The competition in the Velux EHF Champions League is incredibly strong and for 45 minutes Vardar Skopje were still well in contention at the Palau Blaugrana. But it ended 30-23 to ensure Barça qualify for the next round and also stay top of their group.
Barça started strong at the back, but were less effective in front of goal, where the visitors’ huge keeper Milic was in fine form. From 5-2 it went to 8-8 and the game stayed tight until the Catalans finally established a meaningful lead at 14-11.
Vardar came out strong after the break and even edged into the lead at 16-17. But FCB responded with a 6-1 streak and spent most of the ensuing period with a lead of around four points. Vardar’s defending was as fierce as ever, but the sending of key players to the sin-bin proved to be their downfall.
It all meant that with twenty minutes to play, the home side led 27-19, with Lazarov stringing together the goals and Sterbik outstanding in nets. With a cushion of around eight points to defend, Barça could afford to relax in a game that ultimately ended 30-23 and saw them safely through to the next phase of the tournament.