Slavic saves Zagreb’s crucial win over Vardar
Last week, they left the court empty-handed after the narrow 24:23 loss to Montpellier. On Wednesday, the Zagreb players jumped for joy after the final buzzer. Thanks to the impressive last ten minutes of their goalkeeper Dino Stanic, Zagreb took a lucky 23:22 victory in a low-scoring battle of two teams, fully focusing on a defence fight.
After a real Balkan thriller, the hosts took their second victory and overtook Vardar in the ranking, now having six points on their account, one more than the Macedonian champions - who for the first time this season are out of the top six. Vardar missed their 5000th-anniversary goal in their Champions League history at Zagreb. Still, only six goals are missing to reach this mark in the first match in 2022, when they play at Montpellier.
HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs HC Vardar 1961 (MKD) 23:22 (14:12)
- After a perfect 5:2 start for the hosts, Vardar intermediately turned the match around to be ahead 8:6 - but a time-out of coach Ivica Obrvan was like a wake-up call for Zagreb.
- Ivan Cupic (5) and David Mandic (3) scored more than 50 per cent of Zagreb’s goals in the first half, besides goalkeeper Dino Slavic was backing up his side with six saves.
- After the break, the defence-orientated match was on a fully equal level - and Vardar again turned the tide with double strikes from French Jeremy Toto making it 18:16 - followed by a missed penalty of the hosts.
- Vardar’s improved defence allowed Zagreb only two goals in the first 16 minutes of the second half.
- But on the other end of the court, goalkeeper Dino Slavic became Zagreb’s hero. His 12 saves - five of them in the last ten minutes - were the key to victory.
- Zagreb scored a 5:1 series in the last eight minutes, and Olivier Nyokas caused a turnover in Vardar’s last attack.
Vardar match their longest-losing streak
The 23:22 loss in Zagreb was Vardar’s seventh straight defeat in the group phase. The 2017 and 2019 Champions League winners were victorious at home in their first two matches against Brest and Aalborg.
Vardar’s last away win dates back to 24 February 2021, when they won 35:32 in Elverum. And as this was their only away victory in the 2020/21 season, the last but one away win dates back to 29 September 2019, a 31:30 at Motor Zaporozhye.
This loss for Vardar means they have also matched their longest losing streak of seven games (12.10.2003 - 09.10.2004).
It's hard to say anything after such a match. I'm happy about this win, we've managed to rise from the ashes lately and that definitely makes me happy and proud. It's a win against a great team in the end, we were a bit luckier in those final moments. We were expecting a match like this. I'd like to use the opportunity to congratulate my guys, especially on the defensive display here today. Our goal is, of course, to keep this tempo going in the second part of the season. Also, congrats to Vardar. Matches against them are always different and incredibly tough.
We were hoping for a better result here today. We've made some unexplainable mistakes we definitely shouldn't have made and which proved to be costly. Matches against Zagreb are always tough, hard and different. We have a tough match against Eurofarm ahead of us and the goal will definitely be to rise again after this knock-out and try to get a win.