|20.06.2016, 17:10||◄ last page|
DOMESTIC LEAGUES: VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finalists Vardar and Zagreb cannot be stopped in their national leagues
National champions of Europe - Men part 4 - Balkans
HC PPD Zagreb showed the unquenchable trophy hunger once again. As usual, the title was decided between Zagreb and NEXE, with the team lead by Veselin Vujovic preaviling in both matches to clear all doubts regarding the Croatian champion.
Yet again, Zagreb’s season was plagued with injuries and departures. Vujovic’s team went through tough times during winter, as the likes of the quintessential sharpshooters Stipe Mandalinic and Luka Stepancic endured difficult setbacks.
However, Zagreb recovered from a mid-season injury crisis to on the wings of exhilarating performances in the VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-finals. The ever-confident Lions took the championship trophy to their den by finishing the job domestically, celebrating the famous double in front of the home fans, for the milestone 25th time.
While a few seasons ago FYR Macedonia had an interesting championship in which was impossible to guess who will be the winner until the very end of the season, things have changed in the league that is a pure formality for HC Vardar.
One match before the season end, Vardar secured the trophy after they obtained an easy victory by demolishing the last season silver medallists Maks Strumica. Raul Gonzales team furiously started the match and had an advantage of 23 goals at one stage of the match that ended 47:30. The last match of the season against Prilep was quite an easy task that ended 38:34 in Vardar’s favour.
This trophy marked the end for Dejan Manaskov, Sergey Gorbok, Matjas Brumen and Alem Toskic at the club.
Vojvodina became the five-time Serbian champion in a spectacular fashion after a recovering from a poor start to their trophy defence which almost cost them the title.
However, the celebrations could not start in Novi Sad before the last round of the play-offs, as the resurrected runners-up RK Metaloplastika lead the championship until the very end. Despite playing a near-perfect season, Metaloplastika’s hopes of bringing the champions’ trophy to Sabac after 28 years vanished after Vojvodina took a miraculous turn mid-way through the play-offs.
Played well when it matter the most, they reaffirmed their status by defending the crown for the fourth consecutive time. Vojvodina saw their dream of playing in the VELUX EHF Champions League come true this season, awaiting the next with the same desire and ambitions.
Budvanska Rivijera wrote Montenegrin club handball history by topping the rampant Partizan and powerful Lovcen to their maiden title. The spirited “Budvani” brought back the faith and enthusiasm for men’s handball in Montenegro this season, having been buoyed by the full house at the “Mediterranean Sports Centre” throughout.
In the end, Brano Bozovic’s lads secured the elusive title, in the last 10 minutes of a real low-scoring Balkan brawl with the three-time defending champions Lovcen (19:17) to bring the first Montenegrin champions trophy to their coastline town. Bozovi’s team showed an exquisite team performance throughout the season, and deservedly lifted the title. Furthermore, there were no standout individuals in Rivijera’s the title winning campaign - it was the whole team and a tactically impeccable leadership, which prevailed in the end.
Perhaps one of the most shocking power shifts in the Balkans happened in Bosnia Herzegovina, where Borac Banja Luka’s hopes went to ruin within just one season. The Bosnia Herzegovina’s most prosperous club could not recover from failing to reach the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase, which prompted their rivals RK Izvidjac’s trophy hunt.
However, it will not belittle the magnificent achievement from Zdenko Grbavac’s men, who reclaimed the trophy after 11 years. Buoyant Izvidjac heroically fended off any title hopefuls going undefeated in the play-off to claim the spot in the SEHA league next season.
With 13 titles in the “Liga Națională”, Dinamo București have always been a powerhouse in the Romanian’s men handball. However, in the last 15 years, Dinamo only managed to win one title, in 2005.
The last ten years have been the most difficult in the team’s history, the lack of funding bringing Dinamo to the brink of bankruptcy. The powerhouse had to play their home games in Brașov or Călărași, but came back to Bucharest in 2014 with huge ambitions.
Having lost in the semi-finals last season against Minaur Baia Mare, Dinamo tried even harder this season and finished the regular season on top with six points more than CSM București.
After wins against Dunărea Călărași and Politehnica Timișoara in the first play-off rounds, the final against CSM București was set.
Dinamo looked in control after obliterating CSM in the first game, 34:20, but CSM came back and won the second leg, 27:25 bringing the tie down to the wire. Having the better regular season, Dinamo played in their home hall, packed with their ultras, and clawed back in the second half to win, 25:23. It was the first title in the last 11 years for Dinamo, who claim it is the start of a new era in Romanian handball.
Nothing changed in Kosovo, as Besa Famiglia won their third consecutive title in the domestic championship.
In the play-off series Besa Famiglia played against Prishtina and won the first match at home 36:33. Prishtina showed a much better performance at home, but a 29:29 draw, the only dropped points of the season, was enough for Besa Famiglia to claim the trophy.
In addition Besa Famiglia also confirmed their domination in Kosovo the cup. This is third consecutive title for the club and 14th in their history.
Fregata Burgas continued their domination in the Bulgarian league with a third title in as many seasons.
It was not an easy task for the defending champions as Lokomotiva took the first match of the final series 30:26 but then managed to turnaround the super final series.
The second match at home was an easy task for Fergata as the demolished Lokomotiva 32:21, and they secured the title in the away match 29:22. A consolation prize for the silver medallists Lokomotiva was victory in the Bulgarian Cup.
Albania is back on the handball track this season with a senior men’s league once again and Elbasan are the new champions.
In the competition of 6 teams, Elbasan and Vllaznia as winners of both groups during the regular season met in the finals of the championship. Elbasan were superior in both final games. First they won the away game 28:26 and made sure of their triumph with an emphatic 29:20 win.
TEXT: Nemanja Savic, Amina Idrizi, Adrian Costeiu / cor