Champions League Water Polo – Women Quarter Final & Euro Cup Semi-final Results

There were no comebacks in the Champions League Women quarter-finals – all four winners of the first leg made the Final Four, three of them with double victories. This means that two Spanish teams, Sabadell and Mataro, 8-time champion Orizzonte from Italy and Hungary’s surprise squad Dunaujvaros will go for the trophy on 30 March and 1 April. Assolim CN Mataro (ESP) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 15-12 – aggregate: 26-21Though Olympiacos jumped to a 0-2 lead – which equalled the aggregate score as Mataro had won 11-9 in Piraeus –, the hosts could break the ice after a little more than four minutes, and once it happened, they scored three in a row from connecting possessions in 84 seconds. Olympiacos netted two in 40sec to lead 3-4, but Cristina Nogue equalised 15 seconds from time, so it stood 4-4 after the first period. Vasiliki Plevritou put the Greeks ahead once more from their first possession, then Mataro started rolling again, shut out their rivals for the next three and a half minutes while staged another 3-0 run to lead 7-5. And they held that gap till the middle break for 9-7.Olympiacos had a better spell early in the third when they came back to 9-9 in 50 seconds but then arrived another storm from the Spaniards. Just like in the previous quarters, they had another three-goal streak, and this did the ultimate damage. Their two foreign greats Dutch Simone van der Kraats and Hungarian Rita Keszthelyi were on fire, while the Greeks had another goalless phase of 4:35 minutes and they could not recover from 12-9.Keszthelyi and van der Kraats added one apiece right at the beginning of the fourth to make it 14-10, which closed down the contest. They finished the match 9 goals combined, playing a major role to send Mataro to the Final Four for the second time in their history after 2017. Dunaujvarosi VC (HUN) v CE Mediterrani (ESP) 9-8 – aggregate: 22-17Dunaujvaros’ wonder-quest ended up in the Final Four – something not even the team expected at the beginning of the season. They lost two key-players and started their campaign with six rookies, most of them still in their teens, still, they have been enjoying an unbeaten run in the Champions League, and after having held on for draws against Italy’s two top sides Orizzonte and Padova in the prelims, now beat Mediterrani in both legs.Their big four-goal win from two weeks ago had an impact on this return leg – the Hungarians were a bit nervous at the beginning, standing at the entrance of the finals for everyone’s surprise, backed a capacity crowd in their home pool, but, at the same time, they never lost their composure and discipline. That was bad news for the Spaniards, who didn’t want to rush things for a while but despite claiming a 0-2 lead in the first half, they couldn’t really harm the hosts’ confidence. Dunaujvaros pulled one back after four minutes, then Mediterrani scored early in the second for 1-3, but the Magyars didn’t start panicking, defended well and deep into this period they levelled the score in 96 seconds. Clara Espar netted a fine one from action, but the hosts could equalise again, what’s more, Nikolett Szabo put away an extra in the last second to take the lead for the first time in the afternoon at 5-4.The third was a kind of replica of the opening period – Dunaujvaros could score after long minutes and only once in this quarter, still, their defence worked well, their Dutch goalie Laura Aarts came up with some tremendous saves. This let the Spaniards come back only to even, Axelle Crevier netted two extras, the second with 0:02 on the clock for 6-6. She hit a third one 66 seconds into the fourth to give Mediterrani some hope at 6-7. However, they couldn’t capitalise on it as the Hungarians defence tightened up once more, shut out the Spaniards for more than five minutes while netting three connecting goals, two finely played extras plus a third penalty goal by Krisztina Garda to kill all excitements at 9-7.  Ekipe Orizzonte (ITA) v ANO Glyfada iRepair (GRE) 15-9 – aggregate: 29-22Last season, the Greek clubs swept the trophies in the women’s competitions, Olympiacos won the Euro League and Ethnikos lifted the LEN Trophy. With Olympiacos gone early afternoon, Glyfada remained their last hope, but they faced a mountain to climb as they lost at home in the first leg. Though they came back from six-goals down two weeks ago to lose by a single goal, the Italians were still the overwhelming favourites.And they had a commanding start as they rushed to a 4-1 lead, but Glyfada could pull back two before the first break. After an early exchange of goals, it stood 5-4 but that was the last time the two sides were close. The hosts hit two in 42 seconds for 7-4 and after Eirini Ninou’s penalty goal Orizzonte added another quick double to gain a 9-5 lead at halftime. Though Glyfada pulled two back but after 9-7 Orizzonte staged a 4-0 rush, the last two came in 24 seconds which put a virtual end to the contest at 13-7. This gap remained till the end, so the 8-time winner Italian side can return to the finals after five years. SIS Roma (ITA) v Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) 13-10 – aggregate: 23-25It would have taken a miracle from the Romans to erase their five-goal deficit against five-time winner Sabadell – and even though they managed to win by three at the end, the Spaniards’ qualification was never in danger. Indeed, Sabadell took control in the return leg early on and for three periods they were in the lead almost constantly.Though the hosts led 2-1 but were unable to score for the remaining 4:41 minutes in the first while Sabadell went 2-3 ahead in this phase. In the second, the Italians could equalise twice, then the visitors’ two master-shooters Judith Forca and Beatriz Ortiz both netted an extra for 4-6. Sofia Giustini’s action goal halved the distance before the middle break, but again, despite Roma levelled the score twice in the third, after 7-7 Sabadell hit two in a span of 37 seconds for 7-9. Sofia Giustini netted her 6th goal for 8-9, still, with six goals down in aggregate, the Italians’ situation was anything but promising with eight minutes remaining.The home side staged a fine surge early on, scored three goals in a row for 11-9, then Catharina van der Sloot missed a penalty, for a while the Italians could have some hope. It lasted until Sabadell’s 3-time Olympic champ US star Maggie Steffens didn’t hit one from a 6 on 5 for 11-10 with 2:51 on the clock. Though the Italians could score twice in the remaining time, the second came 19 seconds before the end, so this three-goal win was only a consolation for the hosts. Euro Cup Women, Semi-finals, 1st leg An all-Hungarian final is in sight With three Hungarian sides in the semis, the Magyars’ chances to clinch the trophy stood at 75% by default – after the first leg, it’s getting closer to 100% as Ferencvaros downed Padova in Italy by three goals. The in-house battle in the other duel produced a thrilling encounter and a tie between Eger and UVSE. Semi-finals, 1st leg: Plebiscito Padova (ITA) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 9-12, Tigra-ZF Eger (HUN) v UVSE Budapest (HUN) 12-122nd leg: 11 March Ferencvaros stormed to a 0-3 lead in four minutes in Padova to set the tone, but the Italians could pull two back – despite missing a penalty between the two –, still, the Hungarians led 2-4 after eight minutes. The hosts managed to get back to even in 39 seconds and held on for 5-5 but were unable to score for five minutes before the middle break and two 6 on 5 goals gave a 5-7 lead to FTC. The Hungarians could increase the gap to three in the action-packed third quarter, but Laura Barzon hit two in 42 seconds for 9-10. However, Padova were unable to add any more in the last 10:34 minutes – and that cost them dearly. Ferencvaros scored when it counted the most: early in the last period to reset the two-goal-gap, and then with 0:02 on the clock, so they are very much on their way to their first-ever European final.  The all-Hungarian clash was a real thriller in Eger with loads of twists and turns. Eger managed to build a 6-4 lead by halftime and with a double in 36 seconds in the middle of the third they went 8-5 up while UVSE missed their second penalty. The visitors didn’t need a minute a bit later to climb back to 8-7, then, to highlight how incredible match this was, four more goals came inside the last 67 seconds in the third. Two apiece as UVSE, bravely going for 7 on 6s in the last possessions in each period, could score this time in the very last second for 10-9. Eger doubled its lead from the first possession in the fourth for 11-9, then their rivals wasted their second 6 on 4, still, they weren’t done. What’s more, while Eger were unable to score for six and a half minutes, UVSE found some rhythm in front and staged a 3-0 rush to take the lead at 11-12 with 1:17 remaining. Eve Weston managed to save the game at least to a tie with 49 seconds to go, but now UVSE may have a better chance to make the final once more after 2017 and 2019 (when the competition was called LEN Trophy). Return legs are due in two weeks.

25 February 2023