Vardar sweep title holders aside in the highest scoring FINAL4 gameArticle
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SEMI-FINAL REVIEW: The Macedonian champions frustrated CSM Bucuresti by playing breathtaking attacking handball and reached their first ever Champions League final.

Vardar sweep title holders aside in the highest scoring FINAL4 game

Vardar comfortably beat CSM Bucuresti to claim a place in their first ever Women’s EHF Champions League final. The Macedonian side played to their full attacking potential and the defending champions could not cope with the unstoppable Vardar offence.

  • CSM Bucuresti conceded the most goals in a first half this season by letting in 21 goals.
  • Gnonsiane Niombla scored eight goals in vain while Vardar’s most prolific players were Andrea Penezic and Jovanka Radicevic with seven goals each.
  • Penezic re-took the lead in the Champions League top scorers’ list from Cristina Neagu

TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4, 2nd semi-final
CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 33:38 (13:21)

Before the second rematch of last year’s semi-finals both sets of fans welcomed their teams with a standing ovation, and there were four players who were greeted by the entire arena as Aurelia Bradeanu and Jelena Grubisic (CSM) and Jovanka Radicevic and Andrea Lekic (Vardar) have previously played for Györ.

"I feel amazing, but we have to calm down because of tomorrow's final. It is a big step forward, because we went out in the last three years in the semi-final, so it can be heavy to cope with the pressure of the final. I want to thank to the Hungarian fans because they cheered for us today. It's like a dream comes true. Once in a life a handball player wants to play in front of a full crowd," Lekic said after the game.

Quite strangely for a defending champion the Romanian side was seen as the underdog against the best attacking force of the competition, however, Vardar were out to break their semi-finals duck as the Macedonian powerhouse have never managed to reach the final in Budapest.

Who else than Andrea Penezic?

Vardar came up with a very strong start, in fact the Macedonian side was so convincing that Per Johansson was forced to take his first time out just five minutes into the game. The Swedish coach also had to take off the heroine from last year since Jelena Grubisic could not stop the once again outstanding Andrea Penezic.


Vardar defended way better than their opponents and Amandine Leynaud made some important saves to maintain her side’s comfortable lead. It took the title holders ten long minutes to arrive in the final but by the time goals started to come from Bella Gulldén and Oana Manea Vardar were up by five goals.

Vardar get the job done in 20 minutes

On top of their defensive woes CSM goalkeepers could not stop Vardar’s in-form heavy shooters, while on the other end of the court Leynaud remained excellent and Inna Suslina saved three penalties in a row.

Johansson took his second time out in the 20th minute but the relentless Vardar side was not to be stopped as Radicevic and Camilla Herrem kept expanding their team’s lead.

The incredible attacking spectacle of Vardar saw CSM concede the most goals in a first half this season – exceeding their previous negative record of 18 (vs Larvik) by three goals.

CSM showed signs of life in the last minutes as he title holders cut Vardar’s lead to eight goals and Tatiana Khmyrova saw a straight red card after a foul on Carmen Martin.

No hope without goalkeepers

There was little hope left for the defending champions and Vardar showed no mercy. Irina Dibirova’s team continued to live up to their reputation as the best attack of the competition and made good use of the lack of saves from CSM’s goalkeepers.

Gnonsiane Niombla and Linnea Torstensson did their best to keep CSM in sight but without effective defence their efforts were only enough to avoid a humiliating defeat. Dibirova could even afford to spare the energy of her key players as the game was long won by the time the last ten minutes began.

Johansson took off his goalkeeper to attack with seven players but the dangerous tactics did not really pay off. CSM did crawl a little closer as Vardar’s defensive stability dropped heavily but there is no way to reach the final of the TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 with 38 goals conceded.

On the other hand with this amount of goals scored Vardar set a new FINAL4 record and also 71 goals in the game have put this result to the very top of the history charts.

"After the analysis we had, it was not a surprise that we could be able to reach the final. First of all, we are going to celebrate then we need to prepare for tomorrow against Győr," Dibirova said.

"We have done the preparation but we could not see what actually came. They surprised us and the first 15 minutes was very shaky from us," Per Johansson explained.

TEXT: Bence Mártha / br