First win for Ferencvaros, Olympiacos defends brilliantly and beats Barceloneta
With several great teams on board, Group A doesn’t cease offering thrilling matches round by round and consequently, the ranks are as balanced as can be. Olympiacos and Brescia top the group, the Greeks earned a brilliant victory against Barceloneta, while Brescia bagged three points with ease in Tbilisi. Next come four teams with 6 points each, including last season runner up Ferencvaros, which managed to edge out Novi Beograd to claim its first win after three straight draws.
Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) 8-4, Jadran Split (CRO) v Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) 9-8, FTC-Telekom (HUN) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 11-10, Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v AN Brescia (ITA) 11-19
Standings: 1. Olympiacos 10, 2. Brescia 10, 3. Ferencvaros 6, 4. Barceloneta 6, 5. Novi Beograd 6, 6. Jadran 6, 7. Radnicki 1, 8. Dinamo 0
Keeping Barceloneta on four goals is an award-winning feat itself – Olympiacos achieved that, thanks to the Greeks’ outstanding defensive work and Marko Bijac’s 71.4% saving percentage. The Spaniards were 0 for 22 from action, an appraisal of the hosts’ efforts in the backyard.
The goalie was a key in Ferencvaros’ first win too, Soma Vogel had an incredible 16 catches on 26 shots (61.4%) and this time it was enough to beat Novi Beograd in a thrilling match. After three draws, these three points were crucial for the Hungarians who could not score in the last eight minutes but thanks to Vogel, four killed man-downs alone in the fourth period secured their victory.
The other Serbian team Radnicki also lost by a single goal, to Jadan in Split. That game was different as both sides looked tired – the Balkan teams all had an exhausting week packed with Regional League matches – and they could produce only eight goals in three periods, 4 apiece. Then the fourth brought nine and Jadran had the upper hand: after 9-6 they could play with the time and even though Radnicki pulled two back, it was too late.
Brescia had an easy task in Tbilisi and the Italians did a professional job right from the beginning and tore Dinamo apart, just like Olympiacos and Barceloneta did in the previous rounds.
Olympiacos v Barceloneta 8-4
When the two sides met last June in the quarter-finals of the Final Eight, Barceloneta turned the game into a rout, it was 13-2 at halftime and ended in the worst defeat for the Greeks in history as they conceded 22 goals.
This time it was a totally different story – as Olympiacos lined up a totally different team. The ‘cement’, embodied by Croatian players in the preceding seasons, was there again, Marko Bijac in the goal was tremendous, just like Andro Buslje in the 2m defender position and Serbian leftie Filip Filipovic also had an uplifting impact on the Greeks’ defence.
Bijac came up with a series of outstanding saves, he finished the match with 71.4% (10/14), but the whole team did a splendid job in front of their own goal as only 50% of the Spanish shots hit the target. Their zone-defence worked perfectly, forcing the Spaniards to take shots from the perimeter and leaving them no room (and breath) in the centre-forward position. The stats of the action shots made the difference all too visible: 2/9 for the Greeks – 0/22 for the Spaniards. Barceloneta could score only from man-ups (3) and converted a penalty but never seemed to have any chance to keep up with the hosts. Olympiacos kept the game under firm control, though it took some time before they broke the ice with 1:33 remaining in the first period. Barceloneta needed even more time to open its account, their first goal came after 9:24 minutes. But that was their only hit in the entire first half – one can barely recall a match where this brilliant side was kept on a single goal for 16 minutes.
The Greeks’ self-confidence was growing and once they took a three-goal lead in the third at 4-1 they took full command. The Spaniards managed to score twice but the reply came every time, so it stood 6- 3 before the last quarter. When Chrysovalantis Chrysospatis finished a counter for 7-3 early in the fourth, it was inevitable that there was no way back for Barceloneta. A penalty brought them a bit closer with 2:49 to go but Filip Filipovic’s nice drive and close-range shot sealed this extremely valuable win for Olympiacos.
FTC v Novi Beograd 11-10
Viktor Rasovic’s action goal set the tone for the game, then Ferencvaros hit back with two extramen goals (the second came from a 6 on 4) but Miroslav Perkovic also put one away at the other end. Daniil Merkulov’s brilliant shot from the second centre’s position gave back the lead to the hosts but after a missed chance Drasko Gogov finished the counter for 3-3.
Dusan Mandic’s penalty opened the second period, levelled by Nemanja Ubovic from a man-up – then again, a missed counter from the hosts, and a re-counter from the Serbs, converted by Strahinja Rasovic and Novi Beograd led once again at 4-5.
Then came the first real run by last season’s runners-ups when they staged a 3-0 rush. A man-up, a penalty and a fine outside shot from Vendel Vigvari gave the hosts a 7-5 lead. The Serbs were shut out for 4:12 minutes before Angelos Vlachopoulos sent the ball home from a man-up. The home side killed a man-up before the break and kept its 7-6 lead.
It didn’t last long, though, Gogov’s great one-timer hit the top right corner for 7-7. The Hungarians struggled a bit after their big time, then, after a silence of 5:20 minutes, Ubovic earned a penalty and Merkulov converted it. Dusko Pijetlovic equalised from the 2m line in a 6 on 5, then the Serbs tried to sell the same in the next man-up, but this time Soma Vogel saved Jaksic’s close-range shot and that was a turning point. Soon Ferencvaros managed to bring two counters all the way to rebuild a two-goal lead. Pijetlovic netted a fine one from the centre but with 0:04 to go Ubovic managed to tip in a man-up from close for 11-9 (it was his 4th goal).
The fourth began with crucial moments as the Serbs missed three man-ups in a row, Vogel did a great job in the goal just like his defenders. The hosts weren’t as sharp in offence – however, they could keep the two-goal difference for long minutes. With 2:34 to go, the Serbs got a fourth 6 on 5 in this period, took a time-out but Mandic hit the bar so it was still 11-9. The hosts got their first man-up soon but a bad pass ruined it – still, they could afford that, especially when Vogel denied Jaksic once more and only 69 seconds remained from the game.
With 23 seconds to go, Rasovic put the ball away from a man-up but that was too late – Ferencvaros claimed its first win after three draws, even without scoring a goal in the last period. But they had Soma Vogel, who delivered an amazing 16 saves (for 61.5%). The Serbs shot like hell, had 39 attempts, while the hosts took only 23, but sometimes less is more.
Jadran v Radnicki 9-8
Last week these two produced an epic 14-14 tie in the Regional League – though that was only one of their six matches played during the week. That took its toll as the teams’ attacks lacked the usual sharpness. As if they ran out of gunpowder, or rather precision and focus, offering easy prey for the goalies.
There were no easy goals in the first three periods, both teams had to work hard to find the back of the net. After Josip Vrlic’s opening from an extra, Jerko Marinic Kragic netted two action goals for a 2-1 lead then both sides missed a man-up apiece in the first. The Serbs had a better spell in the second when they turned the cards for 3-4 and shutting out their rivals for almost five minutes. But Marinic Kragic netted an extra and Duje Pejkovic’s fantastic lob put the hosts ahead once more. Stefan Brankovic levelled the score once more from the Serbs’ first possession – and that remained the only goal of the quarter as the tiredness of the players hit in in this period, so it was 4-4 before the final act. Konstantin Kharkov needed some luck to break Jadran’s almost 10-minute long silence, his shot was deflected by a blocking hand to end up in the net but Filip Jankovic also sent the ball home for 5-5. Though Radnicki killed a man-up bravely – denied two attempts – but Marinic Kragic was on fire, his blast from the perimeter was a beauty and then a crucial miss in a 6 on 5 by the Serbs set up the Croats to take a two-goal lead and they made it from a finely played man-up. Though Vrlic’s pulled one back but again, Marinic Kragic stepped up and this time he stunned the goalie with a lob, it was his 5th in the evening. Radnicki seemed to have run out of gas and ideas – and their defence also broke: after keeping Jadran on four goals in three periods, they conceded five in the last eight minutes – the decisive one came from a man-up by Niksa Dobud. Even though there were three more minutes to play, it was felt that it was over at 9-6. Radnicki went for all-in, but the Croats played with the time wisely and even though the Serbs could score twice, the second came too late, 28 seconds from time. This win keeps Jadran in the hunt while Radnicki needs to dig deep as they had only one point in four matches.
Dinamo v Brescia 11-19
Brescia didn’t leave it late to decide the outcome. Right in the first period they stormed to a 1-5 lead and kept their pace throughout the game. The number of shots describes the difference: the total stood at 19- 32, on target was 16-27 – this difference could have been counterbalanced only by a miraculous goalkeeper performance in Dinamo’s goal but that was too much to expect.
Brescia, bronze medallist last year, expanded the gap quarter by quarter, was very effective in front (they were 4 for 7 in man-ups, for example) and the only question remaining was if the Italians hit the 20-goal mark like Olympiacos and Barceloneta had done in the previous rounds. At the end, they come short by one, stopping at 19, with Dorde Lazic, Stefano Luongo and Edoardo di Somma hitting 4 apiece. This also showed that the Georgians couldn’t really do much to reduce the number of errors at the back. In front they performed a bit better, after netting 9 against the Greeks and 7 against the Spaniards, they managed to produce double digits this time.
Group B – Wednesday
19.00 OSC Budapest (HUN) v CN Marseille (FRA)
20.00 Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
20.15 Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)
20.30 Pro Recco (ITA) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)
Standings: 1. Recco 9, 2. OSC 7, 3. Marseille 6, 4. Jug 6, 5. Zvezda 3, 6. Hannover 2, 7. Spandau 1, 8. Steaua 0