GROUP B REVIEW: VELUX EHF Champions League title holders Kielce recover from two successive defeats and earn a comfortable win with a strong second half at Zagreb.
Kielce bounce back with fine win over Zagreb
KS Vive Tauron Kielce got their VELUX EHF Champions League campaign back on track after a convincing second-half performance enabled the title holders to overcome HC PPD Zagreb in Varazdin on Wednesday.
• Kielce show their resilience after a poor first half to win 26:23
• Goalkeeper Filip Ivic shines against his former club
• Battling Zagreb commit too many technical errors
• Croatian side remain bottom of the group with two points
HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs KC Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) 23:26 (12:11)
KS Vive Tauron Kielce rekindled their bid to win a fiercely competitive group after a solid second-half display gave them a deserved away win over HC PPD Zagreb in Varazdin Arena.
The result left Kielce on 10 points from seven games, level with leaders Vardar who visit Rhein-Neckar Löwen on Thursday for their Round 7 clash. Zagreb are still at the bottom of the table with only two points from seven games.
The fixture was moved from the imposing Zagreb Arena to a smaller and more acoustic venue near the Croatian capital, where the home side produced an excellent first half but ran out of steam after the break.
“Great atmosphere, fully crowded hall and I’m more than happy about this win. It feels great to come back home,” said Kielce’s Croatian goalkeeper Filip Ivic following the match. “I have to congratulate Zagreb on fighting spirit and good game they’re presenting but I also have to say my teammates did a great job today. Top spot in the group remains our goal and I still believe we can reach it.”
Zagreb fightback stuns visitors
Rocked by two successive defeats to Rhein-Neckar Löwen and Vardar in which they conceded a total of 74 goals, Kielce had a reasonably good start to the game by taking a 6:3 lead after the opening exchanges.
Their rearguard looked impregnable early on, as Zagreb struggled to find a way past the towering 6-0 defence while conceding a barrage of easy goals at the other end.
But Kielce’s patchy recent form came to the fore again midway through the opening period, as the home side turned the match on its head and engineered a 10:7 advantage.
Zagreb switched to a deeper and more aggressive 3-2-1 defence which ground Kielce’s attack to a halt, while left back Stipe Mandalinic and line player Tin Kontrec found room to operate in attack.
The visitors slashed the deficit to one goal in the closing stages of the first half thanks to a string of superb saves by goalkeeper Filip Ivic – who joined the Polish giants from Zagreb during the offseason.
Kielce move up a gear
Zagreb led for the last time in the game early in the second half (14:13) before Kielce moved up a gear and nosed ahead 19:17 with 15 minutes left, after which they stayed in the driving seat until the final whistle.
Still battling hard in front of a passionate home crowd, Zagreb offered plenty of resistance but were undone by a series of turnovers as well as poor finishing from fast breaks.
The athletic Mandalinic was a handful for his markers throughout the evening, and offered Zagreb a ray of hope after scoring a spectacular in-flight goal followed by a long-range thunderbolt, closing the gap to 23:25 in the final stretch.
Kielce’s Slovenian playmaker Dean Bombac, who dished out several eye-catching assists, sealed the contest with a ferocious nine-metre strike in the final minute, which left Zagreb’s busy goalkeeper Ivan Stevanovic rooted to his goal line.
“I feel like we wanted this too much, missing all these clear chances. After that it was unrealistic to expect a good, positive result,” said Zagreb’s new coach Silvio Ivandija. “The will was there, but today it was simply not our day with everything went in the opposite direction.”
Krzysztof Lijewski led a balanced Kielce attack with five goals, Bombac chipped in with four while Mandalinic and evergreen captain Zlatko Horvat scored six each for Zagreb.
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / cg