They made it again: Seven Kristopans goals pave Vardar’s way to the fifth trophy

Vardar aim for the fifth trophy, Zagreb for the second title

For the first ever in the history of the SEHA – Gazprom League a club managed to win three trophies in a row: After 2017 and 2018, Vardar made it again on Wednesday in Brest. In total, it was the fifth trophy for Vardar, including the titles in 2012 and 2014. Outstanding player in the intense and tough final was Latvian Dainis Kristopans, who scored xx goals and later-on was awarded Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Final 4 in Brest.

After Vardar had beaten Zagreb twice in the Last16 of the Champions League in a clear way, the final of the 2018/19 season of the SEHA – Gazprom League was much closer – a 26:23 (14:12) win. One year ago, in the same final constellation, Vardar had beaten Zagreb in Skopje by 26:24. The final in Brest was overshadowed by a severe arm injury of Vardar’s left back Christian Dissinger, who needed to be transported to hospital.

The final was a tough and intense fight for 60 minutes, both sides fought for every centimetre and every ball. Zagreb had the better star, as even goalkeeper Urh Kastelic netted in a empty-goal strike. But after Vardar coach Roberto Parrondo Garcia took his time-out at the score of 7:4 in favour of PPD, the game changed. Skopje scored three unanswered goals, and even were not shocked by the early red card against their Brazilian line player Rogerio Moraes Fereirra, who had to leave to the tribune after a foul against Damir Bicanic. After a truly spectacular back hand goal of team captain Stojanche Stoilov for the 9:9, Vardar took the lead at 11:10 in minute 23 – and did not give from their hands until the break.

In the final minute of the first half, the whole arena was in a state of shock after the injury of Dissinger, who had been pushed  while in the air by Gregor Potocnik, who received a direct red card too. The German had to be treated by doctors for several minutes, before he was transported to a Brest hospital immediately. The first diagnose was that his arm was broken. 

After the 14:12 halftime lead for Vardar, Zagreb arrived back on court fully motivated and levelled the result quite quickly. But PPD lost another alternative in minute 35, as David Mandic received a red card after his third two-minutes-suspension.

Despite some great goals of Final 4 MVP Dainis Kristopans, Vardar could not cast off Zagreb as easy as in the Champions League matches in the last week. PPD stood strong in defence and was cleverly acting in defence, using the full width of the squad, twelve players finally were in their scorer list.

The sixth strike of Kristopans for the 22:18 – right after a time-out of PPD coach Branko Tamse – finally seemed to move Vardar on the winners’ way. But Zagreb still did not give up, but played full risk, causing many turnovers. Vardar lost their rhythm, and with two minutes left on the clock, Zlatko Horvat netted in for the 23:24. In the end, Vardar were luckier – scoring the last two goals of the match for the final result of 26:23 by Stoilov and Skube.