20220223 Vardar Zagreb 6
EHF Champions League

Vardar take crucial win in the Last 16 race 

EHF / Björn Pazen

HC Vardar have made a huge step towards the Last 16. One week after their sensational 28:25 win in Montpellier, the team of new head coach David Davis beat Zagreb 20:19 in a match that could be decisive for the knock-out stage.

Only 39 goals were scored in this pure defence battle, after which Vardar passed the visitors and Elverum in the ranking to be in fifth position. The last shot decided the encounter, as Zagreb’s youngster Filip Vistorop failed with a direct free-throw. 

HC Vardar 1961 (MKD) vs HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) 20:19 (11:9) 

  • after leading at 6:5, Zagreb did not score for 11 minutes - and Vardar grabbed their chances to stretch out to a 9:6 advantage
  • Vardar’s best weapon in attack before the break was Polish line player Patryk Walczak, who found the gap in the extremely close Zagreb defence. Ultimately, finally Filip Taleski and Olivier Nyokas were top scorers for Vardar with four goals each
  • after the break, the match went back and fourth with changing leads, and when Vardar turned a 16:17 deficit into a 19:17 lead, Zagreb’s coach Ivica Obrvan was forced to take his time-out four minutes before the end 
  • Taleski paved the way for Vardar when he scored for a 20:18 lead, but Csaba Leimeter then scored for Zagreb. The Croatian side had the last attack, but Vistorop’s free throw was blocked 
  • Vardar’s fans gave a big hand to Zagreb’s wing Ivan Cupic, who played in Skopje for five years until 2021 and won the EHF Champions League twice with Vardar 

Three teams fight for two spots 

Elverum, Zagreb (both on eight points) and Vardar (nine points) fight for the last two play-off spots in group A - and it seems that the duel between Vardar and Elverum in the last round will be the final decision.

Zagreb have the toughest programme with a home match against Kiel and an away game at Aalborg, the two top-ranked sides. Elverum play against Szeged before the duel with Vardar, while Skopje face bottom-ranked side Brest in the next round and have their fate in their hands. 

We were ready for this duel, but the whole team was nervous, I do not know why, maybe because of the pressure. However, we are happy with this victory, we play better from game to game
Borko Ristovski
Goalkeeper, HC Vardar
This was not quality handball, we saw a big fight. In a nervous ending we were left without the point we came for. Of course I expected Vardar to pass to the next phase no matter how this match ended.
Ivica Obrvan
Coach, HC PPD Zagreb

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