LAST 16 REVIEW: A confident home victory against HC PPD Zagreb sends 2016 runners-up Veszprém through to the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals.
Veszprém cruise past Zagreb
Following their 23:22 win in the first leg in Croatia, Telekom Veszprém were the favourites to reach the VELUX Champions League Quarter-finals with the prospect of a home match ahead – though Zagreb, who produced a strong finish in the first leg, hoped to turn things around and upset their Hungarian hosts on Saturday evening.
But it was not to be, as Veszprém played a confident game to finish with a 10-goal victory at 29:19, securing their spot among top eight teams in the competition with the win.
• Veszprém reach the Champions League Quarter-finals for the fifth straight season with a 52:41 aggregate win in the Last 16
• Momir Ilic, Cristian Ugalde Garcia and Gasper Marguc top score for the hosts with five goals each
• The tally of 19 goals is Zagreb’s worst scoring record in the current VELUX Champions League season
• In the quarter-final, Veszprém will face either Montpellier or title holders Kielce, who meet on Sunday
LAST 16, SECOND LEG
Telekom Veszprém (HUN) vs HC Prvo plinarsko drustvo Zagreb (CRO) 29:19 (15:9)
Last season, Zagreb lost the first leg of their Last 16 double header at home to Rhein-Neckar Löwen, yet took revenge in the return match and advanced to the quarter-finals. Inspired by that example, the Croatian side hoped to repeat the same feat in 2017, but Veszprém proved too strong.
Scoring run after slow start
Zagreb’s Darko Cingesar opened the game with the first goal, and the visitors were ahead 3:2 after seven minutes. But the hosts soon picked themselves up after a slow start and dominated the next 20 minutes, recording an 11:2 run that earned them a comfortable lead.
Veszprém’s 6-0 defence worked like a solid mechanism and Mirko Alilovic made a number of saves, which allowed the Hungarian team to score nearly half of their goals from fast breaks.
“I am really happy that we started the match as we did. Our defence was really good from the beginning. Every goal was important for us, we were running from the start,” said Marguc. “Our defence worked perfectly, and we wanted to continue this in the second half as well and keep our feet on the gas.”
Only late in the first half did the hosts somewhat relax their approach and allow their rivals to score more frequently. However, nothing prevented Veszprém from a clear lead at half-time (15:9).
Perfect scenario for the hosts
The second half was more balanced as both teams essentially exchanged goals for the most part. This was a perfect scenario for the home team, who were approaching a quarter-final berth every minute they maintained their steady lead.
In the 53rd minute, Zagreb goalkeeper Matevz Skok scored a spectacular goal from his own half, but this bright moment did not help his team much as the outcome was clear long before the final buzzer – though Veszprém found a second wind late in the game and increased the gap to a firm 10 goals.
“They [Veszprém] showed today that they are still one of the best teams of Europe. If they continue to play like that they will grab a FINAL4 spot and maybe win it,” said Zagreb coach Silvio Ivandija. “We made too many mistakes, we missed clear chances and above all we found ourselves face-to-face with Mirko Alilovic, who was in incredible form. It was inevitable to lose.”
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cg