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17.09.2015, 21:59
Zagreb stun Kiel again to make dream start
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GROUP A MATCH REVIEW: The Croatian champions celebrated a second successive home win over THW Kiel in the VELUX EHF Champions League as they downed their counterparts with an impressive performance in the Zagreb Arena.

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Men's CL
»Group Phase
»
 

Zagreb stun Kiel again to make dream start

Déjà vu and an it was even more astounding sequel, for that matter. Most handball fans and pundits must have thought that last season’s shock when Zagreb beat Kiel at home in the corresponding fixture 27:25 was a one-off, but this term’s opener produced a blueprint copy.

The Croatian side again stunned one of Europe’s giants and this time they celebrated an even more emphatic victory, blowing away their  heralded rivals in the second half.

Ironclad defence which went hand in hand with a fast-flowing attack left Kiel beaten in all departments as they relied too heavily on the individual skill of the young Rune Dhamke.

GROUP A:
HC PPD Zagreb vs THW Kiel 29:22  (13:11)

If the 2015/16 season’s Group B opener is anything to go by, Europe’s premier club competition is set to offer another compelling season bound to keep fans across the continent on the edge of their seats and wanting more.

It was also a carbon copy of last year’s curtain-raiser, only this time Zagreb punched even more above their weight as a blistering performance rekindled memories of the club’s glory days from two decades ago.

Beaten in their previous meeting in the Croatian capital, Kiel hoped to turn the tables but were instead torn to pieces as Zagreb dominated the lion’s share of a rip-roaring contest.

The first half produced a rollercoaster in which the lead changed hands time and again.

With both sides applying tough defence, goals were hard to come by in the opening exchanges as Zagreb bounced back from a 2:0 deficit to take a 4:3 lead after 10 minutes.

The home side’s backcourt force of Domagoj Pavlovic, Luka Stepancic and Sandro Obranovic were on fire and with evergreen right wing Zlatko Horvat joining the party, they carved out an 8:5 advantage.

But Kiel then showed their resilience and went on a 5:0 run with a barrage of easy goals as Zagreb’s rear guard dropped.

Their 22-year old left wing Rune Dahmke made the most of his extended minutes on the court with four goals in the first half, as the closing stages offered another twist after Zagreb again came roaring back to take a two-goal lead at the break.

The toe-to-toe battle continued after the interval as Zagreb, determined to stand their ground against the royalty of European club handball, stayed 16:14 ahead before defensive lapses allowed Kiel to draw level.

Stepancic, whose left-handed thunderbolts tormented Kiel’s Danish goalkeeper Landin Jacobsen, led Zagreb’s charge but the relentless Dhamke was simply brilliant at the other end as his seventh goal enabled the German champions to nose ahead 19:18  midway through the second half.

Zagreb goalkeeper Filip Ivic, touted as a worthy successor to his illustrious Croatia national team senior Mirko Alilovic, lived up to the billing with a string of superb saves, keeping  Zagreb on an even keel as the enthralling contest headed into the home straight.

They were in raptures after Horvat’s fourth goal and a Stefan Vujic screamer propelled Zagreb into a 23:20 lead, forcing the visitors to call a time out as they ran out of ideas in attack.

Kiel replied with another dazzling solo effort by Dahmke but that turned out to be their last roar.

Obranovic netted an equally spectacular goal at the other end before Horvat dispatched a pair of seven-metre penalty shots, as Zagreb coach Veselin Vujovic galvanised the home fans his bench..

With the score 26:21, tempers briefly flared on the court when  Horvat and Kiel line player Rene Toft Hansen clashed on Zagreb’s seven-metre line. Pavlovic then sealed the match and Stepancic put the icing on the cake with a pair of thunderous piledrivers, much to the delight of the home side’s vociferous supporters.

Stepancic and Horvat led Zagreb with six goals each as Pavlovic and Obranovic chipped in with four apiece to underline a balanced and free-flowing team effort, while Dhamke represented valiant but lonesome opposition at the other end with a game-high nine goals.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br
 
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