12 Nenadic goals pave Veszprém’s way to fourth finalArticle
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SEMI-FINAL REVIEW: Despite an early injury to goalkeeping legend Arpad Sterbik, coach David Davis' team beat Kielce in the opening semi-final, taking revenge for the 2016 trophy match

12 Nenadic goals pave Veszprém’s way to fourth final

Thanks to a superb outing from Petar Nenadic, Telekom Veszprém HC clinched their fourth EHF Champions League Final berth, after 2002, 2015 and 2016. Cheered by more than 4,000 fans in red, the record Hungarian champions emerged victorious from the intense battle that was a rematch of the 2016 final, which Kielce won 39:38 following a penalty shoot-out. 

The Hungarian team’s opponent will be decided in the second semi-final, Barça Lassa versus HC Vardar, later on Saturday evening.

  • Veszprém’s Serbian shooter Petar Nenadic is the top scorer of the game, with 12 goals, and is awarded best player of the match

  • Kielce right back Alex Dujshebaev becomes the current top scorer of the VELUX EHF Champions League season, with a total of 95 goals after seven strikes in the semi-final

  • Whether Arpad Sterbik will be able to fight for his fifth Champions League trophy is not certain, after a leg injury early in the semi-final

Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) vs PGE Vive Kielce (POL) 33:30 (13:13)

Veszprém started in express mode, backed by another show from 39-year-old goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik. As usual when on court in LANXESS arena, the four-time Champions League winner was on fire, completely shutting down Kielce. After 12 minutes, he had already saved seven shots, while Kielce had enormous problems in attack.

Veszprém pulled ahead to a 4:0 start, while it took more than six minutes for Kielce to score for the first time. But from minute 20 and an 8:5 advantage for Veszprém, the tide turned. Kielce defended stronger, profited from the saves of Vladimir Cupara, and caused turnovers they followed with counter attacks. It was during one of those fast breaks that Sterbik was injured, after a collision with Marko Mamic, who scored for his team to come within one goal at 8:7.

After nine saves, the Veszprém hero was replaced by Roland Mikler, and Kielce profited from the shock and confusion to extend their unanswered run to 5:0. Alex Dujshebaev scored his 91st goal to level with Rhein-Neckar Löwen’s Andy Schmid in first place on the season’s top scorer list, taking his side in front 10:8. After Kielce fell behind again, Dujshebaev kept them within reach when he hit the net for 17:16 after the break – and with that, the son of coach Talant Dujshebaev claimed the top spot from Schmid.

Veszprém managed to turn the direction of the rollercoaster car yet again. Therefore, after an intense first half, 13:13 was the deserved result in the sold-out LANXESS arena.

“We just had a little more luck in those few deciding situations you face in such matches. And for sure our goalkeeper Mikler made the difference coming in at short notice when Arpad got injured. He was just there,” said Veszprém line player Andreas Nilsson. 

In minute 40, Veszprém’s next setback occurred: After a foul against Uladzislau Kulesh, Slovenian defence specialist Blaz Blagotinsek received a red card – but this time, coach David Davis team were not thrown off. It was the opposite in fact: they scored three unanswered long-range goals into the empty net to pull ahead 21:18. In that period, Serbian left back Nenadic was the leading force in attack, while Dragan Gajic was unstoppable from right wing.

When Kielce centre back Luka Cindric properly started his engine, the deficit temporarily melted from four goals to only one, and everything was open again. But when Nenadic continued his scoring roll, the distance grew again. When Mate Lekai scored for 32:28, the deal was sealed – and Veszprém were in the final again.

“Sure, we are disappointed now. But actually they were one step ahead during the whole match, more or less,” said Cindric. “We just ran behind on standings as well as on the field.”

Nenadic is now the second top scorer in a single match at the VELUX EHF FINAL4. Only Juanin Garcia (Barcelona) scored more often on match, hitting the goal 13 times in the 2010 final.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg