After two defeats against Brest in the regular 2018/19 season, SEHA – Gazprom League record winners Vardar took revenge in a thrilling semi-final at Brest. By beating the tournament hosts 25:23, Vardar qualified for their seventh final in eight years. On Wednesday (20:00 local time), they will face PPD Zagreb in the final match of the 2018/19 season, the same constellation as last year (winner Vardar) and in 2013 (winner Zagreb).
Beating Brest was something like history repeating for Vardar, as one year ago, at the Final 4 at Skopje, they had won the semi-final against Brest 33:24. But this time, Meshkov were on an equal level and gave a tough fight to the defending champions.
Therefore Roberto Parrondo won the duel of Spanish coaches against Manolo Cadenas in the SEHA – Gazprkom League comeback match of Vardar left Sergey Gorbok. Brest will duel with Nexe for the third position on Wednesday at 17:30 local time.
Already the first half was imprinted by great goalkeeper performances: Ivan Pesic (Meshkov Brest) and Dejan Milosavljev (Vardar) were on eight saves each. But while Vardar could profit from the great show of the Serbian to be ahead by a four goal margin, Brest were constantly below after the 5:5. Despite the great and loud support of their fans in the fully packed Victoria Arena, Meshkov did not have the means to stop the defending champions before the break.
It were mainly the left handed players, who pulled Vardar ahead: Ivan Cupic and Dainis Kristopans scored seven of Vardar’s 14 goals in the first half, including the Kristopans hammer for the halftime score of 14:10.
Brest had their best period of the first half in the beginning, when they turned a 2:3 advance into a 5:3 lead, but from that moment on, Milosavljev shut up his shop.
But everything changed with the re-start: The Brest defence stood like a wall, and Vardar had enormous problems in scoring. On the other hand, Meshkov had tactically adapted on Skopje’s style of playing. It took the host only eleven minutes to turn a 10:14 deficit in the first levelled result in the second half at 17:17. Five minutes later, Vardar coach Roberto Parrondo Garcia took his time-out, when Brest had taken the 19:18 lead thank to the hammer goals of Serbian international Petar Djordjic.
Everything was fully open again – the turning point of the roller coaster ride was a red card against Brest’s defence expert Viacheslau Shumak after a tough against Vardar star Igor Karacic in minute 52. Besides, the motor of Skopje’s line player and team captain Stojanche Stoilov (top scorer of the match by seven strikes) was running in full speed and goalkeeper Milosavljev was back in the match.
Vardar scored twice, while Brest failed in their next five attacks. Meshkov could not profit from a one-man-advantage in the final minute after the red card against Kristopans, while Karacic decided the thriller with the 25:22.
Photo credit: Kolektiff Images