EHF Champions League

Confident Kiel hand Vardar fourth consecutive loss

Adrian Costeiu / cor

Confident Kiel hand Vardar fourth consecutive loss

There were no fireworks and no win is easy in the VELUX EHF Champions League, but a relentless Kiel snatched their eighth win in 11 games in the European top flight, 34:23, against Vardar.

The depleted title-holders missed a golden chance to sneak back into the fight for a top half finish in the group, which secures the home-court advantage in the second game of the Last 16 phase.

  • Kiel lead the group, with 18 points, with three games to go, four more than Veszprém, while Vardar are still sixth, with nine points
  • Swedish right wing Niclas Ekberg scored a game-high eight goals for Kiel, while right back Dainis Kristopans had six goals for Vardar
  • Vardar are now on a five-game winless run, as Kiel handed them the fourth loss in a row
  • Kiel host Veszprém next week, in what could prove to be a deciding clash for the group’s standings, while Vardar host Motor, with a win seeing them clinch a last 16 berth

THW Kiel (GER) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 34:23 (18:14)

Boasting several players who impressed at the EHF EURO 2020 in January, including the MVP of the competition, Croatian centre back Domagoj Duvnjak, Kiel were brimming with confidence ahead of their return to the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Sure enough, the German side dominated against a depleted title-holders, as they strengthened their grip on the group’s top spot with their eighth win in eleven games.

For six minutes, Vardar had all the answers for Kiel, as they stayed afloat matching the German side’s speed.

But a 4:0 run for Kiel helped the hosts open a 7:3 gap, with Vardar failing to score for six minutes.

It was Slovenian playmaker Miha Zarabec who led the charge, with two goals and one assist, lifting Kiel’s attack to a 69 per cent efficiency in the first half.

While Vardar relied heavily on their right back, Dainis Kristopans, Kiel looked hungrier than in the last rounds, when they scrapped two one-goal wins against Montpellier and Porto.

Missing left back Christian Dissinger and right wing Daniil Shishkarev due to injuries, Vardar continued to fade, as Kiel’s goalkeeper, Niklas Landin, racked up seven saves, including two one-on-ones against left wing Timur Dibirov.

It was no surprise, therefore, that Kiel had a decent 18:14 lead at the break, as backs Harald Reinkind and Miha Zarabec combined for eight goals.

Vardar’s plan was simple: pass the ball to Dainis Kristopans and hope that the towering 214 cm tall right back scores.

Indeed, the Latvian star scored six goals, but it was Vardar’s defence who managed to silence both Duvnjak and the Kiel attack in the first five minutes of the second half to bring back the title holders to only a two-goal deficit, 18:16.

Kiel’s attack might have been slowed down at first, but the German side still found the right answers and it was goalkeeper Niklas Landin who impressed, saving five shots from Vardar’s top scorer in the competition, Timur Dibirov.

The gap grew to an unassailable eight-goal lead for Kiel, 26:19, with 13 minutes to go and there was no return for Vardar, as left wing Magnus Landin scored six times in the second half.

Two timeouts from Vardar’s new coach, Stevce Alushevski, did not change the course of the game, as the title-holders made too many mistakes in attack, gifting 11 balls to Kiel, which the German side turned into fast breaks and easy goals to cruise to a 34:23 win.


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