Maqueda scores late winner; Nantes dominateArticle
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QUARTER-FINAL REVIEW: THW Kiel give up a two-goal lead against Vardar and HBC Nantes remain unbeaten at home in this season's VELUX EHF Champions League
»2017-18 Men's News
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Maqueda scores late winner; Nantes dominate

Like in the previous season, when they won their quarter-final away match at Flensburg, Vardar were victorious in Germany again.

The 29:28 win in Kiel provided the defending VELUX EHF Champions league champions with a perfect base for the re-match.

HBC Nantes remain unbeaten at home in this season's VELUX EHF Champions League and beat Skjern in the first leg of the quarter-final by 33 to 27.

  • For the first time since 2011, Kiel lose a quarter-final match on home court.
  • Vardar’s line players Stojanche Stoilov and Rogerio Moraes scored five goals each.
  • It was Vardar’s fourth straight away victory on German ground after in Mannheim and Flensburg.
  • For the final Champions League home game of the season, Nantes remain unbeaten.
  • Best scorer for Nantes was David Balaguer with eight while Skjern's Markus Olsson scored 6


THW Kiel (GER) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 28:29 (12:14)

In the first half, the hosts had not been ahead by a single second, while Vardar were dominant in the lion’s den of the Zebras.

Mainly their tactics to form the gaps for physical strong line player Stojanche Stoilov was their way to stay in lead.

At the break, the Vardar team captain had already four of his five goals on his tally. Besides, second pivot Rogerio Moraes had netted – and caused problems for the defence of his former club.

Kiel rather had expected more attacking power from the wing positions.

When Stoilov had netted for the fourth time, Vardar were ahead by three goals for the first time at 8:5.

Kiel managed to level the result several times later on, but finally were down by 14:12 at the break, while Vardar had managed to calm down the arena.

After the break, Vardar continued with their line player tactics – and now no one could stop Moraes.

The only players, who kept Kiel in the match, were goalkeeper Niklas Landin and inspiring playmaker Miha Zarabec, who provided his teammates with some sensational passes.

But then came Marko Vujin: the Serb took the responsibility to turn the match around in the middle of the second half.

When Vardar couldn't score against Landin for seven minutes, Kiel took their first lead at 21:20 and even extended the gap to 23:20.

The arena was on fire, and Vardar were shaken.

But Kiel could not cast off the defending champions, in contrast: having the advantage of a 28:26 lead, THW gave the match from their hands, being shorthanded after a suspension against Patrick Wiencek.

Luka Cindric, Timur Dibirov and finally a 35-metre goal into the empty net by Jorge Maqueda provided Vardar with a perfect base for the re-match at home.

Post-match comments:

Raul Gonzales, head coach of Vardar: "I’m very happy about our victory because it isn’t easy to play here.

"The first half was nearly perfect and in the second half we had some luck. But this was only the first half, Kiel have the quality to win away."

Alfred Gislason: "Vardar are beside PSG the best team in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

"We had a lot of problems in the first half; we played the balls into Vardar’s hands.

"We were lucky not to go with more than 2 goals down into the half-time break.

"In second half we played better and we were with 3 goals up five minutes before the end.

"But we didn’t score more golas because of Vardar’s quality and the two-minute supsension fo Patrick Wiencek.

"I'm dissapointed, and now we are travelling to Vardar as a complete underdog.

"This match will be extremly tough – and we lost Steffen Weinhold with a strained muscle in his upper leg."

HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Skjern Handbold (DEN) 33:27 (18:12)

You could feel the pressure and the anticipation before the throw-off, between two teams that had never played at that level before.

A couple of turnovers and badly played attacks after the start, Skjern were first to score, thanks to Markus Olsson.

The Swedish left-back was decisive for his team in the first minutes, as they took the first lead, 2:0.

But after a shaky start, Nantes came back right into the game.

A couple of saves by Cyril Dumoulin warmed the arena up and soon, the French side scored a 4:0 serie, taking advantage of a two minutes suspension against the visitors.

15 minutes in, Nantes were ahead 9:5.

The momentum didn't stop there, even though Skjern tried to play with seven players on the court.

Nantes were picking up lost balls and scoring into the empty net by David Balaguer and Eduardo Gurbindo, making the gap grow to seven right before half-time, 18:11. A last-second goal by Bjarke Christensen kept Skjern in the game, only lead by 6, 18:12.

The second half started as the first one had ended, with Nantes taking full advantage of the support from their home fans.

After two minutes, they were ahead by eight, their biggest lead of the game, 20:12; followed a period during which both teams answered each other goals, without anybody making any crucial difference.

Jesper Konradsson and Kasper Sondergaard were finally finding solutions from long range, while Nicolas Tournat played impressively on the line player position for Nantes.

Two goals in a row from Kiril Lazarov, 15 minutes from the final whistle, still gave Nantes a ten-goal advantage for the first time of the game, 28:18.

Did it feel like the game was decided already? Or did Skjern give everything they had left? Anyway, the Danes took advantage from a bad period from the locals to come back into the race.

Back court players Kasper Sondergaard and Markus Olsson scored a couple and Skjern were back within six, keeping their hopes of Cologne alive.

They would retain this gap until the end, Nantes won 33:27 in the end.

Post-match reactions:

Thierry Anti, Nantes' coach, was of course delighted by how things wrapped up: "We don't have any regrets, winning by six is already brilliant.

"I think it's better than winning by ten, it will keep us on our toes before the second leg, in which everything will be decided."

Markus Olsson, his team's best scorer with six, was not as pleased. "We had a terrible first half and it was hard to come back after that, but the second half was OK.

"We still have a little bit of hope left to go to Cologne, and we'll play to the max next week at home."

Photos: Sasha Klahn

TEXT: Björn Pazen & Kevin Domas / bc