GROUP B REVIEW: HC Vardar and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria could not find a winner in an exciting season opener in the Macedonian capital.
FTC and Vardar split the points in Skopje
Just like at the start of the previous Women’s EHF Champions League season when they lost their Round 1 match to Györ, HC Vardar could not beat their Hungarian opponent in their first game.
Though they were dominant before the interval, the Macedonian side played a less impressive second half and allowed FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria to earn a point in a difficult away match against the group favourites.
Vardar and FTC meet for the first time ever in a European cup competition
HC Vardar hold an advantage at half-time but fail to clinch their 30th victory in the EHF Champions League
Andrea Penezic leads Vardar as the top scorer with nine goals, while Zita Szucsanszki tallies eight for FTC
HC Vardar (MKD) vs FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) 27:27 (17:14)
Last season, Vardar had a poor start in the EHF Champions League against a Hungarian opponent, losing at home to Györi Audi ETO KC.
On Friday the team from Skopje were eager to leave a better impression in their first match of the group phase – a point stressed by their head coach Indira Kastratovic at the pre-match press conference.
The Macedonian side performed better indeed, but it was not enough to please their fans with two points.
Although the hosts were winning at half-time, they could not maintain their superiority and narrowly escaped defeat to finish the game with a spectacular draw.
“I can say that we played maybe 10% of what we planned to do. They scored 27 goals, which mean that we didn’t play good defence. Maybe in first half we scored 17 goals, but they had 14,” said Kastratovic following the match. “There is no excuse that we have five new players, since we knew that for us Champions League start is always very tough to play.”
A tight first half ends with a lead for the home team
Vardar held an upper hand through the first half, but FTC drew level time after time. Even when the visitors received a series of two-minutes suspensions in the middle of the half, the Macedonian outfit could not capitalise on the advantage.
It took 18 minutes for the home side to take a two-goal lead for the first time with a goal from right wing Jovanka Radicevic.
After they created the advantage Vardar began to feel more confident and find ways to overcome the opponents’ defence, which earned them a 17:14 lead by half-time.
FTC stage a comeback
Tatiana Khmyrova made the score 18:14 just after the break, but any that expected the second half to be easier for Vardar were mistaken. The guests improved their game, played more compact defence, and Blanka Biro was reliable in the goal.
Vardar’s attacking efficiency suffered as many of their shots either went wide or hit the woodwork, and FTC drew level at 20:20 in the 41st minute.
After Viktoria Lukacs equalised the game started to resemble the first half, as whenever either team took the lead the other would level the score again.
Vardar saved by luck
With the score at 27:27 Vardar held possession in the dying seconds, before the hosts made a technical error and FTC had a chance to score to the empty goal, but hit the post – and so the team from Skopje were saved from an opening loss by luck.
“I’m very happy because we got one point. We were very excited before this match and expected to play very hard game against one of the top European teams. The final score is very good for us,” said FTC’s Aniko Kovacsicz. “I’m very proud of my teammates and I’m happy that we proved our quality to play this level. I believe that in our future games we could play even better than tonight.”
Left back Andrea Penezic led Vardar with nine goals, while Zita Szucsanszki, who was particularly impressive in the second half, was FTC’s top scorer with eight.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cg