31 Aug. 2019
History was repeated on Saturday in Dammam, as Macedonian club Vardar claimed their second bronze medal at the IHF Men’s Super Globe. Two years ago, when Vardar took their first medal on their debut at the event, they entered the Super Globe as Champions League winners. In 2019, it was the same situation, following Vardar’s title win in Europe’s premier club competition in early June.
Considering their status as Champions League title holders, it seemed they were the clear favourites, but Vardar certainly did not have an easy match and even found themselves behind in the first half. In the end, a four-goal victory for the Macedonian team earned them the medal.
Vardar (MKD) vs Al Wehda (KSA) 30:26 (16:16)
Al Wehda scored the first goal of the match and the momentum stayed with them right through to half-time, as the Saudi team always had the edge, although Vardar managed to level the game more than once. However, once Vardar claimed the upper hand early in the second period, they had command of the game until the buzzer.
Al Wehda put up a strong fight versus the title holders in what is widely regarded as the world’s toughest club competition, though their comparable lack of depth was a critical factor against them. While Vardar could rotate their line-up frequently with little change in quality, Al Wehda could not afford to stray far from their starting seven.
The Saudi team were led in attack by stand-out games from national team representative Mahdinruhi Alsalem and Egyptian international Ali Zein, who combined for 16 of the team’s goals. In goal, their keeper Mohammad Razie Alsalem made 11 saves, but he was outclassed by Vardar’s Khalifa Ghedbane, with 14.
Both goalkeepers faced a high number of shots, in a game dominated by attack. The two sides each changed between 5-1 and 6-0 in an attempt to stem the flow of shots, but the back courts for both teams were very strong and no defensive system proved overly effective. For Vardar, right back Dainis Kristopans (six goals) was outscored only by wing Ivan Cupic, who tallied seven goals, with three from three on penalties.
Al Wehda had their clearest advantage at three in the opening 10 minutes, before a score of 7:9 at the end of the first quarter. In the final 10 minutes of the first half, neither team could pull away by more than one goal, and the period finally settled with a level score line. Al Wehda saw their last advantage at 16:17 in the 31st, after which Vardar took control and held the edge right to the end.
However, their lead was never decisive. As the clock passed 50 minutes, the distance stood at two, 26:24, and the Saudi team very much had the chance to turn the tide. It was Domen Sikosek who secured the victory when he struck for 29:24 in the 58th minute, before Kristopans had the last say to secure the final score.
Player of the match: Dainis Kristopans, Vardar