|16.10.2016, 19:30||◄ last page|
GROUP B REVIEW: Macedonian giants Vardar overpowered Hungarian rivals MOL-Pick Szeged in an absorbing VELUX EHF Champions League match thanks to the inspired Russian winger Timur Dibirov.
Dibirov propels Vardar over Szeged in titanic tussle
Vardar stayed level on points with VELUX EHF Champions League holders, KS Vive Tauron Kielce, at the top of the section after celebrating their fourth win from as many matches, carving out a 30:27 home victory against MOL-Pick Szeged.
Another spirited home-court performance stretched Vardar’s perfect start in Europe’s premier club competition to four matches, as they forced Szeged into submission thanks to a breathtaking display by their right wing Timur Dibirov.
Both sides made a physical start to the game, with plenty of bruising one-on-one duels at both ends of the court.
It was a see-saw battle as the lead changed hands several times in the opening stages, with six different scorers netting Vardar’s opening six goals.
The trend changed when the Macedonian’s side’s versatile centre back, Igor Karacic, riffled in three in a row to counter smooth penalty taking by Zsolt Balogh at the other end, as he converted all his five shots from the seven-metre line in the first half.
Richard Bodo and right back Denis Buntic also proved a handful for Vardar’s defence, but Dibirov took over late in the opening period.
He finished the first half with five goals as a resilient Vardar erased a two-goal deficit (15:13) late in the first half.
The rollercoaster continued after the break, with both sides able to exploit each other’s mistakes and take turns in engineering slender one-goal leads in the Jane Sandanski Arena.
Roared on by their vociferous fans, especially the die-hard “Komiti” section, Vardar finally turned the tide their way after the effervescent Dibirov scored two goals in a row to give the home side a 25:22 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Szeged fought hard to get back into the match and forced a dramatic finish after they reduced the deficit to 28:27 in the closing stages, but two goals without reply by the home side made sure that Vardar’s home court remained an impregnable fortress.
Dibirov finished with eight goals from 10 shots for Vardar, Croatian Luka Cindric added five and his compatriot Igor Karacic had four.
Balogh led Szeged with a game-high nine goals from 14 shots, most of them from the seven-metre penalty line, while Denis Buntic added four.
Juan Carlos Pastor, Szeged coach: "I think that we played a good match, both in defence and offence. But it is still not enough to win against such good teams like Vardar. We have to learn from this defeat."
Denis Buntic, Szeged right back: "We played well, but we also had some mistakes and I blame myself for some of those. We tried our best, we pushed them until the end, but they won."
Raul Gonzalez, Vardar coach: "We didn’t play our game during the first half but in the second, we changed our defense to 6-0. We also had a solid performance from our goalkeeper Milic, who gave us the opportunity to score from fast breaks. I am proud of my players because Szeged is a very tough rival to beat. We are in excellent position with 8 points from 4 games."
Timur Dibirov, Varder left wing: "Szeged are always serious challengers and it is very hard to beat them by three or four goals. We remember last year’s battles when we played similar close games. For us every point is important and now we are in very good position in the group."
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / ew