History repeated in the second semi-final of the Final4 SEHA - Gazprom League: Like one year ago, a penalty shoot-out needed to decide the winner of the duel Telekom Veszprem and Meshkov Brest. And again the defending champions were cold as ice, while the Belorussian champions missed their third final participation in the SEHA - Gazprom League highly unlucky by a 31:33.
In the re-match of last year’s final, Veszprem will face Vardar (28:26), the Hungarian side fight for their third straight trophy, while Meshkov lock horns with Zagreb in the bronze medal match.
Despite eight Stojkovic goals and seven Jamali strikes, Brest left the court empty handed, as Dainis Kristopans had failed in the decisive penalty.
Semi-final 2: Telekom Veszprem (HUN) vs Meshkov Brest (BLR) 33:31 (29:29, 14:14) after penalty shootout
From the first minute on, the fans in the nearly sold-out Viktoria Sports Hall caused a great atmosphere, backing their team with an incredible vociferous support. Meshkov were adapted on the 2015 and 2016 SEHA - Gazprom League winner, mainly their defence stood solid as a rock.
And mainly one Brest player was on fire in the beginning: Iranian born, former Vezsprem left back Iman Jamali, who netted in four of Meshkov’s first seven goals. His strikes were one reason, why the Final4 hosts managed to turn the tide after a 2:4 deficit. Jamali had something like a private scoring duel with Veszprem’s Slovenian right wing Dragan Gajic, who had netted in four times before the break too.
The 9:8 was Meshkov’s first advance, and in between Ivan Pesic had won the goalkeeper duel against Roland Mikler. The lead changed constantly, the fans were excited, the second semi-final was a true thriller compared to Vardar’s easy-going 36:28 win against Zagreb before. Being in a two-man advantage, Brest equalized Veszprem’s 14:12 until the break and even had the great chance to take a lead to the locker rooms, but Serbian line player Rastko Stojkovic failed with a buzzer-beating shot after Veszprem’s Icelandic Aron Palmarsson had netted in three times with a speed of more than 100 kilometres per hour.
But also Brest had their expert for hammer goals: Siarhei Shylovich. The Belorussian international netted in twice right at the start of the second half, and as Jamali still was on fire, the fans went crazy, when Meshkov had taken their first three goal advance at 18:15, causing an early time-out of Veszprem’s coach Javier Sabate after only five minutes of the second half.
While the emotional and frenetic fans plus the saves of goalkeeper Rade Mijatovic were Brest’s aces, Veszprem could count on their wider squad. As Meshkov nearly had the same players constantly on court, Sabate took the profit of huger rotation options. Momir Ilic took over Palmarsson’s position, Gasper Marguc succeeded on Gajic. Thus, the key players of the defending SEHA - Gazprom League champions had the chance to save powers for crunch time.
This extra-power intermediately was the reason, why Veszprem turned the tide in the middle of the second half from 18:21 to 23:22 within only eight minutes. In various situations, Meshkov’s defenders came too late, either Veszprem netted in immediately, or later on used a one-man-advantage to score. Meshkov coach Sergii Bebeshko had seen enough, when the visitors were ahead by 25:23 and took his time-out in minute 51.
And his players understood his speech: Stojkovic and Jamali levelled the result in short time, and everything was open again. Stojkovic was in the form of his life: His equalizer for the 28:28 two and a half minute before the final buzzer was the eighth strike of the Serb. For the last time, Sabate took his time-out card. The tension had reached its climax. Veszprem missed their final attack, Brest in ball possession, 13 seconds left, time-out Bebeshko. All fans standing on their seats. Kristopans hits the goal, but the referees had stopped the match before. Direct free-throw Jamali - blocked. Like in the 2016 semi-final, a penalty shoot-out had to decide this memorable and intense encounter.
While Ilic, Gajic, Palmarsson and finally Nilsson netted in for Veszprem (Marguc failed against Pesic), Brest’s Babichev and Kristopans missed their penalty shots.