Vardar shift focus to Kiel after winning SEHA title
The current VELUX EHF Champions League winners confirmed their dominance in another European handball league on Sunday: HC Vardar won the SEHA League for the second straight year, and fourth time overall. The competition was held for the seventh year and the final tournament last weekend was played in the presence of the EHF President Michael Wiederer.
Before the final match against Zagreb, Vardar set a scoring record for SEHA Final 4 matches as they defeated Meshkov Brest 33:24 in the semi-final on Friday.
Vardar have remained unbeaten throughout the SEHA season with 19 victories and only one draw. Zagreb were the last team to beat Vardar, back in December 2016.
However, the Croatian side didn’t have the strength to stop Vardar’s superiority this time, and after a 26:24 (14:13) victory, the Macedonian hosts could raise the trophy for the second year in a row.
"Fans gave additional push in crucial moments"
“We expected a tough final match and our opponent definitely showed great resistance,” Vardar’s Croatian centre back Luka Cindric said. “Our fans also gave us an additional push in the crucial moments and made this task easier for us. We deserved this victory and we can only be satisfied with our performance.”
With four players in the SEHA All-star Team, the defending champions justified being the top favourites ahead of this weekend.
Cindric was voted the MVP player of the Final 4 tournament. In both matches, he was Vardar’s leading player and his name was written 12 times in the scorers’ list.
“I respect every match and I always strive to show only the best,” Cindric said. “Of course, being recognised as the MVP means a lot for me, but without the entire team effort nothing would be possible.”
"We enter the quarter-final with full strength"
With one competition completed, Vardar are facing three more challenges: two domestic events and the Champions League. After winning their group, Vardar skipped the Last 16 and are now facing THW Kiel for a spot at the VELUX EHF FINAL 4.
The first leg will be played in Germany on Sunday, 22 April, at 17:00 hrs and streamed live on ehfTV.com.
“It is very important that, although we won the SEHA League, we don’t have any injuries from this weekend which means we are ready to enter the quarter-final with full strength,” Cindric said. “We know that it won’t be easy for us because Kiel are definitely one of the best teams nowadays and are improving their performance through the Champions League.”
The Last 16 saw two big clubs sensationally crash out of the tournament - Telekom Veszprém HC and FC Barcelona Lassa. Those results have sent coach Raul Gonzales’ squad an extra warning ahead of the quarter-final.
“This match against Zagreb helps us to get back on track after the pause. We have to be careful and prepare very well in the upcoming days,” Cindric said.
The centre back added that all Vardar players were dreaming of “feeling such positive emotions like we can feel here in Skopje,” giving them additional motivation for the Kiel games.
“We all want to be part of the FINAL 4 in Cologne and of course defend the title,” Cindric said.Author: Amina Idrizi / ew