From 'Zebra' to 'Warrior': Is a Brazilian giant the secret ingredient for Vardar?Article
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FEATURE: Playing against his former team, Rogerio Moraes was one of Vardar's most dangerous offensive weapons in their first-leg quarter-final victory over Kiel in Germany
»2017-18 Men's News
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From 'Zebra' to 'Warrior': Is a Brazilian giant the secret ingredient for Vardar?

Any team would agree that it is not an easy task to play against a German squad, but in the case of the defending champions, this means nothing. HC Vardar continued their superb record by securing their fourth victory on German ground in the first-leg VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final clash versus THW Kiel.

However, the champions had a very tough match against the ‘Zebras’ on Sunday, as the hosts held a three-goal lead in the decisive moments. But Vardar line players Stojanche Stoilov and Rogerio Moraes were in great shape, keeping the title holders on track with easy goals.

In the end, Kiel let the match slip from their hands as Jorge Maqueda scored a 35-metre goal to earn the Macedonian side a 29:28 away victory.

“I think we demonstrated a good game in Sparkassen Arena. We were very good in the first half, but we started the second half with some mistakes that made Kiel return in the match. But we had patience until the end of the game and in the final seconds, with a little luck, we won the game,” says Rogerio Moraes.

Big motivation against former team

The Brazilian line player shone with his performance against his old team, as his former teammates had difficulty trying to stop his movement around the six-metre line. He easily swept the German defence aside and finished the match with five goals from six shots.

Thanks to his great offensive game, the 24-year-old Brazilian giant shared the top scorer position with Stojanche Stoilov and Ivan Cupic. It was one of his best performances in the ‘red-black’ jersey, and he was definitely Gonzales’ key player in the clash.

“I think we all played a good game in Kiel because we played as a team. I personally had great motivation for this game since I needed to tell Gislason ‘thank you’ for the opportunity he gave me in Kiel. That was my first year as a player in Europe and it was a very difficult year on both a professional and personal level, because I never experienced something like that before,” says Moraes.

“Years after, I won the Champions League with Vardar and had the opportunity to play against superb teams like Barcelona and PSG. Today I’m playing better because my coach is an excellent teacher and, with Raul, I gained more confidence in playing better handball. Every day I’m learning more from him in order to be able to get to my best.”

Difficult 60 minutes ahead in Skopje

The current title holders enter the return match (on Sunday at 17:00 hrs, live on with a minimal advantage. Though they secured an away victory, everybody in Skopje is aware that Vardar will have a difficult 60 minutes in the last match at home in order to pass the quarter-final barrier.

“I expect a great fight and a very difficult game, although we are playing at home. The arena will be full and I’m sure we will have great support from our fans,” says Moraes.

“I think we are playing better than last year, since we did not have many changes of players in the team and this helped us to improve tactically and technically. Recently, we won the SEHA League and now we are fighting for a place in Cologne. We will do everything in our power to be part of this event and, of course, try to defend the title.”

TEXT: Amina Idrizi / cg