Strong second half helps Szeged to victory; Elverum draw with Zagreb
Ahead of Sunday's clash, Szeged had seven points to their name, while Celje only registered their first points with a win last time out against Elverum.
But anyone expecting a one-sided affair was proven wrong, as the young Slovenian side gave their hosts a good run for their money. Szeged had trouble containing the Celje offence in the opening half, but their quality told as the game wore on.
Meanwhile, in the other match in group A on Sunday, Elverum Handball met HC PPD Zagreb. Neither side had managed to earn any points in the first five rounds of the VELUX EHF Champions League, so this direct confrontation was very important for both teams.
In an entertaining match, Elverum Handball came back from a significant half-time deficit to lead late on, but HC PPD Zagreb secured a draw with a last-gasp equaliser.
- Szeged are now third in the group with nine points, while Celje remain sixth with two
- Szeged’s Bogdan Radivojevic was the best scorer in the game with eight, while Josip Sarac netted seven times for Celje
- Elverum are in seventh place and Zagreb are in eighth, both on one point
- Zagreb’s Ante Gadža and Elverum’s Alexandre Blonz scored eight goals each
MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) vs RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) 31:24 (14:14)
Depsite having taken just two points prior to this match, Celje didn’t show any signs of pressure during the opening phase. The Slovenian side, helped by Klemen Ferlin’s saves, quickly took a 3-goal advantage after Gal Marguc netted.
Szeged reacted promptly, though, largely thanks to Bogdan Radivojevic. After the Serbian’s first goal, the teams were level on 5, and remained neck-to-neck until the break.
The best illustration of how close both teams were came in the last ten seconds of the half. Szeged’s Luka Stepancic scored an in-flight goal before, right on the buzzer, Kristjan Horzen equalised, leaving everything open for the second half.
The turning point came just after the restart, as Szeged upped the attacking intensity level. This translated onto the score board as Szeged led by 3 after forty minutes, thanks to two straight goals by Joan Canellas.
Celje were struggling to find the net, and went goalless between the 43rd and 53rd minutes, allowing Szeged to pull away. Ferlin did his best to keep the visitors in the game, but the Slovenian keeper couldn’t stop everything.
Radivojevic got an 8-goal haul to put Szeged ahead by 7 with two minutes to play, and it was clear the Hungarian side would take the two points.
Elverum Handball (NOR) vs HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) 30:30 (13:18)
Zagreb proved to be particularly efficient in offence on Sunday night, which was surprising for a team that had been ranked among the worst offences in the VELUX EHF Champions League before round 6.
In fact, thanks to Ante Gadža impressive performance, the Croatian side scored 18 in the first half alone. The young centre back netted eight times in the first 30 minutes, helping his team to break away on the scoreboard. Zagreb scored five straight times to finish the half and led 18:13 at half-time.
The five-goal deficit did not stop Elverum from maintaining belief, though. Whilst it did not show immediately, as Matej Hrstic picked up the scoring duties for Zagreb, Alexandre Blonz led the Norwegian side to a sensational comeback in the second half.
The Norwegian side, helped by an excellent performance from Emil Imsgard between the posts, enjoyed a 4:0 run in the middle of the second half to come back within one, 22:23.
Elverum then levelled the score with less than 10 minutes to play, 25:25, but it was not until the final seconds that they took the lead. However, there was one more twist, and Marin Sipic scored the equaliser for Zagreb (30:30) in the last second.
Elverum coach Michael Apelgren reflected upon his side's draw after the match. He said: "Zagreb was for sure the best team in the first half, and our team was the best in the second, so a tie is maybe fair, but it really hurts when they score the last goal in the last seconds. But they could also have won this match before."
Zagreb coach Veselin Vujovic viewed a draw as the correct outcome. "Both teams play a very important match today. We won the first half but (we) lost the second, and I think a draw is a good result for both teams in the end," he said.Author: Kevin Domas / tm, jw