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17.03.2016, 07:40
Plock grab final-second draw against Vardar in amazing goal chase
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LAST 16 REVIEW: The first match of the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 provided such action on court inside the ORLEN Arena that fans of both teams went through the whole range of emotions.
 

Plock grab final-second draw against Vardar in amazing goal chase

The first match of the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 provided such action on court inside the ORLEN Arena that fans of both teams went through the whole range of emotions.

Hosts Orlen Wisla Plock led for large parts of the match but their visitors from FYR Macedonia in HC Vardar, coached by Raul Gonzalez, eventually pulled away in the second half, leading by four goals with just over 180 seconds left - but the Polish team went on a crazy chase and equalised with the very last moment of the game to make it 30:30.

VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16, First Leg

Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 30:30 (16:14)

Despite Plock’s bitter experience from last season when both teams also met in the Last 16 - the Polish side took a six-goal advantage into the second leg after winning 32:26 at home before losing by 11 in the second leg - their coach Manuel Cadenas saw his side unable to rack up the strikes in the opening moments of the game against Vardar, who  he described after the game as "one of the best teams in Europe."

Vardar’s Spanish goalkeeper, Arpad Sterbik, kept the home side at bay with an impressive early showing in Poland, culminating with the gravity-defying, bending-over-backwards save to keep out an early Dima Zhytnikov shot.

At the other end of the court, Plock’s last line of defence - Marcin Wichary - was on a par with opposite number and their performances ensured the match was even in the first quarter with neither team being able to work a bigger advantage.

Wichary appeared to be focused on making Daniil Shishkarev’s life harder by keeping his shots out but the determined Russian winger rose to the challenge and finally defeated him to make it 8:8 after 15 minutes as both teams continued to play at a frenetic pace.

But Plock decided enough was enough and despite Vardar disturbing their attack with Igor Karacic providing an extra barrier in front of his defence, Plock went on a 3:0 run (11:8) and, with five minutes before half-time, Cadenas’ side had their biggest advantage at four, but the Macedonians reduced their loss before the break to two, at 16:14, for the end of the first-half.

The beginning of the second half was a total disaster for Plock as Dan Emil Racotea went on a solo mission to sustain the Polish sides’ existence in the game, but his two goals were in contrast to the six strikes from the Macedonians who raced into a two-goal lead at 20:18.

Cadenas moved his fellow countryman Rodrigo Corrales into goal and the swap with Wichary appeared to inspire his teammates back into the game and further up the court, Tiago Rocha replaced Racotea as the home sides’ leader, firstly executing a penalty and then adding some throws from the line.

But this was not enough to catch up with the runaway Vardar train, who easily maintained a stable two-goal advantage.

Three minutes before the final whistle it seemed that it would be the Macedonian team leaving the court victorious as their 30:26 lead looked uncatchable, but handball is a 60-minute game, and with the home fans willing on their team, who moved to a 5-1 defence, they went on a three-goal run to make it 30:29 to the visitors.

“We missed these goals in the last minutes,” said Vardar’s Luka Cindric after the game, “but I am pretty sure in Skopje we will play much better.”

With less than a minute left Karacic grabbed a penalty, but Dejan Manaskov threw it wide of the left post and despite 40 seconds to carefully work their work to a draw, Marko Tarabochia kept the crowd – and the game – on a knife-edge as he fooled Sterbik with his shot to grab the 30:30 draw and the Polish side can now take this experience into the second leg in Skopje in a match-up which is sure to stir the emotions once more.

“We are waiting for second match,” said Vardar coach Raul Gonzalez after the game. “This match was very attractive for the audience because both teams played very well in attack – but I am satisfied with this draw because we know how hard is to play here in Plock.

“The first half of this battle is behind us.”


TEXT: Magda Pluszewska / amc
 
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