Vardar earn close-call win against Motor
GROUP B REVIEW: The title holders were made to sweat until the dying seconds by a stingy Motor side, but earned their third win in a row, 31:30
A flawless Macedonian side headed to Ukraine expecting a walk in the park, yet the winless Motor took them on and made them sweat before finally collapsing in the final five minutes, as Vardar took their third win in a row, 31:30.
- Timur Dibirov was Vardar’s top scorer, with ten goals, also scoring the Macedonian side’s 4000th goal in the competition in the first half
- Vardar are first in the group with six points, while Motor are last, with zero points and a goal difference of -20
- Vardar host Kiel next round, while Motor travel to Brest to face another winless side
HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 30:31 (18:16)
The title holders were eyeing their fifth consecutive season in the VELUX EHF Champions League with three wins on the trot in the first three games, but it looked like Motor had other plans.
In an unexpected turn of events, Vardar’s defence collapsed in the first ten minutes and shipped away eight goals. Motor cruised to an 8:4 lead, in a run that saw Russian left-wing Igor Soroka score three times.
As Vardar tried to weather the storm, Motor continued to pound, but their attack slowly faded, despite their fast-paced style clearly hampering Vardar’s defence.
The title holders never managed to grip the game entirely in the first half, as Motor’s attack, led by back Aidenas Malasinkas and Soroka, with four goals apiece, and a 75 per cent shot efficiency, did enough to power the Ukrainian side to a 18:16 lead.
With wing Timur Dibirov, who scored Vardar’s 4000th goal in the European top competition, in fine shooting form, the Macedonian powerhouse started to eat in Motor’s lead and finally took back the lead, 21:20, after a 5:2 run to start the second part of the game.
Losing defensive stalwart Stevan Vujovic to a red card did not phase Motor in the first place, with the teams trading the lead four times in the second half. But ultimately, Vardar edged the win, as they stopped Motor to score in the last four minutes, taking the 31:30 win.
TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / tj