The Croatian champions lost to Celje 28:30
PPD Zagreb lost its EHF Champions League first round match in Celje on September 24. 2016. This was always going to be a fast-paced encounter and it fully lived up to expectations as both teams played at the top of their limits, with Zagreb taking an early 6:4 lead as their top scorer Stipe Mandalinić was unstoppable.
But Celje quickly regained their composure and turned the deficit into an 11:9 advantage, with Zagreb relying almost exclusively on Mandalinić to stay in the match. The left back finished the first half with an impressive tally of seven goals from as many shots but it was Celje who carried a one-goal advantage into the locker room.
The start of the second half was a carbon copy of the same period in the first as the visitor’s steamrolled into a 20:18 lead, with Mandalinić again at the heart of their effort.
He received welcome support from Zagreb’s Slovenian right back David Miklavčič, who was inspired against his compatriots and netted five goals from as many shots up to that point.
However, that was as good as it got for Zagreb as the home side seemed to move up a gear in attack, while they also stifled Mandalinić and Miklavčič at the other end of the court.
Having turned the two-goal deficit into a 25:22 advantage, Celje kept going at full throttle and prevailed after their goalkeeper saved a seven-meter penalty shot when the hosts were 29:27 ahead and a man down, after one of their players was suspended for two minutes.
Winger Luka Žvižej led the home team’s attack with seven goals, while Mandalinić netted 10 from 13 shots but the rest of the team just couldn’t match his firepower.
Veselin Vujović, PPD Zagreb coach, said after the game:
“Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose; that’s life. Last season we won by a goal, and today we had a similar match. The decisive moment in the match was in the second half when we did not take our two player advantage and Celje scored twice. From then on the home team had full control, but this is just the first round and there are plenty of games to play and many points to win. Teams have to win on their home court, and try to get some away ones, which we did not manage to get today.”