|25.09.2016, 17:10||◄ last page|
GROUP B REVIEW: Pick Szeged were held to a thrilling 28:28 draw by visiting Rhein-Neckar Löwen, while Vardar enjoyed a comfortable 28:23 win at Kristianstad
Löwen get last-second draw, Vardar take big win
MOL Pick-Szeged and Rhein-Neckar Löwen fought out an absorbing 28:28 draw on Sunday after their see-saw battle failed to produce a winner. And HC Vardar bounced back from a slow start to claim two points at IFK Kristianstad.
Having beaten each other three times in their previous six meetings, Szeged and Rhein-Neckar Löwen were bound to produce another thriller and it was clear from the start their contest would go down to the wire in a fantastic atmosphere.
Motivated to shine against his former club, Szeged’s Russian left back Sergei Gorbok pulled all the strings in attack as the home side turned a 9:5 deficit into an 11:10 lead, and held on to take a slender advantage into the locker room at half-time.
It was a dream debut for Gorbok, who joined Szeged after spending the last two years at HC Vardar, while their Croatian goalkeeper Marin Sego was just as impressive following his close-season move from KS Vive Tauron Kielce, the VELUX EHF Champions League holders.
Schmid contained after the break
Swiss maestro Andre Schmid was Löwen’s driving force in the opening period, when he scored five goals, but he was subdued after the interval as Sego continued to bedazzle the visitors with a series of superb saves which allowed his team to overturn a 16:18 deficit into a 21:19.
As the lead kept changing hands, both sides endured barren spells in attack but quickly bounced back, treating the fans to a handball extravaganza as the home straight beckoned.
Szeged denied by Ekdahl du Rietz piledriver
It looked like the Hungarian giants would come out on top as they headed into the final few minutes with a 27:25 advantage, but had to settle for a point after Mannheim’s Löwen showed all their resilience in a tight finish.
Szeged threw away their last possession and could only watch in disbelief as Kim Ekdahl du Rietz, who had a quiet and largely frustrating game in back court until the closing stages, beat Sego with a thundering long-range shot with only four seconds left on the clock.
"Based on the last five minutes we lost one point," Szeged right back Balogh Zsolt said. "But looking at the whole match, it is a fair result."
Rhein-Neckar Löwen coach Nikolaj Jacobsen was also "happy with one point. We played a great game, especially in the first 20 minutes."
Schmid finished with a game-high seven goals for the visitors while Gorbok and Jonas Kallman led Szeged with five each.
An upset seemed to be on the cards after IFK Kristianstad, roared on by their ever so passionate supporters, carved out a 7:4 lead midway through the first half thanks to a series of turnovers by an injury-hit Vardar.
The Macedonian giants looked bereft of pace and ideas in the opening 15 minutes as the home side took advantage and edged ahead thanks to the shooting prowess of Philip Henningsson.
However, the visitors found their rhythm after a time-out and never looked back after turning the match around with a 7:1 streak which gave them an 11:8 advantage in the closing stages of the first half.
Simic heroics keep Kristianstad afloat
The home side were in danger of suffering a rout as Vardar’s lead soared to 17:12 early in the second period, but their Montenegrin goalkeeper Nebojsa Simic kept his team’s challenge alive with a series of fantastic saves, including three penalties.
With Dujshebaev and Igor Karacic firing on all cylinders, though, the visitors were able to keep a comfortable lead as the rest of Kristianstad could not match Henningsson’s firepower or Simic’s acrobatics.
The robust goalkeeper galvanised the home crowd every time he made a save but there was to be no final twist after Karacic made the score 20:16 to Vardar with 10 minutes left.
The lead soon soared to 25:18 and the writing was on the wall for Kristianstad, which still refused to roll over and salvaged some pride with a late flurry which kept the scoreline respectable.
The versatile Dujshebaev finished with seven goals for Vardar and Karacic, who orchestrated their attacks, added five.
Henningsson capped a fine performance with seven goals from eight shots for the home side, overpowered by a deep Vardar roster boasting plenty of individual quality.
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / ew