Another epic battle, ‘the highest level of water polo’

Day 9, Group B – Novi Beograd (SRB) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 14-13

10-14, 10-11, 12-14 – this is how these two sides’ previous matches looked like in the last season and more recently on Day 6 in Budapest. Back then NBG missed several key-players due to health issues, now even Nikola Jaksic was back, so they came with full force. And at the beginning it looked like the returning greats would make a difference as NBG stormed to a 3-0 lead – however, FTC woke up in time and hit back with three connecting goals inside the first period, to set the tone of what came next.

The scoring machines just geared up in the second and the teams produced a 10-goal second period, netted 5 apiece – the goalies couldn’t do much as the offences did an outstanding job. Apart from a bad miss from Stylianos Argyropoulos, who sent the ball wide from a penalty at 8-7, while Radomir Drasovic netted a man-up right away which seemed crucial at 9-7. 

However, Szilard Jansik’s smart lob in the last second of the first half halved the distance and Argyropoulos also put the embarrassing miss behind with a fine counter-attacking goal which brought his side back to even two minutes into the third. Two minutes later Jansik put FTC ahead for the first time in the match with his 4th goal, but the thriller went on, and the Serbs retook the lead in 53 seconds. Luca Damonte put away an extra for 11-11 and after some intense battling Argyropoulos sold another lob with 0:05 on the clock so Ferencvaros led 11-12 before the final period.

Though the hosts’ Brazilian goalie Joao Fernandez wasn’t on top of his game until the fourth quarter, there he came up with five great saves. One of them was absolutely crucial in a man-down as that was a clear scoring chance for FTC to expand the gap to two goals. Uncharacteristically, almost five minutes went down the clock without either side being able to score – FTC were a bit closer, but Fernandez hanged out the Closed sign to his goal. 

After one of his stops, Angelos Vlachopoulos could finally got off for a one-on-one counter to equalise with 3:14 on the clock. Jansik drove himself to the 2m line but couldn’t beat Fernandez from close, with two defenders in his neck, and at the other end Alvaro Granados sent the ball home from action for 13-12 with 1:35 on the clock. Jansik went for another one, but again, he couldn’t have a clear shot, then was excluded, and Radomir Drasovic’s pinpoint shot decided the game with 50 seconds to go. The Hungarians pulled one back with 0:22 remaining but had no chance to regain the ball so NBG managed to beat them for the first time in an epic battle.

How they saw it

Zivko Gocic, coach, NBG

It was a very tough game from the beginning till the last moment. I’m still thrilled so just try to say something on the game… It was a team victory first of all, we got three very important points. Also congrats to Ferencvaros, this was the highest level of water polo. We fought like crazy, we had a lot of mistakes, but this is sport.”

Zsolt Varga, coach, FTC

“It was a really good game, where we found a good rhythm in the third period. We could have earned one or even three points, at the end we go back home without any – we had a chance but we committed to many mistakes.”