Splendid Vardar power past Kielce
A 10:4 run that stretched for 15 minutes saw HC Vardar run away with an impressive win against the current title holders in Round 6 of the VELUX EHF Champions League. 2016 champions KS Vive Tauron Kielce lost their second game in a row, following the 26:34 drubbing against Rhein Neckar-Löwen three weeks ago.
The hosts of Saturday’s match are now leaders of the group with 10 points after six games – one more point than Löwen and two ahead of Kielce.
Meshkov Brest led from start to finish against Kristianstad, as the home team earned their third win in six matches and jumped to fourth place with six points.
MOL-Pick Szeged were also dominant in their game against RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko, recording a six-goal victory.
• 40 is the second-highest number of goals ever scored against Kielce – just one goal shy of their record versus Veszprem 13 years ago
• The 29th goal Vardar scored against Kielce took the Macedonian team’s VELUX EHF Champions League overall tally to 2,500
• Alex Dujshebaev, who will join Kielce next season, scored eight goals – seven in the second half – against his father’s team
• Meshkov Brest improved their chances of a Last 16 berth with their win against Kristianstad
• MOL-Pick Szeged completed a perfect Saturday for Hungarian VELUX EHF Champions League sides after Veszprém took two points on home ground against Bjerringbro
MOTW: HC Vardar (MKD) vs KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) 40:34 (18:18)
The two wounded powerhouses coming into the match after stunning defeats were expected to produce a high-octane game in packed Jane Sandaski Arena, which was dubbed the Match of the Week in the VELUX EHF Champions League with little debate.
“For us, this game was like a final because we played against the current European champion, so our motivation was at the highest possible level,” said Vardar coach Raul Gonzales.
“During the first half Kielce played very well, led by Aguinagalde, Bombac and Zorman. But in the second, our goalkeeper Sterbik had some great saves and we also made three or four counter attacks. Simply, we used the momentum to have the advantage, which was decisive factor.”
Amazing Dibirov inspires Vardar
With their defence thoroughly exposed in the previous match against Rhein Neckar-Löwen, the title holders knew they needed to improve if they were to stand a chance in Skopje. Vardar have lost at home only twice during the last two seasons.
The tension of the game could be felt from throw-off, with three lead changes in the first 10 minutes.
While Kielce looked more comfortable in counter attacks and combinations with the line player, it was Vardar who enjoyed the better start. Left wing Timur Dibirov inspired a 4:0 partial between the 8th and the 13th minutes, which saw Vardar pick up a 9:6 lead.
High-octane half ends in a draw
Only six minutes later, Kielce coach Talant Dujshebaev changed his team’s defensive system from the classic 6:0 to a more aggressive 4:2, and it paid off. The title holders took back the lead at 13:11 thanks to an unstoppable Julen Aguinagalde, who scored eight goals for Kielce.
The Match of the Week continued to deliver as the two teams traded goals until the end of the first half, with the 18:18 draw highlighted by an impressively matched 72% shot and 56% attacking efficiency for both teams.
78% attacking efficiency for Vardar
The deadlock was broken early in the second half, as Kielce failed to maintain the attacking prowess shown in the first half. As Arpad Sterbik closed the Vardar goal, the hosts jumped to a 27:24 lead with 18 minutes to go.
Alex Dujshebaev scored seven times for Vardar in the second half, inspiring the decisive 9:3 run that earned the Macedonian side their second win in five games against Kielce.
Though the Polish team’s defence collapsed for the second time in two matches, the credit for the win belonged to Vardar. The Macedonian side produced a vintage performance in attack, with an exceptional 78% shot efficiency after 60 minutes.
Vardar’s win propelled Raul Gonzales’ side to the top of the group, while Kielce are currently third behind their victors and Löwen.
HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs IFK Kristianstad (SWE) 32:27 (17:13)
With a tough battle ahead for a Last 16 berth, neither Meshkov nor Kristianstad had room for error. The Swedish side were ready to take advantage of a Meshkov slip-up, as they entered Round 6 only one point behind their hosts in the group ranking.
There was little to separate the two sides in the first part of the game before speed and counter attacks, rather than their powerful backs, took Meshkov in front. Dzianis Rutenka and Ljubo Vukic sparked a 3:0 run that saw Brest claim a three-goal lead at 10:7 for the first time in the 16th minute.
No chance for Kristianstad
As Brest continued to impress in attack and maintained a high pace, Kristianstad slowly started to collapse, scoring only one goal in nine minutes. The Belarusian side jumped to a 17:11 lead, but Kristianstad’s top goal scorer, Jerry Tollbring, ended the first 30 minutes with six goals that reduced the deficit to four by half-time.
Only five of Meshkov’s field players failed to score before the 45th minute as the hosts continued to run riot in Kristianstad’s defence in the second half. The visitors could not cope with the mix of solutions Meshkov boasted, and Sergey Bebeshko’s side created a 25:18 lead with 12 minutes to go.
Though Bebeshko continued to experiment with his roster, Meshkov still finished the game five goals ahead, with Dainis Kristopans, Pavel Atman and Dzianis Rutenka each scoring five goals for the hosts.
RK Celje (SLO) vs MOL Pick Szeged (HUN) 25:31 (25:31)
Zsolt Balogh and Sergei Garbok (six goals each) were the top scorers for victors MOL-Pick Szeged, who recorded an extremely important win on the road to the Last 16.
For nearly 50 minutes the hosts were on an equal level, but ultimately the deeper bench and higher number of quality alternatives paved the way to the win for Szeged.
"There were some positive things in our play today, but all those bad things, our mistakes in offence and defence, were just too much and Szeged knew how to punish that," said Celje coach Branko Tamse. "We had some clear chances, seven metres, empty net, which we missed and the gap between teams became too big. A team like Szeged knows how to keep that advantage."
Dominant from start to finish
The visitors did not trail behind for a single point in the whole match – even nine two minutes-suspensions could not stop the Hungarian team.
Celje had the chance to win up until the score showed 19:20, but the Hungarian side extended the gap goal by goal and finally decided the encounter when Swedish left wing Jonas Källman netted for 26:21 on a counter attack.
Celje’s resistance was broken. The Slovenian side played extremely strong defence and goalkeeping, but in attack they were clearly below Szeged’s level.
Thanks to this away win Pick pass Brest on the table ranking, while Celje – including their top scorer, Luka Zvizej, with five goals from five attempts – remain in sixth position.