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12 days ago - 10/8/2017

Montpellier stay top; Motor salvage point

HC Motor Zaporozhye were seen as favourites in their home match against HC Metalurg, yet after a poor performance in the first half, even a 28:28 draw looks like a favourable result for them.

· Metalurg took a point from Motor for the first time in their third encounter after losing big lead
· First draw for both Zaporozhye and Metalurg this season
· With four wins in as many games, Montpellier retain the best record of the competition

GROUP D

HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs HC Metalurg (MKD) 28:28 (12:18)

Previously the two sides had only met in the European competitions two years ago, when Motor beat Metalurg both at home and away in the group phase.

This season, the Ukrainian outfit started the season better than their rivals, and although they lost in Montpellier by eight goals last week, Motor were determined to redeem themselves at home.

However, the team from Skopje proved a hard nut to crack. Following two opening defeats, they claimed their first win in the competition against Sporting, which gave them a morale boost.

Metalurg kept this momentum in Zaporozhye where their domination was felt since the opening minutes. The visitors capitalized on numerous Motor's mistakes and led 6:1 after 7 minutes and 10:3 midway through the first half.

Motor could not find their rhythm and failed to hold back Metalurg's Aleksandar Gugleta who scored six goals from six shots before the break, contributing to the visitors' 18:12 lead.

Big comeback after the break

Yet the second half was totally different. Motor started to look more like themselves, and following a 7:2 run they were down by just one goal (20:19) by the 40th minute.

Victor Kireev made a number of saves in the goal, while Aidenas Malasinskas and Zakhar Denisov made their impact in attack - particularly the latter who finished the game as its best scorer with eight goals.

For the first time during the match, the hosts drew level in the 54th minute at 26:26. Metalurg then went in front again, but when Barys Pukhouski made it 28:28 from time, it turned out to be the final goal of the match.

Both sides tried hard to snatch a victory, with Pukhouski missing the target in Motor's final attack a couple of seconds from the buzzer, yet they had to settle for a draw, the first for both teams this season.

Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR) vs Montpellier HB (FRA) 32:36 (16:20)

Montpellier gained their fourth win in as many games in Besiktas after a real thriller in the second half. The Turkish side had an opportunity to earn something from the match when they narrowed the gap to one, but failed to stop Montpellier in the end.

Montpellier started the game with their foot to the pedal, with Nikola Portner in form between the posts and punishing the hosts with fast breaks. Taking advantage of their opponents' turnovers, the French side were playing with speed and after 16 minutes played, Michaël Guigou gave his team a 12:5 lead.

The game could have been put to bed at this stage, but Montpellier dropped their intensity and Besiktas responded.

With Ramazan Döne as their main offensive weapon, the locals were narrowing the gap little by little and at half-time it was all to play for, with Montpellier only leading by four, 16:20.

The advantage remained more or less the same throughout the second half, with Besiktas' Faruk Vrazalic answering every Vid Kavticnik goal, until Karim Hendaway in the Besiktas goal stopped Montpellier in their tracks and even scored a goal himself to put the guests under pressure.

Besiktas were the better team on the court in the last fifteen minute and at 30:31, a draw or even more was in sight.

However, Montpellier let their experience do the talking with Vid Kavticnik, top scorer for his team with seven goals, particularly important as Montpellier secured a 36:32 victory.

Author: Sergey Nikolaev, Kevin Domas / cor