had a 12:15 advantage and we started to dream about the FINAL4 but we didn’t continue with the same rhythm and made some mistakes.”

Veronica Kristiansen, FC Midtjylland left back: “I’m disappointed because we know that we had a chance. But Vardar proved how powerful a team they are.”

Aco Stankovski, HC Vardar assistant coach: “We played badly the first half. We made several technical mistakes that our opponent knew how to convert to easy goals. They also had solid and very aggressive defense. But during the second half we responded with the same approach, aggressive and more concentrated.”

Andrea Covic, HC Vardar line player: “FC Midtjylland proved that they are an excellent team that never give up but we deserved this win in a tough match.”

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew