Second home triumph ever or second trophy for Zagreb at Skopje?

Vardar

Match 94 is the last and decisive for the SEHA – Gazprom League season 2017/18: In the grand final on Sunday, Vardar hope for their fourth ever trophy in this competition and to be the second ever team to win the title on home ground. On the other hand, Zagreb know how to beat Vardar in a final in Skopje – but still the Croatian champions are the underdogs.

SEHA – Gazprom League 2017/18 Final
Sunday, 15 of April, 20:15 CET: Vardar – PPD Zagreb

No other match had been played more often in the history of the SEHA – Gazprom Final 4 events. In the seventh edition of the tournament it is the seventh time, Vardar and PPD Zagreb lock horns. The general statistic speak for Vardar, but the one and only time, both sides clashed in a final, ended by a Zagreb win – at Skopje. Only the venue was different, as five years ago, the event was hosted in the Boris Trajkovski Arena, now the Sports center Jane Sandanski is the place to be on Sunday, 15th of April. In 2013, PPD Zagreb won the final 25:24 after extra time.

2012 (30:29), 2014 (30:22), 2016 (26:24) and 2017 (36:28) Vardar took the upper hand in the semi-finals against Zagreb each, in 2015, PPD won the bronze final 26:23. And in 2018? The numbers clearly speak for Vardar: Including the record-breaking 33:24 semi-final win against Meshkov Brest on Friday, the defending SEHA – Gazprom League champions are still unbeaten in this season by 18 victories and one draw. Since the 13 of December 2016, Vardar did not lose any match of this competition any more. The last team to beat the EHF Champions League winner was ….Zagreb by a 28:26 on home ground.

But now the team of head coach Raul Gonzalez have the final on home ground – and in Sports Centre Jane Sandanski, the series is even longer: Since October 2015 and a 27:28 against Brest, Vardar had not lost any home match in the SEHA –Gazprom League. In the current season, Zagreb lost 24:25 at home and 23:30 at Skopje. The Croats had a tougher nut to crack in their semi, leaving Celje closely 29:28 behind.

After winning the trophy already in 2012, 2014 and 2017, Vardar are out for their fourth title, while Zagreb’s only trophy resulted from their win at Skopje in 2013.  Due to the final constellation, definitely the overall number of SEHA – Gazprom League champions will remain on three, as except Vardar and Zagreb only Veszprem (2015, 2016) had won the title.

Besides, Vardar and Zagreb are the only teams, which had been part of all seven Final 4 events so far. The only time, a home team had won the trophy so far, was Veszprem in 2016 – funny enough Vardar were beaten by Zagreb on home ground and Zagreb 2012 by Vardar in the semi.

Defending the title would be an ideal extra-motivation for Vardar prior to their EHF Champions League quarter-finals against Kiel in the upcoming two weeks.

Best overall scorer of the two finalists is Zagreb team captain Zlatko Horvat by 84 goals, being 20 goals ahead of Vardar’s best striker, Timur Dibirov (64 goals).

 

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