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11.05.2018, 18:00
Vardar face debutants on road to second straight final
«Go back »Print Version


SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: Last year's finalists are trying to build on their impressive record this season when they take on Women's EHF FINAL4 newcomers Rostov-Don for a spot in Sunday's final
 

Vardar face debutants on road to second straight final

As Buducnost have failed to progress to the Women’s EHF FINAL4 for the first time this season, Vardar are the only team to have played at all five editions of the EHF Champions League season-ending tournament in Budapest.

In contrast, their opponents in the semi-final have made it to Budapest for the very first time: Rostov-Don.

  • Vardar and Rostov have not met before in the Champions League

  • Rostov’s Mayssa Pessoa and Siraba Dembele once played for Vardar

  • Sister Act: Rostov’s Anna Vyakhireva will face her older sister, Vardar’s Polina Kutzetsova

SECOND SEMI-FINAL

Rostov-Don (RUS) vs HC Vardar (MKD)
Saturday 12 May, 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

The writing has been on the wall since January, when Vardar’s management announced the new strategy of focusing on young players rather than superstars from next season.

But the Macedonian side navigated through thick and thin. They stayed together, impressed with consistent games and a powerful attack, and lost only one game this season - 24:22 against Metz Handball. Now they eye their first win in the Women’s EHF FINAL4.

As virtually all players have their future settled, their minds should be only on the task at hand, as the Macedonian powerhouse will try to emulate the performance of Vardar’s men team, which won the VELUX EHF Champions League last season.

Experience should play a huge part in a semi-final and that is where Vardar have the upper hand. While they may have won only one semi-final in four tries, Vardar know exactly what to expect in Budapest as Rostov-Don will get their first taste of the EHF FINAL4.

“I think we only played twice against them, in friendly games. Rostov have good players, very good wings and some players who plied their trade for Vardar. I think we are ready for this challenge,” Vardar left back Andrea Penezic said.

Rostov’s ambitions, however, are huge. What supposed to be their breakthrough year ended in dismay last season as they were eliminated in the group matches - though they went on to win the EHF Cup.

With a new coach and a new challenge in front of them, the Russian side enjoyed a bright season, with a flawless performance on their home court featuring wins over Györ and CSM.

But Budapest is far away from the Rostov stronghold and Frédéric Bougeant’s side will need to bring their home form in order to stand a chance.

The coaching carousel has seen Bougeant leave for Nantes after this season, while Györ’s Martin Ambros will take charge in Rostov. However, the French coach reiterated that this will not affect the team’s performance.

The two sides never met before in a competitive game, but the clash will feature an all-out battle between Anna Vyakhireva, Rostov’s right back, and her older sister, Polina Kuznetsova, Vardar’s left wing.

“I am glad to play against Vardar, but not because I will play against my sister. I think we will win. We gave it our all to be here, we will do it in Budapest, too,” said Vyakhireva.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew
 
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