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23.04.2016, 19:10
Ilic shakes off injury to secure vital victory
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QUARTER-FINAL REVIEW: Veszprém edge Macedonian rivals Vardar by three goals to win their first-leg VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final.
 

Ilic shakes off injury to secure vital victory

Veszprém are only the second team, alongside Barcelona, to come away with a triumph in a fully-booked Jane Sandanski Arena this season, which adds further significance to their impressive 29:26 victory on Saturday afternoon.

The Hungarian team were the more consistent of the two sides, maintaining their high-level performance throughout the match courtesy of masterful defence.

In contrast, Vardar’s game was plagued with inconsistency. Despite the odd spell of brilliance in the second half, the hosts endured a 10-minute barren run in the first period, which paved the way for Veszprém’s eventual triumph.

Mirko Alilovic was an impenetrable wall in goal for the Hungarian side with 13 saves, nine of which were made in the first half, while Momir Ilic cleared any doubts regarding his fitness in the opening minutes. The Serbian left back looked in a perfect shape and led the scoring chart with nine goals.

VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals, First Leg
HC Vardar (MKD) vs MVM Veszprém (HUN) 26:29 (9:12)

Vardar were the more buoyant of the two teams in the opening minutes, with two goals unanswered as they attempted to set a higher pace then Veszprém are accustomed to.



However, the approach led to errors in both phases, as Veszprém quickly regained composure and turned the score in their favour (4:3) before the end of the first 10 minutes.

Iron-willed Momir Ilic shook off his injury troubles, leading scoring for the Hungarian powerhouse with six goals before half-time. However, the recent fitness status of the Serbian sharpshooter prompted Xavier Sabate to rotate more as Ilic was used only sparingly in defence.

Regardless, it did very little to disrupt Veszprém’s centre block, who played rock-solid defence throughout the match and often prevented fluent ball flow.

Having been stopped from swiftly moving the ball through their back court, an essential aspect of Vardar’s playing style, the hosts were in need of alternative solutions.

With very little separating the two teams midway through the first period, Vardar regained a narrow lead, setting up a goal from wing Daniil Shishkarev’s to take the score to 7:6 as 18 minutes elapsed.

But that was all from the hosts until the very last moments of the first half, as Veszprém utilised their spotless transitional defence to set up a goal-scoring rampage.

The visitors mercilessly executed their offense, completing a 6:0 series. Aided by Renato Sulic’s clever movement, pinpoint Palmarsson and Ilic carved the Macedonian team’s defence apart to create a five-goal advantage (12:7) approaching the final three minutes of the first half.

They were helped by Mirko Alilovic’s remarkable performance in goal, as the Croat frustrated the opposing wings and saved five shots from point-blank range.

Vardar were finally able to end their 10-minute scoring drought, and Veszprém suffered a barren run of their own in the dying minutes of the half.

After Dejan Manaskov and Karacic decreased the gap to a more comfortable 9:12 by half-time, the opening minutes of the second period saw goals galore, and it was clear Vardar coach Raul Gonzalez had shaken up his team during the break.

Having found the right balance in rotation, Vardar made amends for their costly first-half lapse as their classy back-court act brought the game back to level terms at 16:16.

Vardar-Veszprem_Sulic.jpg

With far less rotation than his counterpart Gonzalez, Sabate’s stalwarts struck back with Sulic completing three-goal run. But Vardar had no intention of surrendering, bringing the gap as close as only one goal in the final five minutes (25:26).

But being so close to success was too good of an opportunity for Veszprém to pass up, and in-form Palmarsson scored the last goal of the match to set the final differential.


TEXT: Nemanja Savic / cg
 
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