Recco staged eight minutes of power-demonstration
Recco beat Marseille and sealed its usual No. 1 position in the prelims – a perfect 5-0 storm in the second period secured the title-holders’ win over the group’s runner-up. A late 0-3 surge earned a point to Jug’s teen team in Hannover, while OSC gained a consolation win in Bucharest and Crvena Zvezda managed to avoid being bottom-ranked, thanks to a last-grasp winner in Berlin.
Group B: Pro Recco (ITA) v CN Marseille (FRA) 11-8, Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 14-14, Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 11-12, Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Genesys-OSC Budapest (HUN) 9-15
Standings: 1. Recco 39, 2. Marseille 33, 3. Jug 31, 4. Hannover 21, 5. OSC 19, 6. Spandau 10, 7. Zvezda 7, 8. Steaua 4
Everything has been decided on Day 13 in this group, not even the Final Eight berths but the rankings as well – so the games were entertaining and also used by the teams to gear up for the final crucial matches of the season.
Recco inaugurated its magnificent sea-side outdoor pool with a fine win over runner-up Marseille. The Italians staged an eight-minute-long power demonstration in the second period when they rushed to an 8-3 lead – but the French climbed back and had possessions to go even at 9-8 early in the fourth before Recco closed down the contest.
Since the current format of the Champions League has been launched in 2014, Recco finished atop in all but one season – it was right in the first edition in 2014 when in a rare scenario they came second and had three defeats in the group (and finished 6th in the F6). In the seven full seasons played since, the Italian giant had three more losses in 82 group matches (and a fourth one in the halted pandemic season). All in all, in the last eight years they produced 84 wins, 3 ties and 4 losses in the prelims (78-1- 3 without 2020), and they posted perfect marks four times (10/10 in 2015, 2017, 2021 and 14/14 in 2019) and never had more than one loss in the other four years.
The battle of the other two qualified sides ended in a spectacular draw. All credits go to Jug’s youngsters as the Croats fielded only four of their regular players (though they netted 13 goals out of 14) and nine juniors as their focus is on their championship final series. Hannover seemed to have the game in hand at 14-11 but Jug managed to save it to a draw with a great rush at the end.
In the matches of the lower ranked sides, OSC claimed another consolation win in Bucharest while Crvena Zvezda finished the prelims the same way they had started it on Day 1: they beat Spandau, this time with a goal scored 0:06 on the clock. Too bad that they could grab only a single point in the 12 rounds between these two matches.
Recco v Marseille 11-8
The clash of the top two offered some fine water polo – in fact a seven-goal win for Marseille would have altered the rankings but that was something no one had seen coming, not even the French.
Gergo Zalanki scored the first Champions League goal in the newly opened pool, Benjamin Hallock added another one later while Marseille needed five minutes to open its account. But they managed to score more in the first, indeed two in the last 40 seconds so it stood 3-3 after eight minutes.
The next chapter was absolutely different, it was Recco all the way and a strong message for the top guys in Group A: go for your wins tomorrow and try to avoid a clash with us or you may face the same fate. Indeed, the Italians blew the French away with a 5-0 storm, their offence was overwhelming, their defence was perfect (killed two man-downs) so they were 8-3 up at halftime.
However, the third unfolded differently – the perfect storm was over, Marseille scored from a penalty and a man-up in 48 seconds and that gave their confidence back. Though Hallock put away a 6 on 5 for 9-5, another man-up goal and another penalty halved the gap while Recco missed two extras. When Andrija Prlainovic netted the French’s first man-up at the beginning of the fourth, the game heated up pretty much at 9-8 and after killing a man-down, Marseille had a couple of possessions to go equal. But they couldn’t score from those – indeed, they didn’t add any more in the last 7:19 minutes while Aleksandar Ivovic blasted his third for 10-8 and after some fine defending by the title-holders, Hallock put an end to the contest from a dying man-up.
Hannover v Jug 14-14
In the middle of the Croatian league final, Jug sent a team full of youngsters – only four key players ’accompanied’ the teens to Hannover – so the Germans’ task looked easy: mark the four ‘seniors’ and the game can be handled with ease. Well, if that was the plan, it did not work for sure as the two Greeks, Stylianos Argyropoulos and Alexandros Papanastasiou, plus the two elder Croats Marko Zuvela and Filip Krzic (whose father, Ognjen substituted the head coach Vjeko Kobescak for this tour) scored 13 of the 14 goals Jug produced.
Still, Hannover had the game in hand – though the ‘teen squad’ held on for a while and grabbed the lead in the first half eight times, but the Germans managed to equalise every time and after 8-8 a double in 46 seconds gave them a 10-8 lead at the halfway mark.
The Croats climbed back early in the third with two action goals from Papanastasiou but in the remaining time of this quarter the hosts stepped up, scored three unanswered goals, killed two man downs before the last break so they seemed to sit comfortable in the driving seat. Perhaps too comfortable – after three minutes of battling, a quick exchange of goals Hannover was still 14-11 up with 4:33 to go, but their concentration level dropped and the Croats got closer and closer. Krzic netted a man-up, Zuvela finished off a counter with 2:06 to go and soon he added another one from a 6 on 5 with 1:15 on the clock. Hannover had a last man-up but missed it – so the game ended in a draw; a piece of good news for the Jug family: what they said before the game, was justified, in Dubronvik the pool of talent is wide and deep enough.
Steaua v OSC 9-15
The Hungarians had to bounce back from the utter disappointment of not making the cut for the Final Eight and they suffered another sound loss at home in the championship final to Ferencvaros (indeed, their defence crushed – Hannover scored 17 goals in the decisive game on Day 12, in the first game of the final OSC conceded 18). They had a clear task: to regain some confidence in Bucharest against an inferior side.
And they just did that. It did not begin smoothly, they led 2-3 after eight minutes, then couldn’t score for almost six minutes in the second – missed a penalty in that phase – but at least they prevented the Romanians from levelling the score. Then they could hit three in 85 seconds for 2-6 and never looked back. Soon it stood 4-10, indeed the Magyars scored numerous goals from counters to highlight the difference in speed. They kept the six-goal difference till the end and all but one of their field players scored at least one goal.
Spandau v Crvena Zvezda 11-12
It was a fine and exciting match of prestige – and the Serbs didn’t let their pride be hurt as by winning this clash they avoided the bottom ranking. The game was full of twists and turns – both sides could play without pressure, and this led to an entertaining encounter. Zvezda jumped to a 0-2 lead, the hosts turned the cards deep into the second at 5-4 but their rivals hit back with a late double for 5-6. The trend continued in the third, it was Spandau’s turn as they rushed ahead once more and kept on leading, but Gavril Subotic finished off a three-pass play after a time-out for 9-9.
And he converted a penalty right in the first possession for 9-10 and this put the game to a different course – Zvezda took the lead later again, but Spandau could net a 6 on 4 for 11-11 with 44 seconds remaining. Seventeen seconds later the visitors earned a man-up, called for a time-out and Veljko Tankosic found the back of the net from the perimeter, just beating the shotclock with 0:06 to go – and this secured a second win for them, apparently, the first also came against the Berliners on the opening day. What happened between the two is another story.
Fixtures for Wednesday – Group A
18.30 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA)
19.00 Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
19.00 Jadran Split (CRO) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)
20.30 Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Novi Beograd (SRB)
Standings: 1. Brescia 30, 2. Ferencvaros 25, 3. Novi Beograd 24, 3. Barceloneta 24, 5. Olympiacos 20, 6. Radnicki 13, 7. Jadran 9, 8. Dinamo 3