Veszprem leapfrog Vardar with superb win
They say it is a first time for everything, but Vardar still failed to open their account on their home court against Veszprém in European competition. In a superb game, which featured lead changes, astonishing goals, some incredible saves and unbelievable turnovers, Veszprém were more focused at the business end and took a 29:27 win against Vardar, which was their fifth in a row in the VELUX EHF Champions League.
The Hungarian side leapfrogged Vardar in the Group A standings, and they are now second with 16 points. The Macedonian side are one point behind in third place.
- This was Veszprém’s fifth win in a row in the Champions League
- Hungarians Mate Lekai (seven goals) and Laszlo Nagy (six goals) were Veszprém’s top scorers
- Vardar suffered their second home defeat of the season
MOTW: HC Vardar (MKD) vs Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) 27:29 (16:11)
A four-game winning streak brought Veszprém back into contention for second place in the group, but a tough battle in Skopje loomed, where Vardar had only lost once this season against group leaders Barça Lassa.
But in their quest to avenge last year’s premature elimination in the Last 16, the in-form Hungarian side, who beat Barça last week, had a difficult time in a sold-out Jane Sandanski Arena, who cheered for their favourites for 60 minutes.
It was a battle between Vardar’s left back Christian Dissinger and Veszprém’s playmaker Mate Lekai, who both scored three goals in the first 15 minutes, as the lead changed five times.
But it was an unanswered 3:0 run when Vardar fired on all cylinders, with their scoring efficiency soaring to 65%, that prompted Veszprém’s coach, David Davis, to take a time-out, as the Hungarian side found themselves behind, 11:8.
It went from bad to worse as a turnover-prone Veszprém struggled in attack, with a 4:1 run from Vardar taking the hosts to an incredible 15:9 lead. When Veszprém did not lose the ball, the Hungarian side faced a superb goalkeeper Dejan Milosavljev. The 22-year old Serbian stalwart saved nine shots in the first half to power his team to a 16:11 lead.
The two teams continued to go back and forth, but Veszprém looked more focused and confident, despite the fierce atmosphere from Vardar’s fans.
While Vardar scored only once in the first eight minutes of the second half, despite a time-out from coach Roberto Garcia Parrdondo, two goals from left wing Manuel Strlek and a superb conversion from playmaker Kentin Mahe saw Veszprém tie the game, 17:17.
Vardar needed another superb string of saves from Dejan Miloslavjev, while in attack Latvian Dainis Kristopans’ shots were unstoppable, as a 3:0 partial from Vardar put the hosts again in a comfortable position, 21:18.
Yet the game was far from over. Another Veszprém burst, with Mate Lekai leading the back court line, levelled the match at 22:22 with only ten minutes to go.
While playmaker Stas Skube scored or assisted for five of Vardar’s last six goals, it was not enough. Veszprém found the right combination as a team, with veteran Laszlo Nagy scoring in the dying seconds to seal an impressive 29:27 win.
Veszprém climbed to second place and will now host Brest in an attempt to consolidate it next week, while Vardar travel to Kristianstad.