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15.09.2018, 20:00
Veszprém make undermanned Kielce pay at the buzzer
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GROUP A REVIEW: Veszprém defeat Kielce in the season’s first Match of the Week, HC Vardar overthrow the defending champions, Brest come from behind to beat IFK
 

Veszprém make undermanned Kielce pay at the buzzer

An undermanned PGE Vive Kielce side displayed grit and team spirit against a Veszprem squad boosted by an energising crowd in the first VELUX EHF Champions League 2018/19 Match of the Week, but it was not enough for the Polish champions to return home with a win. The 29:27 success came after a hard-fought, close game, that saw Alex Dujshebaev singlehandedly lead Kielce with 10 goals scored.

Elsewhere in Group A, title holders Montpellier HB failed to make a comeback after HC Vardar took control of their Round 1 clash, with a 27:24 loss for the French side on their home court, while HC Meshkov Brest came from a half-time deficit to beat IFK Kristianstad 32:30.

• Wings Dragan Gajic and Manuel Strlek finish as Veszprém’s top scorers, with six and five goals in the MOTW, while Alex Dujshebaev scores 10 times for Kielce
• Arpad Sterbik is awarded Player of the Match after a stellar display, including a pair of two consecutive saves

• After a summer that saw an exodus from the former champions, HC Vardar showed team spirit and powered past the title holders, Montpellier
• Serbian right wing Darko Djukic scored eight times, including six goals in the second half, to help Brest defeat their Swedish hosts, IFK Kristianstad


GROUP A
MOTW: Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) vs PGE Vive Kielce (POL) 29:27 (14:13)

A packed Veszprém Arena enjoyed a much-needed emotional boost after last season’s disappointment, as their favourites won the first Match of the Week in the VELUX EHF Champions League 2018/19, 29:27, following a rousing game against PGE Vive Kielce.

It was no less than six months ago when 5,000 fans were trying to hold back their tears after their beloved team were eliminated by Skjern in the Last 16 stage of the top European club competition. After exciting moves on the transfer market, the Hungarian powerhouse were back on track, but they had to sweat for their maiden win of the season.

"We knew that it will be difficult game. It was a special match for me as I was playing against my former team, but it turned out the best way possible because we won," said new Veszprém arrival Strlek. "The most important thing is that we got the two points and we continue the work to be better."

Chants of “Arpi, Arpi,” directed at veteran goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik, a new addition from Vardar, were heard once more in Veszprém Arena – 14 years after the Spanish player ended his first stint with the Hungarian side – following a pair of exhilarating saves.

The visitors only had 12 players on the scoresheet, due to injuries to Luka Cindric, Marko Mamic, Uladzislau Kulesh and Marius Jurkiewicz. However, undermanned Kielce kept pace, with Veszprém holding a narrow 9:8 lead after 19 minutes.

With wings Dragan Gajic and Manuel Strlek – the latter a Kielce player up until this summer – in fine form, Veszprém jumped to a 13:10 lead. But that advantage was soon reduced to just one goal, 14:13, at half-time.

While the second half may have looked like it could be a walk in the park for the hosts, considering Kielce’s injury woes, it was hardly that. The Polish side, with Talant Dujshebaev on the bench and his sons Alex and Daniel starring on the court, did not let Veszprém get away.
 
With only eight minutes left to play, the hosts led by only one goal, 25:24, and Kielce could hope for the upper hand. But once again it was Arpad Sterbik, the Man of the Match, who stepped up with several superb stops. Mate Lekai scored the decisive goal with four seconds to spare, and the hosts enjoyed a two-goal victory to throw off their 2018/19 campaign with a bang.

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 24:27 (11:12)

The VELUX EHF Champions League usually brings up the best games in men’s handball, but it is not the norm for the two previous winners of the competition to face off in the opening game - however, the draw can be unmerciful and Montpellier HB and HC Vardar did meet in the first round.

What followed was a tense affair with lead changes, top-notch goals, superb saves and impressive play from both teams. While Montpellier might not have had many changes in their team, Vardar did, and losing several first-class players in the summer definitely impacted them. It was no surprise, therefore, that their attack was rusty and Montpellier took an early lead, 4:3, after nine minutes.

Yet Vuko Borozan, the Montenegrin sharpshooter, looked like his usual self after an injury break and brought Vardar back into the game. The lead changed four times, but two goals from Borozan and Ivan Cupic helped Vardar take a 3:1 partial lead into the end of the first half, as the Macedonian side enjoyed a 12:11 lead at the break.

In the second half there was more action from Borozan, who ended as Vardar’s top scorer in the match, with eight goals. He put the guests in the driver’s seat at 16:13, but the title-holders, relying heavily on veteran Vid Kavticnik, saw the French side take back the lead, 19:18, after a 4:0 run.

It was Vardar’s superior experience though who sealed the deal, as a 4:1 scoring run between the 50th and 55th minutes saw Roberto Garcia Parrondo’s team in command, going on to win 27:24, as Montpellier suffered defeat in the very first game of their title defence.

IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) 30:32 (16:14)

A strong start is always key for a win and Kristianstad could not have hoped for a better four-minute run to throw-off their season. With Meshkov in dire need of direction, the Swedish side rode their luck and never looked back to grab a 6:2 lead after nine minutes.

The rhythmic clapping from their die-hard fans went along with Kristianstad's free-flowing style, as no less than nine players registered themselves on the scoresheet to propel the Swedish side to a 13:9 lead as the first half was coming to a close.

However, a glitch in Kristianstad’s code helped Brest tie the game thanks to a 4:0 run, but the side from Belarus was unable to hold, as goalkeeper Ricard Carl Johan Kappelin helped the home side earn a 16:14 lead at half-time, scoring into Brest’s open goal in the dying seconds.

Powered by a pair of fast-breaks from Serbian winger Darko Djukic and a flawless display from Alexander Shkurinskiy, Brest opened the second half with a 5:2 run which saw them take the lead for the first time, 19:18, after 36 minutes.

It was the fatal blow received by Kristianstad, as their lack of depth did not help, with Brest’s defence piling up the pressure. The Swedish side were now unrecognisable, as the guests hammered them with Djukic in immense form on fast-breaks, scoring eight times. The lead kept increasing, reaching its peak point with six minutes to go, 29:24. Ultimately, Brest enjoyed a tough 32:30 win, as Kristianstad cut the gap to one goal with 28 seconds to go, but their failure to protect their goal cost them in the end.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cg / amc
 
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