|Both Tenerife and Terrassa claimed wins at home, though both were narrow against Apollon Smyrnis and Enka Istanbul respectively. It’s yet to be seen if LEN’s new club competition’s historical first final will feature two Spanish sides. Semi-finals, 1st leg: Tenerife Echeyde (ESP) v Apollon Smyrnis (GRE) 11-10, CN Terrassa (ESP) v Enka Istanbul (TUR) 15-12Return leg: 22 March Apollon stunned Tenerife in the opening period while gaining a 0-3 lead. The ‘islanders’ reacted well, though, and soon in the second they came back to even at 4-4. However, for long they were unable to really turn the game – they went ahead three times in the third, but the Greeks levelled the score again and again. Only Marc Salvador’s last-gasp goal was left without answer, so the hosts led 8-7 before the last period. Then after some intense battling, Victor Alegre finally doubled Tenerife’s lead for 9-7, then again for 10-8, but Nikolaos Gardikas pulled one back soon. After another three-minute fight, he managed to equalise with his 5th hit in the evening, with 50 seconds remaining. With 0:32 on the clock, Tenerife earned a man-up, then 10 seconds from time they forced a penalty. Their veteran great, Albert Espanol – MVP of the 2014 Champions League Final Six – buried it to give his side at least a single-goal lead for the return leg. Terrassa staged a kickstart to the game against Enka and stormed to a 5-0 lead in five minutes. Perhaps even the home players thought that this would as easy as many had thought beforehand – and early in the second, at 7-1, the game seemed to turn into another lopsided contest. However, the Turks had other plans, netted two in a minute after 8-3, then again after 9-5, so by halftime they climbed back to 9-7, thanks to a 6-goal haul in the second quarter. The Spaniards couldn’t regain their confidence and Enka came closer and closer. Nesfet Ozbek had a brilliant spell in the third, he scored three goals, and with one period remaining only a single goal separated the teams at 11-10. Enka’s veteran Croatian Olympic champ Paolo Obradovic netted an extra in the fourth to make it 11-11, few thought of that at 5-0. Terrassa woke up, hit two in quick succession, and even though the Turkish pulled one back from a penalty, Adrian Baches put away a 6 on 5 for 14-12, it was his fourth goal. Enka missed a crucial man-up and 38 seconds from time Victor Flores netted his fifth, and this action goal may worth a lot at the end as it secured a three-goal advantage for the second leg.
2 March 2023