Day 5, Group A: Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) 7-9
Only two sides managed to post a perfect 4/4 in the 2022 part of the group stage – and they clashed in the first round in the New Year in Piraeus. It was a huge defensive battle which saw the first three periods ending in 2-2 partial results before some fine defending and the usually speedy counters ended in a 0-3 rush and that gave Barceloneta a big win.
Felipe Perrone’s trademark counter-attacking goal opened the scoring, Marton Vamos hit back with a 6m blast to put the home side to the scoreboard after 3:10 minutes. An easy put-away by Roger Tahull in a man-up made it, 1-2 but Konstantinos Genidounias replied quickly, also netting a 6 on 5.
Vamos sent Olympiacos ahead for the first time early in the second, from action, but Tahull had another fine finish from close-range in a man-up. Ioannis Fountoulis’ great shot hit the back of the not from an extra for 4-3, then the Greeks could kill the following man-down and had a chance to double their lead, but a block denied Vamos. Marko Bijac came up with a save in the next Spanish 6 on 5 to offer the hosts a few more possessions, however, they wasted all and Martin Famera’s 6m shot beat Bijac in the very last second for 4-4.
A quick exchange of goals kicked off the third quarter, Fountoulis buried a man-up from the first attack, but Alberto Munarriz made it 5-5 with a fine action goal immediately. A minute or so gone when Andro Buslje scored from action for 6-5, then Bijac stopped the ball in another man-down, and again the Greeks had some chances to go two up, but the Spanish defence worked well. With 3:11 on the clock, Munarriz delivered another great action goal for 6-6, then Unai Aguirre made a crucial save in a 6 on 5, and another one within a minute. Barceloneta had a man-up soon after a time-out, the ball hit the post, so it stood 6-6 before the final act.
There, for a while, battling dominated, then Olympiacos earned two man-ups within 63 seconds, but their lefties were unable to beat the Spanish defence – Vamos missed his shot, while Filip Filipovic was denied by Aguirre. With 3:32 to go, Barceloneta could play a 6 on 4 and Perrone made no mistake from the back, and in 21 seconds he stroke once more, this time from a counter, after a killed man-down. And just 65 seconds later came the third straight goal from the Spaniards, following the similar pattern, they defended really well once more in the Greeks’ extra, and this time Dusan Matkovic finished off the ensuing counter for 6-9 and only 1:58min were left in the game.
It was a 96-second-long whirlwind, three possessions, three goals – and that secured three more points for Barceloneta as the Greeks could pull one back only in the dying seconds.
How they saw it
Igor Milanovic, coach, Olympiacos
“We had our chances in the game, when we led by one goal, we always had a man-up to expand our lead but always missed those opportunities and in the fourth period Barceloneta found the way to beat us.”
Elvis Fatovic, coach, Barceloneta
“As always, defence wins the games like this. Our defence was the key once again, we did really well to stop one of the best teams in Europe with outstanding shooters. I haven’t checked the stats yet, but I think our man-down was also really great. We played with patience in attack, with focus and control and I think this gave us a good base to do some great defending.”