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03.11.2018, 19:56
Löwen spoil Davis’ home debut, Vardar get back to winning ways, Montpellier still without win
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GROUP A REVIEW: Löwen conquered the Veszprém Arena for the first time after an exciting 29:28 victory over the host team, while Vardar enjoyed a flawless second half to power past Brest, 30:23. IFK and champions Montpellier draw in late match
 

Löwen spoil Davis’ home debut, Vardar get back to winning ways, Montpellier still without win

Changing the coach did not help Hungarian side Veszprém, as they recorded their third loss in a row in all competitions after failing to stop Rhein-Neckar Löwen as the German side enjoyed a 29:28 win. The featured five lead changes and was the third in a row involving the Hungarian team which ended with the narrowest of margins.

A three-week break and a home game against Brest were exactly what Vardar needed to be back at full strength after their first loss of the season as the Macedonian side got back to winning ways with a stunning defensive display in the second half that prompted a 30:23 win against Brest.

  • David Davis failed to lead his team to a win in the first home game as Veszprém’s coach
  • Line player Jannik Kohlbacher, playmaker Andy Schmid and right wing Bogdan Radivojevic were Löwen’s best scorers, with six goals apiece
  • 30-year old playmaker Igor Karacic scored 11 goals for Vardar in their win against Brest, his best-ever single-match scoring performance in the VELUX EHF Champions League in eight seasons
  • After throwing off the season with two wins in a row, Brest lost their fourth game in a row, staying winless since September
  • IFK and Montpellier both remain without a win after drawing, Melvyn Richardson was Montpellier’s top scorer, with seven goals, while Anton Halen scored six times for Kristianstad

GROUP A

HC Vardar (MKD) vs HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) 30:23 (14:14)

There was no Vuko Borozan in Vardar’s line-up due to a one-game suspension after his red card in the previous game and this definitely hurt the Macedonian side in the first minutes against Brest.

The first loss of the season came three weeks ago for Vardar, but the hosts looked like they did not overcome their share of trouble, with left back Alexsander Shkurinskiy scoring four times for Brest, helping his side take an 8:6 lead.

A 3:0 run for Vardar saw the hosts take back the lead, yet it was not a clean-cut game for the former title holders. The Croatian connection of Igor Karacic and Ivan Cupic – with eight goals scored in the first half – helped Vardar stay in the game, as the two sides entered into a stalemate at half-time, 14:14.

There was nothing Brest could do in the second half to snap their losing streak, as Vardar amped up their defence, while the Belarussian side looked out of breath.

An unstoppable Karacic, who smashed home 11 goals, his personal best in eight seasons played in the European premium competition, inspired Vardar in the second half, as the hosts took a 25:19 lead, thanks to a 5:0 run that prevented Brest to score for almost nine minutes.

There was no coming back for Brest, as the side from Belarus recorded their fourth consecutive loss, 30:23, a streak that they hope to break next week, on home court, against Kielce.

Vardar recorded their fifth win in six games and are still in the hunt, alongside Barça and Kielce, for the first place in the group. Next week, the Macedonian side will host the Spanish powerhouse in Skopje.

“In the second half Vardar played much better than us,” said Brest coach Manuel Cadenas after the game. “In defence, in attack and even with the goalkeepers - our goalkeepers in the second half only had three saves and their goalkeeper, Khalifa Ghedbane, was really great.

“We tried to get back, but it was impossible, and Vardar deserved to win.” His view was echoed by his player Pavel Horak. “We lost our heads in the second half,” said Horvak, who could only score once in the game. “We missed too many opportunities in the attack and did not play compact in defence.”

Roberto Parrondo, HC Vardar coach, also admitted the second period made the difference. “Brest are a very good team who showed their quality in the first half, but I think we played well in the whole game, and in the second half we improved and played much better in defence which was crucial.”

“After the national teams week, we only had four training sessions and that’s why we did not start well,” said Vardar’s Daniil Shishkarev. “But we corrected ourselves and were better in the end.”

Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) vs Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) 28:29 (12:15)

After five uneventful outings this season, Kentin Mahe looked like his old self in the first 20 minutes against Rhein-Neckar Löwen.

The French star scored four times and led the charge for Veszprém, as the Hungarian side was striding to gift their new coach, David Davis, the first win in the VELUX EHF Champions League in the Veszprém Arena.

Yet an abysmal end of the first half for the hosts brought back Löwen into the game. Two young players – right back Vladan Lipovina and line player Jannik Kohlbacher – were unstoppable and goalkeeper Andreas Palicka produced a series of superb saves in a 6:1 run to end the first half, that saw the German side take a 15:12 lead into half-time.

Not even an early time-out taken by Nikolaj Jacobsen could prevent a Löwen collapse in the first minutes of the second part. Spurred by an excellent Petar Nenadic, the Hungarian side threw off with a 5:0 run that saw them back into the lead.

It looked like Veszprém had a strong grip on the game, upping their efficiency to 70% in the second half, firing from all cylinders until the 50th minute, when they were leading 24:22.

Yet another meltdown brought back Löwen into the game, a 5:1 run in which veteran Andy Schmid scored twice, helping the German side jump to a 27:25 lead.

While Davis called for a late time-out, there was nothing that Veszprém could do, as the Hungarian side crashed to their third defeat of the season, ending a two-game winning streak, after Andy Schmid scored the decisive goal for the 29:28 win with 29 seconds to go.

It was Löwen’s first away win of the season, the maiden one in Veszprém and the fourth in the competition, with the German side hosting the title holders, Montpellier, next week.

Veszprém can get back to winning ways next Saturday, when they face Kristianstad, something that coach Davis is looking forward to already. “We are working hard, but we would now like to see the results of it,” he said after the game. “We are going to fight until we start winning, but I would to thank everyone who came to support us as it is important in these moments when the team is not winning.

“We knew that they would play 7vs6 at any time and in the end, they did not miss a chance, we did, and we could not end with a draw.”

Player Iman Jamali was also confident of results going the way of his team soon. “Soon we will reach our goals and see the results and Veszprém will be a top handball club again.”

“It could have been Veszprém winning today, but in the end, we took the two points,” said Rhein-Neckar’s coach Nikolaj Jacobsen. “It was a high-level match and both teams played well but I think we played well in the first half; cleverly and disciplined - our 7 vs 6 was good today.”

IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs Montpellier HB (FRA) 29:29 (12:17)

A consecutive sixth loss in a row would have likely meant that the chances to progress for the Last 16 phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League were slim to none for champions Montpellier – and for home side IFK Kristianstad – with both teams losing all fives games of their 2017/18 campaign so far.

There was no precedent in modern history for such a substandard start to the competition, but Montpellier were getting their hopes up, with Jonas Truchanovicius and Michael Guigou back from injury after the league’s three-week break.

Their comebacks, which added to the team’s depth, were decisive, even if Montpellier did not have the best start to the game. Indeed, Kristianstad had the initiative in the first 15 minutes, with the Swedish side featuring six different players on the scoresheet and boasting a 7:6 lead.

Yet a 6:0 run inspired by the young back line of Melvyn Richardson and Kyllian Villeminot was the pivotal point of the game, which saw the French side take a commanding 12:7 lead.

While Kristianstad tried to cut the gap, it almost looked pointless, as Montpellier were in control, maintaining a healthy lead up until the 50th minute.

But the French side failed to sustain the same rhythm until the end of the game. With four goals scored in the last 12 minutes, Icelandic left back Olafur Andres Gudmundsson helped Kristianstad back into the game, as the Swedish side tied the score, 27:27, with two minutes to go.

Ultimately, the stalemate could not be broken, as Patrice Canayer waited too long to take the final team time out, as Melvyn Richardson could not find the goal with the final shot. “We had a five-goal lead at the break and in the second half we started really good,” said Montpellier’s Vid Kavticnik. “But then, I don’t know what happened - we started playing sloppy handball and it feels like we gave away a point today, especially after the first half.”

IFK’s coach Ola Lindgren admitted the draw felt like a victory. “We started well in the first half, but then after fifteen minutes we had a lot of problems in defence.

“The big problem was their back court players crossing, so at half-time we decided to give it a chance and worked hard, ran and tried to get back in to the game. I’m proud of the players for not giving up - it feels like we won a point and not lost a point with this draw."

With the result, both sides remain winless, but both finally got their first point of the season with the draw.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu/amc
 
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