Usually, a third-place match in a Final 4 tournament is something like the duel of the disappointed, but in Zadar on Sunday, Motor Zaporozhye and Meshkov Brest are eager to give a close fight for the bronze position of the SEHA – Gazprom League.
3rd place match starts on Sunday (5th September) at 16:30 hrs.
Both sides know each other very well from last and this year, as they clashed twice in Play-Off duels: First Meshkov Brest had the upper hand in the Quarter-Final of the SEHA – Gazprom League in 2020, qualifying for the Final 4, later on Brest were again the aggregate winners in the EHF Champions League Play-Off in March 2021, when the Belarus side qualified for the Quarter-Final for the first time, but then were eliminated by later-on winners FC Barcelona.
As Motor started their SEHA – Gazprom League season only with the Quarter-Final, beating Eurofarm Pelister twice, Motor were winners of their group by four victories and two defeats – and then had a quite comfortable Quarter-Final against Tatran Presov.
Eleven years ago, Motor coach Gintaras Savukynas had coached Meshkov Brest, before the Lithuanian born 50 years old started his journey throughout Europe. On Meshkov side, Daniel Gordo is the new coach, the third Spaniards in a row after Manolo Cadenas and Raul Alonso. ‘The club has high ambitions in this season, and on Sunday we have the chance to improve as a team. I was proud how we played against Zagreb, but now we have a new match against another strong opponent. We are still in pre-season, so we need to find out form’, said Gordo: ‘It was a pity that we lost on penalties against Zagreb.’
‘This East European derby is more special for the clubs and for the players, not for me personally,’ said Savukynas in Saturday’s media call in the team hotel in Zadar. Motor player Aidenas Malasinskas added: ‘I feel like it is going to be a difficult match. We know we lost to them in the Champions league last season but we're honestly not seeing this as a redemption game. Our goal is to deliver the best possible performance, be focused until the very last minute and see what it eventually brings us.’
The Semi-Final outcome had been quite different: as Meshkov Brest lost the ‘penalty shoot-out lottery’ after a roller coaster match against Zagreb 37:38, Motor had a strong start in both halves against Veszprem, but finally were defeated 29:36. ‘With a clear head we had to be realistic that we made too many technical mistakes, but our match was not as dark as the final score,’ said Savukynas: ‘Our players are very ambitious now to finish third ranked. Some of them are not on their top form at the moment, but we can for sure improve against Meshkov. I expect an equal match like we had last year and this year.’
Last year’s Quarter-Final (33:28 and 30:28 in favour of Brest) were the only SEHA – Gazprom League of both teams so far. While Meshkov qualified for their ninth Final 4 in their ninth season, Motor had approached new land by booking their ticket to Zadar in their second ever season of the SEHA – Gazprom League.
For Meshkov player Vladimir Vranjes ‘luck obviously wasn’t on our side in the Semi-Final. Seven-meter shootouts are always a lottery and PPD Zagreb were obviously a bit luckier.’ But this was past, the future against Motor is ahead: ‘We have to forget about that and prepare in the best possible way for the bronze-medal match. It will be difficult to play against Motor, they have a really wide roster and we’ll analyze some of their videos in order to prepare best we can.’
Brest’s right wing Mikita Vailupau – top scorer of the SEHA – Gazprom League 20219/20 season, underlined his strong form by nine goals against Zagreb, after only three matches, the Belarus international is already on 26 strikes. Best Motor scorer is Dmytro Horiha by 34 goals, including eight in the Semi-Final against Telekom Veszprem, three more than his teammate Aidenas Malasinskas.
And for the Lithuanian born, the participation in this Final 4 is something special: ‘I like the entire organization and the event in general. It feels great to be here although it is a bit sad that there are no spectators. Last few days we didn't really have a chance to explore Zadar, see what the city looks like but I hope we'll do it today. Playing this type of a tournament this early in the season is a bit weird for me but I can say I like it because we're using matches against top-quality opponents to see where we are at the moment in terms of form while we’re at the same time competing for the trophy.’
Vranjes shares this opinion: ‘It’s nice to be back here in Zadar, the organization is really good, the city is nice and we’ll definitely look to finish this whole experience with a win in the bronze-medal match.’