Marseille survives early scare, OSC escapes in Berlin
While title-holder and group leader Recco cashed in three points without playing (due to Jug’s Covid-problems), the other favourites had to work hard to claim their respective wins. Marseille played its first game since Christmas and they had to overcome a three-goal deficit in the second half in Belgrade but a 0-7 run secured their seventh straight win. OSC was trailing during the whole game in Berlin but staged a late surge and managed to hit the winner 7 seconds from time. The other match in Germany was also decided by a single goal, Hannover edged out Steaua in a match where the Romanians came back from four goals down but the hosts prevailed at the end.
Group B: Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU) 13-12, Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v OSC Budapest (HUN) 11-12, Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v CN Marseille (FRA) 8-11, Pro Recco (ITA) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 10-0
Standings: 1. Recco 21, 2. Marseille 21, 3. Jug 15, 4. OSC 13, 5. Hannover 11, 6. Spandau 7, 7. Steaua 3, 8. Zvezda 3
Marseille fell three goals behind in Belgrade twice and was trailing 7-4 at halftime against bottom ranked Crvena Zvezda, before the French found their rhythm and started playing at their usual level. Without a match since Christmas, Marseille needed some time to reach ‘game-heat’ but once they had it, they blew the Serbs away with a 0-7 run. The hosts could not penetrate the French defence at all, scored a single goal in the second half, with 1:39 from time, so Marseille claimed its 7th straight win and keep up with Recco on top.
OSC won a thriller in Berlin – the Magyars led only once in the match, 7 seconds before the end but that late goal earned them a really precious win. At certain stages Spandau was in firm control, once they went three goals up and they held a two-goal lead three times in the last period but was unable to score in the last 4:35 minutes while OSC netted three in a row to have the last laugh. After losing the previous match by default (due to Covid-problems), this win kept the Hungarians among the top four.
Hannover got entangled into an unexpectedly tough battle with Steaua despite all its key-players returned to the team who had been missing in Bucharest. The Romanians managed to come back from four goals down but ran out of gas in the fourth when the Germans rebuilt their three-goal lead. Two late goals from the visitors could not prevent Hannover from bagging three more points.
Sadly, the big rematch between title-holder Recco and Jug was cancelled as the Croats – who had halted the Italians unbeaten run two weeks ago – were hit by positive Covid-tests plus several players were ordered to go to self-isolation, thus the team was unable to line up the minimum number of players for this match. According to the regulations, the game was awarded to Recco with a 10-0 scoreline.
C. Zvezda v Marseille 8-11
The opening period offered everything the given situation held for the teams. The Serbs got some fresh blood under their new coach Mirko Vicevic while the French struggled a lot as they hadn’t played a single game since December as all of their scheduled encounters were cancelled. Meeting with a refreshed team in front of their noisy Serb fans while not being in play – it led to a stunning start as Zvezda rushed a 3-0 lead while Marseille missed three extras in a row. Ante Vukicevic finally put them on the scoreboard with 18 seconds remaining and soon in the second it seemed that the French machine geared up as they quickly equalised for 3-3.
However, they couldn’t carry on their momentum while the hosts, playing without any pressure as their chances to qualify were almost zero, regained their composure, scored two in a minute and added one more to have another 3-0 run – Vuk Milojevic’s action goal came at the end of a brilliantly played action. Vukicevic’s perfect blast halted Marseille’s ‘second” bad phase but Milos Vukicevic’s magnificent backhander gave the home side a stunning 7-4 lead by halftime.
The French managed to regroup themselves in the middle break so the game started to offer a pattern which mirrored the real quality difference between the teams. In 80 seconds, Marseille hit two as Thomas Vernoux scored his usual one from the centre, then Michael Bodegas’ ball bounced in from the goalie’s hand in a 6 on 4. The biggest change happened at the other end – Marseille’s defence was tightened, the Serbs were unable to penetrate them, they missed their lonely man-up lately, that was their only real scoring opportunity during these eight minutes. It was only a question of time when the French took over the lead – Romain Vernoux’s 6m shot put them on level and Vukicevic’s penalty put them ahead for the first time in the match, with 1:12 to go in the third.
The fourth started just like the third, Vernoux scored from the centre for 7-9 – and when Zvezda missed its man-ups in the next two possessions, the fans could have a kind of a game-over feeling. It was virtually over soon when Vukicevic hit his 5th goal from a man-up for 7-10. After Uros Cuckovic’s goal from a counter, Milos Vukicevic could score again for the hosts to end the French’s 0-7 run. But it was too few and too late, they had a drought lasting 16:50 minutes – or we may say, they ran out of miracles for the second half.
Spandau v OSC 11-12
The Germans offered a great run at the beginning, scoring 5 out of 5 man-ups – a rare feat at any level. OSC tried to keep up but thanks to the Germans’ effective offence they fell behind quickly, turning the encounter in a chasing game where the favourite Magyars had to play under growing pressure.
When the visitors could finally kill a couple of man-downs, they had the chance to come back and they just did that, Ferenc Salamon’s brilliant back-handed action goal brought them to even at 5-5. However, they could not carry on their momentum, though they defended well but the German defence and the hosts’ Hungarian goalie Laszlo Baksa was up to the task too.
And their efforts worked well at both ends of the pool in the third when they staged a 3-0 run. Their veteran great Marko Stamm was instrumental in this rush, his old-school pushed shot from the water in a counter was a sheer beauty and his finely tuned man-up shot put Spandau 8-5 up deep into this quarter. Still, the Magyars weren’t done, they managed to score again after more than six minutes but quickly added another one before the break so it stood 8-7 before the final period.
Nikola Dedovic’s brilliant shot from the distance doubled Spandau’s lead but despite another fine save from Baksa, OSC could put away its next man-up. This pattern was repeated twice – the Germans scored first, OSC could pull one back, but after 11-10 Spandau’s offence lost its rhythm and Salamon’s magnificent 8m shot equalled the score at 11-11. What’s more, Baksa had to come up with a great stop at a counter – however, the Hungarians managed to deny the hosts in a crucial man-up with 1:41 to go. The post saved Spandau at OSC’s next possession, Marton Levai came up with a save 17 seconds from time and the Magyars earned a man-up though Gergely Burian was swimming one on one towards the goal anyway and he hit the winner just 7 seconds before the end. This was the first time OSC took the lead in the game – but it earned them all three points.
Hannover v Steaua 13-12
The game began as it was more or less expected, the Germans jumped to a 3-0 lead. Steaua hit back with a late double but Darko Brguljan also scored twice still in the first period to set the three-goal gap back. Waspo was in control, in the second they expanded their lead to 7-3 and despite a fine action goal from Dmitri Goanta with 0:11 on the clock, all looked well from the hosts’ perspective at halftime.
Things took a sharp turn in the third as the home players seemed to have laid back a bit early while the Romanians managed to lead a series of counters and finished off three in a row, thus in a span of 62 seconds it was 7-7. Petar Muslim’s man-up goal eased Waspo’s miseries – it was their first after 7:17 minutes – but the reply came at the other end as Andrei Neamtu also sent the ball home from a 6 on 5. Soon Hannover had some luck as the Romanians almost killed a man-down but a second attack saw Ivan Nagaev scoring a crucial goal. Then Marius Tic saved a penalty, but again, after the corner Aleksandar Radovic managed to find the back of the net from the distance for 10-8. The Romanians could score a late one again, so the decision was left to the final period.
There Hannover opened the scoring, Steaua could hit back once more but in the crucial moments the visitors looked no longer that fresh and fast as they had been in the third. They had a man-up to go even once more at 11-10 but missed it and that cost them dearly as Ivan Nagaev netted one from the ensuing counter. That was decisive as the Romanians couldn’t create clear scoring chances until the other leftie Fynn Schutze did not score another fine action goal for 13-10. With 1:25 to go, the bill was settled, though Steaua managed to find two more in the last 43 seconds, but they no longer had the chance to save a point at least.
19.00 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO)
19.00 Jadran Split (CRO) v AN Brescia (ITA)
19.45 Novi Beograd (SRB) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)
20.30 Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
Standings: 1. Brescia 17, 2. Olympiacos 16, 3. Ferencvaros 13, 4. Barceloneta 11, 5. Novi Beograd 11, 6. Jadran 6, 7. Radnicki 4, 8. Dinamo 0