After an absolute drama in, especially in the first half, Vardar have secured the third consecutive trip to Cologne, despite the loss in Hungary to Pick Szeged. They have joined Barcelona Lassa, Telekom Veszprem and PGE Vive Kielce at the EHF Champions League Final 4!
MOL-Pick Szeged – Vardar 29:25 (17:9)
The first ten minutes of the last quarter-final match in the Velux EHF Champions League saw Vardar control the match to the full extent. However, MOL-Pick Szeged led by Dean Bombac managed to completely erase Vardar's lead from the first match. Bombac and Banhidi combined for 10 goals in the first half, while Karacic and Kristopans scored 6 of Vardar's nine in the first half. Pick Szeged even had a 9-goal lead on a couple of occasions late in the first 30 minutes but could not keep the same advantage. Dibirov became only the fourth Vardar player on the scoresheet, scoring the final goal of the first half, to make it 17:9 for the Hungarian champions going into the break.
Dibirov scored the first goal of the second half, Karacic added the next one, to calm things down for Vardar. The pace was much higher in the beginning of the second half, and it continued. Vardar played much better in second 30 minutes, and after a few defensive stops, Stoilov made it 25:20, in the 46th minute. Magical Dibirov added another one, and with 12 minutes to go, Pick Szeged’s lead from the first period was cut in half. Finally, Milosavljev made two huge saves and Vardar were in a very good position going into the final minutes of the quarter-final clash. With five minutes left, the result was 28:24, and the Hungarian champions needed a 9-goal victory to reach Cologne. Vardar simply had no intention to let that happen, especially Igor Karacic who played yet another unbelievable match in the red and black jersey. The final drama was resolved with Ivan Cupic’s goal in the 58th minute to silence the home crowd. In the end, Karacic once again scored 8 goals, Dainis Kristopans added 5 and Timur Dibirov had 4 goals. Dejan Milosavljev recorded 7 saves to help Vardar earn another appearance at the EHFCL Final 4.
It will be the first Final 4 in this century without any German or French teams, and interestingly enough, all four teams were in Group A of this year’s competition. We will see if Vardar will be able to write history once again and win the European title, one more time!