Newcastle Vikings Handball Club’s men got off to a winning start to the new England Handball North Regional Development League season, fighting back from behind in a tense Tyne & Wear derby encounter to snatch a 16-13 home victory as Sunderland’s goalkeeper saw red in the final minutes.
The match at the Temple Park Leisure Centre in South Shields was the first time the two North East sides had met in a competitive league game, having only previous played each other in friendly tournaments. The newly-formed Sunderland Handball Club got off to a flying start as centre Dimitrios Pappas fired them in front inside the first minute, but the Vikings soon pulled back through captain David Topacho from the right half position.
The two sides then continued to trade blows throughout an evenly-matched first half in which both sides struggled with their shooting accuracy against solid defences and some good saves by both goalkeepers. Goals from former Newcastle wingers Jack Woods and Wiktor Laczny plus a Pappas hat-trick just kept Sunderland in front, while Topacho also picked up another three for himself interspersed by goals from centre Mohammed Ghuloum and line-player Craig Swanson’s brace. Ghuloum levelled again as the interval beckoned, before another former Vikings player Athbi Almarzouq nudged Sunderland 9-8 in front just before the half-time whistle.
With the momentum in the away team’s favour Pappas extended Sunderland’s advantage at the start of the second half with another hat-trick of goals before captain Woods picked up his fourth, but centre Vlad Cocos’ strike, a breakaway goal from winger Matthew Lamb and a Ghuloum double ensured Newcastle always stayed in touch. But it was stand-in Vikings keeper Jonathan Bastit’s long throw for winger Kole Viejo-Caballero to level the game on the break to the joy of the home supporters that set the tone for a tense final finale as Sunderland began to tire, Viejo-Caballero soon grabbing his second to edge Newcastle in front for the first time in the match.
The game was then virtually handed to the Vikings with two minutes to go when Sunderland goalkeeper Gracjan Joppek committed a cynical foul outside the area trying to thwart another Newcastle breakaway, the former Vikings outfield player seeing a straight red card from the referee. Captain Topacho promptly fired in the consequent penalty strike against Pappas who had donned the keeper’s jersey, before Ghuloum scored again to add a touch of gloss to the final 16-13 scoreline and seal a well-fought comeback Vikings victory. Top scorers Dimitrios Pappas and Mohammed Ghuloum were voted as each side’s men of the match.
Newcastle Vikings: Jonathan Bastit (GK), Florencio ‘Kole’ Viejo-Caballero (2 goals), Vlad Cocos (1), James Porter, Craig Swanson (2), Matthew Lamb (1), Mohammed Ghuloum (5), Adam Mobberley, Robert Thompson, Stephan Stricker, David Topacho (5), Holger Schulz, Thomas Harrison.
Sunderland: Gracjan Joppek (GK), Wiktor Laczny (1 goal), Piotr Niedbal, Dimitrios Pappas (7), Jack Woods (4), Athbi Almarzouq (1), Tomasz Lewandowski, Mariusz Lulewicz, Dawid Chorazki.