|22.10.2016, 22:55||◄ last page|
MOTW GROUP B REVIEW: HC PPD Zagreb celebrated a memorable home win over favourites HC Vardar, while RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko earned a share of the spoils at IFK Kristianstad after a thriller in Sweden
Zagreb stun Vardar as Celje scrape draw at Kristianstad
HC PPD Zagreb chalked up their first two points of the season in the most unlikely fashion, having beaten strong favourites Vardar 28:27 as the Macedonian giants suffered their first VELUX EHF Champions League defeat this term.
In Sweden, IF Kristianstad and RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko fought out an absorbing 29:29 draw after the lead changed hands time and again, before Blaz Janc salvaged a point for the Slovenian side on the buzzer.
IFK Kristianstad seemed poised for a comfortable win against Celje after racing into an early 4:1 lead, which increased to 11:7 in the closing stages of the first half as the Swedish side’s smooth attacking kept the visitors on the back foot.
The trio of Jerry Tollbring, Olafur Gudmundsson and Tim D. Sörensen gave their Slovenian rivals a roasting in the opening period, pulling all the strings and netting three goals each for the home side.
Celje fight back
Having committed too many turnovers in the opening period, Celje looked like a different side after the break as Blaz Janc took charge and rifled in a series of long-range efforts which turned the match on its head.
Celje drew level at 16:16 and then nosed ahead 21:19, silencing the vociferous Swedish crowd as the home side’s attack was ground to a screeching halt.
From there on it was a see-saw battle, with Kristianstad turning the tide to lead 25:24 thanks to the unstoppable Tollbring, who finished as their top scorer with eight goals.
It was Celje’s turn to force another twist as they edged ahead 26:25 before they again conceding two unanswered goals, giving the home side the upper hand in a dramatic finish.
Kristianstad looked home and dry after carrying a one-goal lead (29:28) into the final 20 seconds of the game, but the effervescent Janc made sure Celje got their reward for a spirited second-half comeback.
The right back ripped through the middle in the dying seconds and drilled the equaliser into the far corner on the buzzer, finishing with a game-high nine goals for the visitors.
The result left both sides on three points from five games, one ahead of Zagreb who kept alive their last-16 hopes with a shock win over HC Vardar in the day’s late fixture.
Fans in the Zagreb Arena were privileged to see a clash which fully lived up to its billing as the Match of the Week, producing an outcome justifying the old David vs Goliath cliché.
Written off before the game as rank outsiders, Zagreb engineered a remarkable second-half fightback to wipe out a five-goal deficit against Vardar, earning their first win of the season in Europe which also ended the Macedonian side’s perfect start.
Having replaced the departed Veselin Vujovic as Zagreb’s new coach on Thursday, Silvio Ivandija barely had time to prepare his troops for a clash with the group’s heavyweights.
But it turned out to be a memorable debut for him after a poor first half in which Vardar appeared to be in cruise control, stepping up a gear only when they needed to in order to keep the battling home side on the back foot.
Vardar scored a barrage of easy goals in the opening period, particularly in its closing stages as Alex Dujshebaev and Zagreb’s former winger Ivan Cupic ruthlessly exposed all the chinks in the home team’s porous armour.
They scored four goals each in the first half, with Vuko Borozan and Timur Dibirov adding three each to underline the depth of Vardar’s star-studded roster.
Stevanovic and Markovic turn the tide
Vardar had edged Zagreb 32:31 in the regional SEHA League earlier this season, having also beaten them in the competition’s semi-final last term.
The early stages of the second half suggested they were on course for a third successive win against their injury-hit perennial rivals from the former Yugoslavia.
Whenever Zagreb slashed the gap, the visitors replied with their own streak and one such three-goal spurt gave Vardar a 23:18 advantage midway through the second period.
That’s when it all went downhill for Vardar, who lost their focus after Zagreb’s goalkeeper Ivan Stevanovic ignited an astonishing twist with a barrage of superb saves, including two penalties.
Goal by goal, possession after possession, the hosts kept reducing the deficit and were on level terms (26:26) with several minutes left, after their flying Serbian winger Dobrivoje Markovic scored his sixth goal of the match.
Josip Valcic gave Zagreb their first lead in their next possession and Stipe Mandalinic drilled in the winner after Dujshebaev had equalised.
Vardar then had two chances to force a draw, but Dujshebaev’s shot cannoned off the post and after the visitors had regained possession, Stevanovic saved a desperate last-gasp shot by Joan Canellas from near the halfway line.
Markovic finished as Zagreb’s top scorer with six goals, while Dujshebaev led Vardar with five.
Silvio Ivandija, PPD Zagreb coach: "In the first half our defence was not good. There were also some technical errors allowing them to enlarge the gap to five. However, we've managed to solidfy our lines in the second with amazing Ivan Stevanovic between posts, we deserved the win with a bit of luck in the end."