FTC shocks Jug, Barceloneta flies, Olympiacos survives tough Champions League Water Polo test to replay 2018 final with Recco
Olympiacos Piraeus and Pro Recco will meet in the semis to replay last year’s thrilling final. The Greeks survived Brescia’s late surge in the quarter-finals while host Hannover did its absolute best to force a great fight against Recco but the Italians prevailed at the end. Ferencvaros reached the semis for the first time since 1989 as they upset group-winner Jug and faces Barceloneta which earned the day’s easiest win over newcomer BPM Busto.
Champions League Water Polo Quarter-finals: Jug CO Dubrovnik (CRO) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 9-10, Zodiac Barceloneta (ESP) v Banco BPM Sport Management Busto (ITA) 12-7, Pro Recco (ITA) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 14-10, Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v AN Brescia (ITA) 8-7
Schedule for Friday – for places 5-8: 15.00 Hannover v Brescia, 16.30: Jug v BPM. Semi-finals: 19.00 Recco v Olympiacos, 20.30 FTC v Barceloneta
An upset kicked off the quarter-final session as Ferencvaros, coming from the 4th place in Group A, ousted group-winner and 4-time champion Jug Dubrovnik with a convincing performance. The Hungarians stormed through their rivals with three goals from their first three possessions but an emergency time-out prevented the Croats from being blown away. Though this turned out to be a temporary solution as Ferencvaros kept on dominating, led by three at half-time and with some fine defending they went 6-10 up before the last break.
Despite two easy goals for Jug early in the fourth, Ferencvaros had the chance to close down the match but missed a 6 on 4 and a man-up. When Loren Fatovic netted a 5m shot for the Croats with 48 seconds to go for 9-10, the 2016 winners could even think of a miraculous comeback but the Magyars’ patience paid off, a smartly played action ended in an extraman and they kept the ball till the end. It means that they managed to do what no other team could in the previous four years: to beat Jug on the first day of the final. Though this is not that surprising from a Super Cup winner side after all – the Magyars return to the semis for the first time since 1989 (when it was played on a home-and-away basis).
The second QF saw less excitement as Barceloneta came up with a flawless performance. BPM equalised for 2-2 early in the second but then started missing its best chances while the Spaniards destroyed the Italian defence by a series of action goals. Indeed, they netted six in a row, the two fast counter-attacking goals shortly before the halftime break did the damage as Busto seemed to have lost its composure (the number of shots on goals in the first two quarters showed the difference: 13-6 for Barceloneta, that time they led 6-2).
BPM could score again after 10:12 minutes but by then Barceloneta was already 8-2 up. Though BPM climbed back to 9-5 before the last interval and could have opened the last period with a goal but Dani Lopez denied two shots in a man-down and soon Barceloneta buried two man-ups to freeze the game back and cruised to an easy win to reach the semi-final for the fourth time since 2014.
Then came something unexpected: host Hannover, an absolute underdog against Recco, which won 14/14 in the prelims, could hold on for most of the time and not let the game turn into a one-sided contest. The Italian favourite perhaps didn’t consider the No 1 rule of any team sport: never underestimate a German side. The hosts gave their hearts and souls and with 3:18 to go in the third they were still trailing by only a single goal at 8-7. Moritz Schenkel delivered some outstanding saves in the first half which helped Waspo to gain a 2-0 lead, then to stay close as Recco began to gear up but could only extend the gap to three goals for the first time late in the third at 10-7.
But it wasn’t the end – just 2:05 gone in the fourth, and Waspo was there again with two man-up goals at 10-9. They even had a possession to go even but couldn’t capitalise on that and Niccolo Figari’s action goal from the right wing served as a cooler for the top favourite, especially when it was followed by Alessandro Velotto’s blast from a 6 on 5 for 12-9 with 3:30 remaining. Dusan Mandic made it 13-9, so Recco netted three in 127 seconds and that settled the bill.
The last match promised a huge fight between title-holder Olympiacos and Brescia which enjoyed perhaps its best season so far in the League. For a while it was tight but at 3-2 Brescia missed two man-ups in the second and they paid for that as the Greeks netted three goals in 93 seconds for a 6-2 lead. With 0:01 to go Nikola Vukcevic pulled one back to give some hope for Brescia but they faced a mountain to climb in the second half.
They started their quest with a fast goal and after killing a man-down, they had some fine scoring chances including counters but Olympic champion Croat Josip Pavic showed his class in the Greek goal. He then denied them in a 6 on 5, soon the bar helped him out in the next man-down which also praised the Piraeus defence. So Olympiacos, despite not scoring in the third, still led 6-4 before the final period.
The Greek drought continued though, Italian national team goalie Marco del Luongo was also up to the task, and when Christian Prescutti netted a man-up for 6-5, the heat was really on. Paulo Obradovic’s brilliant backhander came in the best time for Olympiacos, halting their scoreless phase of 11:01 minutes. But Brescia also had a Croatian to reply as Petar Muslim netted a nice action goal for 7-6. The Greeks responded with Konstantinos Mourikis’ man-up goal from the 2m line but Brescia held on and the other Presciutti brother, Nicholas also buried a 6 on 5 for 8-7, with 2:12 to go. Luongo delivered another save, 1:07 from time Brescia called for a time-out to set themselves up for the equaliser. But they never
had it so their curse in the finals haunts them on: this is the fifth time since 2014 they lose on Day 1.
The coaches’ comments
Zsolt Varga, head coach, FTC-Telekom:
“Today we played really well for at least three periods then we caused difficulties for ourselves while Jug started coming up. What we planned we did for most of the time. In this sport for such a long season every team has its ups and downs, perhaps Jug was in a ‘down’ period now and that had an effect on their game.”
Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug CO Dubrovnik:
“We need to congratulate Ferencvaros, there was not a single aspect today where we were any better than them. They did everything better, honestly, I don’t even know how we got that close towards the end. I don’t think it’s a tragedy that we lost this match, it happens in sport. I give all credit to our rival, especially to their coach, they knew all our weaknesses, and used those at their advantage while offered a very balanced and strong performance. Even though it seemed we might have had a chance, I felt that we could have played one or two more periods, we would still not have had a real chance.”
Jesus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“I’m very satisfied with my team, we played really well. It’s a great win as BPM is a very good team so to beat them this way is a great result for us.”
Marco Baldineti, head coach, BPM:
“We played very bad, our defence didn’t work for most of the time, we committed too many mistakes. Against a team like Barceloneta you couldn’t afford that, they have some very good and experienced players who scores from these opportunities. But we don’t have time to regret anything as we face a game against Jug tomorrow, another big challenge.”
Ratko Rudic, head coach, Recco:
“As I told, there are no easy matches here. We didn’t play that well, our finishes were not good enough, while in defence… Well, in defence we faced the home team so that was also a factor besides our goalie wasn’t too good today. And of course, as Hannover’s coach said at the press conference, they can only win today, whatever happens. And this approach was visible, they had no pressure while taking the shots which is usual when a team plays against Recco. Anyway, it was good that we won with a bad performance and to have at least some tensions, it might even help us to improve for tomorrow when we meet an even tougher opponent.”
Karsten Seehofer, head coach, Hannover:
“For us, this was a great game, we gave everything, this is the way this team can play and we reached this level. Of course, at the end Recco won, it couldn’t happen the other way as they are a much better team. But I’m absolutely satisfied with our
performance, and yes, I think this was our best match we played this season in the Champions League.”
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:
“You can never take anything granted against Brescia. Even when we led by four goals I was sure they would do everything to come back and they just did that. They are a very experienced team, the have a tough defence so I’m really satisfied with my team. My players played with their heart but at the same time stayed composed and managed to achieve that we could continue in this tournament. Tomorrow we can play without pressure against Recco, we have nothing to lose.”
Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:
“I’m happy with the overall performance of my team even though we made too many mistakes in the first half. Still, we came back, we fought hard, played well against the title-holders and that was great since it is extremely tough to play against Olympiacos. Their last goal came after another mistake, but we still had the chance. I think we should have had an extraman at the end but we were denied.”
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