Champions League, Main Round, Day 14, Group B – Summary

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.

Recaps 

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