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26.09.2015, 22:44
Ivic saves the day for Zagreb, Veszprem win dedicated to Ortega
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GROUP A REVIEW: Zagreb top the table after beating Celje, Sabate dedicates victory over Flensburg to former boss Carlos Antonio Ortega
 

Ivic saves the day for Zagreb, Veszprem win dedicated to Ortega

After only two away wins in their previous twelve VELUX EHF Champions League away matches since 2012, HC PPD Zagreb were victorious at their Balkan neighbours Celje on Saturday night thanks to their defence and goalkeeper Filip Ivic. 

After two wins, the Croatian side head Group A after Round 2, regardless Sunday’s results. Second ranked is Veszprem after winning the ehfTV.com Match of the Week against Flensburg - a perfect gift for Xavier Sabate.

GROUP A:

MOTW: MVM Veszprem (HUN) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt 28:24 (15:14)

Perfect start for Xavier Sabate as the new interim coach of MVM Veszprem steered his team to a hard-earned, but well-deserved victory against the 2014 Champions League winners.

After the opening draw at Plock, which resulted in Anotnio Ortega's departure, Veszprem took their first win in the group phase thanks to goalkeeper Mirko Alilovic and top scorer Momir Ilic (ten goals).

Flensburg meanwhile paid the price for a weak defence in the first half and missed a chance to make it two out of two after beating PSG Handball last Saturday. They suffered their second defeat against the Hungarian side in their fifth duel.

The first half was a roller coaster ride. Flensburg had the better start thanks to an unusual line-up. No Mogensen, no Mahe, no Glandorf on the court, but led by an inspired Jim Gottfridsson they built an early lead.

As usual the Hungarian record champions were boosted by a brilliant crowd, who was shouting “Ortega, Ortega” for about a minute in the initial period.

They adapted quite quickly. Nagy, Schuch & Co improved in defence, forced Flensburg to make mistakes and only needed six and a half minutes to turn a 4:5 into a 10:6.

SG were too hectic in attack, while Veszprem kept a high pace avoiding unforced errors.

Even a timeout from coach Ljubomir Vranjes did not change the game and at 14:9 Veszprem had several opportunities to seal the deal quite early.

Suddenly things changed when Laszlo Nagy was forced to leave the game due to a finger injury. In his right back position, Christian Zeitz missed too many chances and Flensburg reduced the margin with a much more patient performance and a 5:1 series for the 15:14 half-time score.

Veszprem again forged ahead by three or four goals consistently however could not shake off Flensburg.

Combined efforts from Ilic and Andreas Nilsson compensated for Nagy's absence both in attack and defence.

With only eleven minutes left (22:21), the match was about to turn around again.

“At that moment we had the chances to equalise, but we missed them. We had ten weak minutes in each half and this was the reason for the defeat. We did not have the killer instinct and the coolness that Veszprem had today,” said Vranjes.

In the final minutes, goalkeeper Alilovic shut up shop and the former Kiel trio Palmarsson, Ilic and Zeitz made the fans happy with their decisive triple strike for the 27:23 to secure a winning start for Sabate.

RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs RK PPD Zagreb (CRO) 20:21 (10:9)

A brilliant final pair of saves from goalkeeper Filip Ivic sent Zagreb’s players wild for joy in Celje. After winning a true defensive battle in Slovenia, the Croatian young guns maintain their unbeaten record, extending their hopes of making it to the Last 16.

It was Zagreb's second win from eight at Celje’s Zlatorog arena in Europe's elite club handball competition.

Despite the absence of team captain Zlatko Horvat due to a suspension, following a direct red card in the 29:22 win over Kiel in the opening round, the Croats stayed level with their hosts throughout the 60 minutes. Celje enjoyed a narrow lead for most of the contest, but the Zagreb defence managed to bring the Slovenian side's attack to a halt in the crucial moments.

A low-scoring first half (10:9 to Celje) underlines the significance of defence and the great performance of Celje keeper Urban Lesjak, who saved 14 shots in total.

When youngster Blaz Janc netted in for the 20:18 eight minutes before the end, Celje were well prepared for another celebration - and nobody could imagine that this was the hosts’ last goal in this match. Strikes from Luka Stepancic and Stanko Sablijic levelled the game at 20:20, before Stepancic found the net once more for Zagreb with two minutes left on the clock.

Miha Zarabec failed with Celje's first opportuinity, a penalty against Ivic, before Ziga Mlakar missed a golden opportunity with a tow-man advantage the last attack, once again against Ivic, who saved the day for Zagreb despite his cameo appearance, coming in as a late replacement for Ivan Stevanovic.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
 
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