Metalurg motivated to mix it with European League’s finest
In a spectacular summer for Macedonian clubs in the transfer market, Metalurg made their fair share of signings as they aim to propel themselves back into contention for European glory.
- Zagreb legend Zlatko Horvat the biggest acquisition of the summer
- former Vardar coach Zoran Kastratović leading the new-look squad
- survived two tight qualification rounds, defeating Spacva Vinkovci by three goals and Kriens-Luzern by one
- managed just three victories in European competition over the last three seasons
The burning question – how well have Metalurg rebuilt?
Since Vardar burst back onto the European scene in 2013, Metalurg have suffered a slow and steady decline. Five consecutive group phase exits in the EHF Champions League were compounded last season with an early exit from last season’s EHF Cup and being demoted to the third best Macedonian team.
Former Vardar coach Zoran Kastratović took over the reins last year and has been able to build a very solid squad, thanks to serious investment in the club.
A number of proven international players have been brought in to complement the likes of the talented 20-year-old right back Martin Serafimov, moves which appear to give Metalurg a chance to make a solid if unspectacular run in the European League.
Club manager Zorica Blazhevska echoes that feeling, stating: “My main objective was to stabilise our club and getting it back to the European handball elite. By reaching the group phase it is achieved.”
Captain Daniel Dupjachanec sees the group phase as an opportunity to help the squad blend and grow over the next few months.
“My primary motivation would be our team to grow match by match. Because playing 10 matches against strong European teams would mean a lot to us in gaining experience and improvement.”
Living legend - Zlatko Horvat
This was one of the summer’s most mind-blowing moves. After 18 years with Zagreb, Horvat has made his first international move but he is not lacking in international experience.
With hundreds of international club and national team matches under his belt, nothing will surprise the right wing, who at 36 still possesses deadly counter-attack speed to complement his sublime skill and battle-hardened mentality.
New blood - Marko Tarabochia
20 goals in four qualification games shows just how quickly Marko Tarabochia has settled in with his new club and how important he is set to be.
At 31, the Bosnian international should be at the height of his powers now and with his wealth of experience, particularly his four years with Plock, expect him to run the show for Metalurg with the playmaker role.
The explorer - Daniel Dupjachanec
With the colourful career this man has had, it is safe to say he has taken the road less travelled.
The 37-year-old goalkeeper has enjoyed a stint in Iran, with two different Kosovan clubs, Kadetten Schaffhausen in Switzerland and Azoty-Pulaway in Poland, before rejoining Metalurg in 2019. Dupjachanec played a huge role in helping Metalurg to the group phase, making 14 saves in the round 2 leg 2 clash against Kriens-Luzern.
A night to remember
Between 2012 and 2014, Metalurg broke into the upper echelons of the EHF Champions League, reaching the quarter-finals two seasons in a row and scoring some very impressive wins along the way.
The stand-out occasion, however, was when Barcelona came to town and were dealt their first defeat of the 2013/14 season.
The Boris Trajkovski arena was shaking to its core from start to finish with almost 7,000 fans packed in.
Metalurg’s heroes in the end were goalkeeper Nikola Mitrevski and Goce Georgievski, who netted six times, including the decisive last goal for 31:29 in the dying seconds of a finally thrilling match, most of the time dominated by Metalurg.
Thanks to their brilliant defence and Dark Stanic, the hosts build an early lead and sensationally conceded only 11 goals to the Catalan goal machine in the first half.
And even more surprisingly, they withstood the pressure Barca put on them after the break. The lead stood at four to five goals most of the time, but Barcelona fought back within a single goal in the final minute.
Despite being a man short Metalurg found a way through one last time and Georgievski was ice-cold against Barca goalkeeper Danijel Saric to seal a famous 31:29 win.
Arrivals and departures
Newcomers: Zlatko Horvat (RK Zagreb), Momir Rnic (HC Proleter Zrenjanin), Branko Kankaras (HC Meshkov Brest), Marko Tarabochia (Csurgói KK), Nikola Potic (HC Lubeck)
Left the club: Mario Tankoski (Eurofarm Pelister), Irakli Kbilasvili (CSM Resita), Tomislav Jagurinovski (HC Vardar 1961), Filip Arsenovski (Eurofarm Pelister), Dejan Pecakovski (RK Prolet), Revaz Chanturia (RK Prilep)