Outstanding Lekic leads Vardar to Champions League quarter-final
February 16, 2016
Vardar Skopje had surprisingly few problems clinching an early quarter-final berth in Romania on Tuesday evening.
By Peter Bruun
Champions League (W) – Group 2
CSM Bucuresti vs HC Vardar 25:30 (11:17)
Before the Match
In case of a win at Polivalenta Hall in Bucharest, Vardar could clinch their quarter-final berth even with two matches left. CSM in turn, could get close to the quarter-final as well by winning the game and they certainly would have revenged a narrow 22:21 loss in Skopje, in the first meeting between the two teams.
Both clubs were missing their respective right backs. CSM was still without Danish international Line Jørgensen, while Vardar played without Russian international Tatiana Khmyrova.
Surprisingly, Vardar had an easy job clinching the quarter-final prematurely. On the outset, the game was expected to be more difficult, than it turned out to be. Guided by a brilliant Andrea Lekic as playmaker, the visitors benefited from virtually every mistake CSM made at either end of the court. The Macedonian all-star team had no real problems taking a decisive victory, while the 4,600 spectators offered their local heroines only modest support.
Vardar stunned their opponents, jumping ahead 5:1 quickly, and later in the first half, they benefited from the technical mistakes, Bucuresti committed when in attack, as well as numerous mistakes when playing defense. Vardar increased their lead to five goals at 11:6. Two timeouts from CSM’s coach Kim Rasmussen did not help his team. Bella Gulden & Co. were forced to accept being six goals behind at half time.
An improved offense and a reduced number of errors allowed CSM to move a bit closer. And when Vardar seemed to run out of ideas, the deficit was cut to three goals several times. However, the margin of difference never got any smaller, which meant the match never got truly exciting. CSM was simply not effective enough, and two missed penalty shots did not make it any better for the hosts. In the end, an experienced Vardar squad successfully protected their lead before settling the score at 30:25.
Player of the Match
“Lekic keeps pushing us back, so we cannot get up on Penezic”, CSM coach Kim Rasmussen tried to explain his players again and again, during his timeouts as well as from the sideline. However, this was easier said than done.
Andrea Lekic was practically impossible to contain – not as a lethal shooter, nor in her role as playmaker.
The 28-year-old Serbian scored nine goals herself, while dishing out multiple assists, mostly to Andrea Penezic who added another seven goals to the final result.
Vardar is ready for the round of “last-eight”, but the Macedonian side will probably not be able to advance from their current third place in Group II.
CSM Bucuresti can still secure their quarter-final ticket with a draw in Denmark against FC Midtjylland, this coming Sunday.