As usual in Belgrade, FTC edge out Brescia

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

For placed 5-8th: AN Brescia (ITA) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 8-9

The two sides had regular meetings in Belgrade, but unlike their previous two encounters – a semi-final in 2021 and the bronze medal match in 2022 – this lacked the fantastic tensions and the thrilling moments these two produced in those epic battles (both ending in a 14-12 win to FTC).

The level of concentration wasn’t that high, three minutes were needed to see the first goals, Stylianos Argyropoulos finished off a one-on-one after a steal, while Boris Vapenski opened the Italians’ account with 2:20 to go, from a man-up. Then Denes Varga sneaked himself to a clear position and scored his first in the tournament, followed by a fine lob from Vendel Vigvari – this double in 55 seconds gave Ferencvaros a 1-3 lead after eight minutes.

A deflected shot in a 6 on 5 brought the Italians closer early in the second, but they couldn’t add any more for a while – their perimeter shots were not that precise. Ferencvaros, after missing three man-ups earlier, managed to make one with Denes Varga’s one-timer, though Konstantin Kharkov also hit his second from Brescia’s next 6 on 5. The remaining time was devoted some tiring swimming and physical battle, where the Italians could find the way again to score – Edoardo di Somma hit their first action goal from the perimeter 34 seconds before the middle break, so it was all equal at halftime at 4-4.

A minute into the third the Magyars offered a stint of magic once more, Szilard Jansik’s lob was a real beauty, followed by a pinpoint finish by Daniil Merkulov, FTC rebuilt the two-goal lead in 71 seconds at 4-6. However, Brescia needed only 56 to equalise once more, burying back-to-back man-ups, first by Stefano Luongo, then, after a rebound, with a fine touch-in by Jacopo Alesiani for 6-6. FTC missed their next one, then the remaining minutes were filled with hard battling as players were running low on oxygen and couldn’t create bigger danger – leaving the decision to the final period.

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

Again, Ferencvaros took the lead, Argyropoulos buried a penalty 44 seconds into the last quarter, then Brescia wasted two man-ups, but Tomasso Gianazza made up for those with a great backhander from the centre, while Ferencvaros also struggled with their 6 on 5 and di Somma sent the ball home from the Italians’ next 6 on 5 to put Brescia ahead for the first time in the game, with three minutes remaining. Denes Varga stepped up to finish a man-up with 2:25 to go for 8-8. With 48 seconds to go, FTC earned another 6 on 5, and, after a time-out, Merkulov had a clean finish with 0:32 on the clock. Brescia launched its last possession after a time-out as well, also forced a 6 on 5 but a block denied them, and Vogel managed to put a hand on the second attempt after the rebound, securing his team’s third straight victory over Brescia here in Belgrade over the years.
For the Italians, it’s an extremely bitter pill to swallow – after making all efforts to finish atop, they lost two matches here, both by a single goal and now they have to settle for playing for the 7th place.

How they saw it

Alessandro Bovo, coach, Brescia

“These are the games which should not be played, after the loss yesterday, everyone prefers going home. Anyway, we played a good match, better than in the quarter-finals, but Ferencvaros are a great team and they were one better today.”

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

Zsolt Varga, coach, Ferencvaros

“It is tough to play on the following day after a loss, and especially after a loss to Recco, however, here in Belgrade we somewhat got used to play with the two Italian teams in 24 hours. We applied the same gameplan which brought us the win in our last match in the prelims and it worked once more. It wasn’t the same match, both teams were in different shape, both mentally and physically, it was about to find our fighting spirit to be able to go to the battlefield with the necessary preparedness.”

Boris Vapenski, player, Brescia

“We were in the game. It was difficult to come back after yesterday’s match. We need to keep on working. We realised our problems too late because everything was working fine throughout the season. Yesterday was a huge shock but we truly showed our character today. We really fought hard for the 5-8th classification, so we are more satisfied. Yesterday was a disaster and not at the level what Brescia deserves.”

Konstantin Kharkov, player, Brescia

“We played better today than yesterday. It was difficult after yesterday’s defeat, but we did as much as we could. Tomorrow we will play against Jug. We know them very well from the preliminary stage when we were in the same group. It will be a battle.”

Daniil Merkulov, player, Ferencvaros

“In order to beat Recco, you have to give everything and more. They covered all our positions, their blocks were high. They play a very hard and fast defence that was difficult to break. Today we prepared well. We knew they also play typical, fast Italian water polo. The key was the defence, the man-down. We covered their main players well. Tomorrow, we play against Olympiacos, we need to cover their left-handed players Filipovic and Vamos well.”

Szilard Jansik, player, Ferencvaros

“It was very difficult to play today after yesterday’s match against Recco. They destroyed us. Their defence was amazing, we just couldn’t score. I felt sad and disappointed but that is sport. In the last years we always played in the medal matches and this year we are playing for the 5-8th place. It’s hard but next year we go back to Final 4, so there will be no more of this kind of matches. However. I do feel a little bit happier but it will be hard against Olympiacos. They have excellent players Vamos, Filipovic, Fontoulis. We will try to play our best. It will be the last match of our coach Zsolt Varga before he takes on the Hungarian national team full-time. As a respect for him, we want to win and give him the farewell he deserves. 

Soma Vogel, goalie, Ferencvaros“The games against Brescia are always the same, huge battle, physical fight where little things decide the outcome. I was a bit devastated after the Recco game as I couldn’t make as many saves as I should have – now, towards the end of the first period the feeling came back after a couple of shots. We agreed with our goalie coach that the real help would be a save in a man-down – well, I just made that in the very last second. The team also played for our coach, we couldn’t let him lead us in his farewell match playing only for the 7th place.”