After losing only three matches in the prelims over the last five years, title-holder Pro Recco kicked off the season with a defeat in Piraeus. Olympiacos’ star-studded line-up came up with a great performance to beat the Italians in a thrilling battle. Barceloneta also opened their campaign with a fine win in Tbilisi, Jadran needed a 0-4 rush in the fourth to down Hannover while Radnicki and newcomer Vouliagmeni played a tie in an unbelievable match.
Group A, Day 1: Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Pro Recco (ITA) 9-7, Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) 8-14, Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Jadran Split (CRO) 8-10, Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v NC Vouliagmeni (GRE) 9-9
Recco barely lose matches, either in the Champions League or at home – indeed, they had only one hiccup last season when Jug defeated them on Day 7 (all in all, in the previous five seasons they had two group stages with perfect records, in 2019 and 2021, and three with a single defeat in the prelims, in 2018, 2020 and 2022). Now they already ‘ticked’ the annual loss in the prelims on the first day as Olympiacos bettered them in a huge battle. The first three periods saw 3 goals apiece before the offences finally started rolling. They produced ten goals, but the Greeks fared better – an early double in 41 seconds gave the home side a 5-3 lead and Recco could never come back to even in the ensuing scoring festival.
Barceloneta overcame some early problems in Tbilisi. The Spaniards fell 4-2 behind in eight minutes but staged a 0-5 run in the second period to put the match on the expected track. Indeed, the 4-2 push from the Georgians was followed by a 4-12 hitback by the favourites.
Jadran had to dig deep in Hannover to claim all three points. The Germans staged their usual strong home start, netted four in the first eight minutes, but the Croats regrouped themselves. Even though the hosts still led 7-6 before the last period, Jadran’s European champion players stepped up and led the charge while making a 0-4 rush which sank their rivals.
Radnicki and newcomer Vouliagmeni produced an extraordinary encounter. After the Greeks took the lead, Radnicki hit back with five and were 5-1 up at halftime. A bit out of the blue, Vouliagmeni staged a rout in the third, scored five unanswered goals to go 5-6 ahead before the last break. The Serbs weren’t done, and with 3:34 to go they seemed to have it at 9-7 but couldn’t add any more while the Greeks levelled the score in 40 seconds and even had a shot to win the game, though they were still happy with the draw.
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Fixtures, Group B, Wednesday
19.00 Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v AN Brescia (ITA)
19.00 Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN)
19.30 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Novi Beograd (SRB)
20.00 CN Marseille (FRA) v Genesys-OSC Budapest (HUN)