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14.11.2015, 21:28
La Rioja stay on top
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GROUP C REVIEW: La Rioja keep their place at the top of the group whilst Brest secure victory away from home
 

La Rioja stay on top

Naturhouse La Rioja are on their way to make the knockout phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League following their sixth win in the campagin against Chekhovskie Medvedi 30:26.

Meanwhile HC Meshkov Brest came out fighting away against Serbian side Vojvodina, winning 35:26.

Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) vs Chekvoskie Medvedi 30:26 (14:14)

La Rioja were beaten by Medvedi in the opening round in September, yet Jota Gonzalez's men were much more convincing today, winning by a four goal margin.

Both teams had to omit regular players from their starting line-ups. Captain Albert Rocas missed the clash on home side, whilst heavy weight scorer of six goals, Alexander Kotov for Chekhov, had been suspended for this fixture. Javier Garcia, an important line player, returned to the Spanish team after picking up an injury against Porto.

Chekhov have a young squad who are able to put the stronger opponents under pressure, however lack of stability and consistency are the main problems for Vladimir Maximov's men.

It was hard fought win for the Spaniards as Chekhovskie Medvedi were resistant, especially in the first half, in which they were leading for most of the time.

However, La Roja, supported by an enthusiastic crowd always pulled the strings when it most mattered to keep the scoreline close.

La Rioja did not rely on their usual star wingers, although Pedro Rodriguez Alvarez scored important goals at the very end. Rather today, it was their centre back court firing goals, in person of their best scorer Cristian Malmagro with seven goals and Victor Vigo Gerpe also with seven. Chernoivanov was the best scorer for the visitors with six goals.

The decision was to be made in the final minutes of the game. More consistency and self-belief together with improved defence were key to give the Spanish side crucial goals from the 56th minute onwards. La Rioja managed to put their feet on the pedals to improve the game and did not lose hope despite not having best first halves in the competition. 

This win for La Rioja mean they enjoy top spot of Group C and are in the right direction to fight for the Last 16, something they achieved last year as well. Chekhovskie Medvedi stay in joint fourth position with Vojvodina and have basically no chance of fighting for the promotion.

RK Vojvodina (SRB) vs HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) 26:35 (12:20)

Having already lost two games in the group, HC Meshkov Brest had little room for error if they were to earn a berth for the elimination phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Therefore, the Belarusian side was on a mission in Novi Sad, with their minds set on a win that was going to propel them to at least the second place, tied at points with Futebol Clube do Porto.

And Brest got exactly what they wanted, as RK Vojvodina could only cope with the guests’ strength for four minutes.

As Meshkov piled up the pressure in defence, the Serbian side could not find their rhythm in attack. With a 6:1 partial between the 4th and the 12th minute, Brest powered to a 10:4 lead and never looked back.

The Belarussian side cruised to a 20:12 lead at half-time, with an amazing 81 per cent shot efficiency that meant that four in five attacks ended in goals for Brest.

Surprisingly, it was a Serbian player that contributed to Vojvodina’s demise. Rastko Stojkovic, the former Crvena Zvezda icon, who has won a silver medal with Serbia at the EHF EURO 2012 was Brest’s best player.

The 34-year-old veteran scored nine times against Vojvodina, becoming almost unstoppable, with nine goals from 11 shots. It was no surprise therefore, that the hosts were not able to mount a comeback, losing by a nine-goal margin, 26:35, their second worst defeat of the season, after the 12-goal blowout in the away leg.

Coach of Vojvodina Nikola Markovic spoke after the game, "Meshkov are a fantastic team. They played well enough to win. We did not play how we know. They made a difference at the beginning. We have a young team, they have more experience."

Strahina Stankovic’s and Filip Marjanovic’s six goals apiece were not enough for the Serbian team, who will be needing a miracle to qualify. Vojvodina must win all their remaining three games, while Brest and Porto have to lose theirs.

The Belarussian side now stays in second place of the group, tied with Futebol Clube de Porto, but owning the tiebreaker against the Portuguese team, with a 29:28 defeat in Porto and a 34:27 win on their home court.


TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / Adrian Costeiu / ec
 
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