Mighty Kielce force Szeged into submission, Vardar take advantage of Celje mistakes
The epic ‘Match of the Week’ fully lived up to its billing as KS Vive Tauron Kielce notched their third successive Group B win to stay top after a vintage performance in Hungary against MOL-Pick Szeged, winning 29:27, while a quality HC Vardar side take advantage of RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko mistakes to win 32:26.
Polish side overpowered Szeged 29:27 after scoring the last three goals of the game
Goalkeeper Filip Ivic shone for the defending champions with crucial saves
Kielce playmaker Dean Bombac in inspired form against former club
All-square (15:15) at half-time between Celje and Vardar, but Macedonian quality shines through
Mijajlo Marsenic with six and Timur Dibirov with five goals led Vardar's attack, while Ziga Mlakar and Vid Potek scored five each for Celje
MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) vs KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) 27:29 (15:16)
The reigning champions of Europe’s elite club competition demonstrated their resilience and quality as they squeezed out an impressive win at Szeged after a titanic tussle which will go down as yet another group stage classic between the two teams.
Having trailed 27:26 in the closing stages, Kielce scored the last three goals of the game and had their Croatian goalkeeper Filip Ivic to thank for closing shop at the other end.
Ivic, who joined Kielce from PPD Zagreb during the summer break, stopped four certain goals in crucial moments as Szeged threw away their last six possessions after working hard to turn the tide.
Kielce and Szeged beat each other by a single goal in last season’s group phase double header and a fast-paced start to Sunday’s clash made it clear the contest would once again go down to the wire.
Propelled by Krzysztof Lijewski, Karol Bielecki and former Szeged playmaker Dean Bombac, who dished out passes like confetti, Kielce kept nosing ahead in the opening period and eventually raced into a 15:11 lead in the closing stages of the first half.
Szeged’s goalkeeper Marin Sego – who moved from Kielce to Hungary during the summer break, looked helpless against his former teammates and it took Spanish veteran Jose Sierra to steady the ship after he took over between the posts as the home side gradually reduced the deficit to just one goal at half-time, paving the way for an absorbing second period.
Brilliant Buntic and Inspired Ivic
Zsolt Balogh led Szeged’s charge in the first half and when he ran out of the steam after break, Kielce’s former right back Denis Buntic and his Croatian compatriot Sandro Obranovic carried the mantle as the Hungarian giants seemingly swung the match their way.
Trailing 23:20 midway through the second half, Szeged came storming back to take a 26:24 lead into the last 10 minutes as Kielce looked bereft of ideas in attack and porous in defence.
Ivic then took centre stage
With Szeged leading 27:26, the athletic Ivic in goal kept out a barrage of certain goals which frustrated the home crowd, and players, while Bielecki drilled in several unstoppable shots at the other end to force the final twist in a captivating encounter.
Underlying Kielce’s deep and potent squad, Lijewski led the visitors scoring charts with six goals as Bielecki added five and both Julen Aguinagalde and Manuel Strlek chipped in with four each.
Balogh headed Szeged with five goals but failed to score in the second half after enjoying a rampant first.
Speaking after the game:
Talant Dujshebaev, Head Coach of KS Vive Tauron Kielce said:
“I am very happy to win today because it is a huge achievement in the Szeged arena. In the last 10 minutes our goalkeeper saved shots from Jonas Kallman and Pedro Rodriguez.
“Szeged are a big team with a big coach, but they need time [to gel] together.”
KS Vive Tauron Kielce and former MOL-Pick Szeged player Dean Bombac said:
“I am, of course, very happy to return to Szeged because I spent two wonderful years here, but as player of Kielce I came to win, I came for the two points.
“I feel good in Poland and I thank the fans of both teams who created such a great atmosphere today.”
MOL-Pick Szeged Head Coach Juan Carlos Pastor Gomez said:
“I would like to congratulate Kielce for the victory as in the last few minutes we lost several balls, for which we were punished.
“Though my players made a huge effort today against the title holders, we have to work [more].”
MOL-Pick Szeged player Denis Buntic said:
“It is very difficult to lose a game like this. In the end I think we were unlucky because their goalkeeper saved everything, but we have to forget this match as soon as possible - we have to keep working.”
RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko Celje (SLO) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 26:32 (15:15)
HC Vardar had to play at their very best to beat RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko Celje in the Dvorana Zlatorog in this Group B match-up in Slovenia.
Much of the game was as tight as the first half score suggested (15:15) as Celje's defence, backed up by Ivan Gajic in goal impressed.
Borut Mackovsek started the game with three out of three penalty shots for the home side but he did not get a chance to increase his numbers from the dead ball for the rest of the match as Igor Karacic and Stojanche Stoilov led Vardar's attack in the first half, scoring six goals between them.
Champions vs Champions
The Macedonian champions started the second half in a much more aggressive fashion but it was Celje's mistakes which ultimately helped them move forward as the Slovenian champions lost their touch in attack.
With 12 minutes to go Vardar, led by Daniil Shishkarev and Mijajlo Marsenic almost secured the victory, putting their side 25:19 up.
Urban Lesjak in goal helped Celje come close with just five minutes to go as the home side saw themselves just two goals down (26:24), but that was as close as they could come, as their attack lost concentration.
Vardar win two important points
It was the third victory by the Macedonian side in as many recent games against their regional rival, but a much close affair than the last encounter three weeks ago, when Vardar won easily their SEHA League match-up.
Marsenic with six and Timur Dibirov with five goals led Vardar's attack, while Ziga Mlakar and Vid Potek scored five each for Celje.
Speaking after the game:
RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko Head Coach Branko Tamse said:
“Congratulations to Vardar and (Vardar coach) Raul for today’s deserved victory. I wished to play an aggressive defence and with the 5-1 we managed to surprise them.
“We have played our optimum in the first half but at this moment Vardar is a stronger team than ours.
“I wanted to keep pace through all 60 minutes and maybe have a chance in the last minutes but in the second half we made too many mistakes which were enough for Vardar to secure a few goals difference and they were able to keep this until the very end.”
HC Vardar Head Coach Raul Gonzalez Gutierrez said:
“Congratulations to Celje and coach Tamse for a very good job today - we had a very difficult task to beat a fast home team.
“We had a lot of problems in the first half where we couldn’t match with them in defence and our goalie was not on his best level.
“In the second half we were better in defence and on a higher level and of course also Arpad (Sterbik) had a better half.
"We are very happy with this win since it is very difficult to win in Celje."