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30.11.2013, 22:40
Rampant Celje edge closer to Last 16
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MATCH REVIEW: Slovenian champions prevailed in a battle of two sides packed with promising prospects. Celje moved closer to the knockout round, but Zagreb's hope is still alive.
 

Rampant Celje edge closer to Last 16

Slovenian contenders Celje Pivovarna Lasko made a big step towards the VELUX EHF Champions League knockout stage after coming out on top in an enthralling contest against traditional Balkan rivals HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb.

The regional classic lived up to its billing as it produced a titanic tussle between old foes from the former Yugoslavia in a jam-packed Zlatorog Arena, where the Slovenian fans created a fantastic atmosphere.

The result left Celje fourth in Group A, two points ahead of Zagreb and with a better head-to-head record after they lost the reverse fixture in Croatia by three goals.
 
Group A
 
Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) 26:20 (14:11)
         
Celje celebrated a memorable win over Zagreb and the biggest one ever in the Champions League against the Croatian giants, having produced an effervescent all-round performance which blew away the visitors.

The home team’s steely defence confined Zagreb’s top scorer Stipe Mandalinic to just one goal, which came in the closing stages of a match thoroughly dominated by the Slovenian side.

Roared on by their frenetic fans, Celje romped into an 8:4 lead midway through the first half as right wing Gasper Marguc repeatedly raced  past his markers while left back Ivan Sliskovic tormented his Croatian compatriots with unstoppable long-range shots.

The tried and tested Zlatko Horvat kept Zagreb afloat with a masterclass display in the opening period, scoring five goals as the visitors drew level at 10:10 with five minutes left in the first half.

But Cellje moved up two gears and scored four goals without reply before the break, as the speedy Marguc and powerful Sliskovic tore Zagreb’s defence to shreads and delighted the home faithful in the Zlatorog Arena.

Reserve keeper Urban Lejsak shone after the break for Celje, pulling off three crucial saves as aggressive defending by either side ground scoring to a halt at both ends.

The rivals managed only two goals apiece in the opening 17 minutes of the second half, before Sliskovic and playmaker Sebastian Skube opened the floodgates for Celje and propelled the home team to an unassailable 23:17 lead with five minutes left on the clock.

Zagreb made every effort to at least keep the score down but committed too many turnovers as the despondent Mandalinic found no room to operate while the tightly marked Horvat also had a quiet second half.

Serb Nemanja Zelenovic joined the home team’s party with three quickfire goals in the closing stages, throwing the vociferous home crowd into raptures as they treated Celje a well-deserved standing ovation after the final whistle.

Marguc and Sliskovic led Celje with six goals each and Skube added four, while Horvat remained Zagreb’s top scorer with five goals although he failed to find the back of the net after the interval.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br
 
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