Group 1 leaders HC Vardar were the strong favourites against fifth-placed Thüringer HC ahead of the Round 3 EHF Champions League clash, but they struggled in the second half and ultimately won 31:29 with a share of good luck.
• Vardar claim their eighth straight win in the competition
• The Macedonian heavyweights now have 13 points and top the group
• Vardar’s Andrea Penezic was the game’s top scorer with 10 goals
GROUP 1 Thüringer HC (GER) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 29:31 (13:18)
Before the game, THC coach Herbert Muller gave a lot of compliments to Vardar and claimed his team hardly had any chance against such a powerhouse, yet the hosts certainly hoped to cause a sensation – and were close to it.
Brilliant start for Penezic
Prior to the match in Germany, Vardar had won seven straight games in the EHF Champions League, which was already a club record. Yet the favourites from Skopje have found harder opposition in the main round as both Buducnost and Metz had the chance to grab points against them in their opening games of the phase.
Sunday’s match in Nordhausen was no exception, though at first it looked like Vardar would not face much trouble. After an impressive start – 5:0 after five minutes – the game became more balanced, yet the visitors could still feel comfortable with their goal margin.
Left back Andrea Penezic was particularly prolific early in the match as she scored seven times during the opening 13 minutes. The example was then followed by her teammates, and Vardar led by five goals at the break.
Krause like a wall
However, everything changed in the second half as Vardar’s attack became much less efficient. Jana Krause was like a wall in THC’s goal, and her numerous saves helped the hosts to fight back.
The German side were clearly inspired – they drew level at 23:23 15 minutes from full-time, and then went in front for the first time in the game when Iveta Luzumova made the score 27:26 just passed the 50-minute mark.
The final minutes were extremely exciting, but fortune ultimately smiled on Vardar. With 70 seconds to play, Andrea Lekic put the Macedonian outfit in front 30:29. THC could have equalised in their last attack, but Meike Schmelzer lost the ball and Vardar scored into the empty net just with the final buzzer.