Barceloneta win the shootout this time, claim bronze

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

Bronze medal game: Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) v NC Vouliagmeni (GRE) 8-8, pen: 5-4

After two rather convincing wins, Barceloneta were the overwhelming favourite against the Greeks but the game took a totally different path – and it ended a shootout, the second one for the Spaniards after the semis, however, this time they emerged victorious. 

Miguel del Toro quickly put the Spaniards ahead a fine centre shot, but that didn’t gear them up immediately. Their next came only in the middle of the first, when Felipe Perrone netted their first man-up for 2-0. The Greeks could sign up after five minutes when Efstathios Kalogeropoulos ball from a sharp angle caught Unai Aguirre by surprise. Unai Biel replied immediately, putting away Barceloneta’s second man-up but Kalogeropoulos was also on target from the Greeks’ first 6 on 5.

Then kicked off the Panagiotis Tsortsatos Show. Vouliagmeni’s goalie stopped a shot in man-down still in the first period, then carried his momentum on in the second. Soon after the restart he came up back-to-back catches on balls coming from the 2m line in another man-down, and that was followed by four more saves, in action, then he denied Barceloneta in a third extra. Midway through this quarter Vouliagmeni earned a penalty in a man-up, Charalampos Troulos buried it for 3-3. It took more than six minutes for Barceloneta to find the way to beat the goalie, Biel hit one quickly in a 6 on 5 from the back – but the Greeks managed to level the score in a similar way, though the exclusion came 7sec from time, but Troulos sent the ball home right after the first pass to make it 4-4.

Dusan Matkovic quickly regained the lead for Barceloneta from a man-up, then Alberto Munarriz joined the party with a magnificent lob to double the favourites’ lead at 6-4, and even though Kalogeropoulos pulled one back in 20 seconds, converting a penalty, Alejando Bustos reset the two-goal gap from a finetuned man-up (after a time-out). Another brilliant shot from Troulos, this time from a man-up from the wing, kept Vouliagmeni on track at 7-6, then they managed to kill a man-down. Soon they could go for the equaliser in a 6 on 5 with 1:13 to go in the third, after a time-out, but now Aguirre could have his hand on Troulos’ attempt. At the other end Tsortsatos did the same, it was his 11th save, so only one goal separated the sides before the final period.

And none after a minute as Kalogeropoulos hit his 4th from the back in a man-up for 7-7. Tsortsatos closed down the incoming roads and at the other Dimitrios Nikolaidis delivered another penalty for Vouliagmeni – Kalogeropoulos was not to miss this one either and for the first time in the game, the Greeks were closer to Wonderland, a medal, as they led 7-8. A short break, because of a clock malfunction, might have helped the Spaniards to regroup themselves as they could make a clean job in a man-up at last, and Roger Tahull brought them back to even. The Greeks weren’t disturbed, though, and also did well in a 6 on 5, Ioannis Alafragkis joined the scorers’ list where only Kalogeropoulos and Troulos appeared up until then. 

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

A great one-timer by Marc Larumbe from action levelled the score with 3:10 to go, then came the first crucial miss by the Greeks in extra. Shots from the perimeter didn’t work at either side, and only 37 seconds remained from the game when Vouliagmeni got the ball and called their last time-out. Then 0:18 left when Nikolaidis earned a man-up, but Troulos’ shot was stopped by Aguirre – it wasn’t as clean and well-timed as the previous ones –, then the Spaniards had 1.3sec left after their time-out. A double red card gave some extra flavour to the closing scene as the players looked for spaces in dead time, but the time was too short to do anything big here.

So the decision was left to the penalties – seemed to be exciting perspective in a game where both goalies were outstanding: Aguirre had 14 stops on 23 shots for 60.9%, while Tsortsatos had 16 on 25 for 64%.
However, the Spaniards started with Jon Porter right away in the goal – and his huge size might have had an impact on Papasifakis’ thoughts who hit the bar in the second round. The Greeks went for a change in the fourth round, and it paid off in the fifth as Emmanouil Andreadis managed to catch Matkovic’s shot to keep Vouliagmeni alive. But it was a short-lived joy as Porter could save Troulos’ attempt in the 6th round to secure the bronze for Barceloneta, the fourth in the team’s history.

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

How they saw it

Elvis Fatovic, coach, Barceloneta

“I was aware that Vouliagmeni was a totally different team here with whom we met in the prelims. Weeks ago they came without their second centre-forward and their first goalie and they were much more interested in the other results which would secure their qualification – and they showed even more here, it was an amazing run from such a young team. Congrats to them, to Vlado (Vujasinovic) and his staff, they did a tremendous job. Just think of this game – even if I felt that we kept the game under control for most of the time, in the fourth we had to go after them and equalise from time to time. It was the third game in four days here, at the end of the season, we had to overcome our disappointment after the semi-final where we lost in a way we did, so that was not easy. Of course, we came here to win the trophy, even if we knew that there were bigger teams, better teams, still, we saw a chance to make it. At the end we have this bronze medal, it’s also fine, after all, it’s much better to finish third than fourth.”

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

Vladimir Vujasinovic, coach, Vouliagmeni

“I cannot find the words to tell you how I feel to see my team, my players achieve this result. We could fight against the best teams in Europe, we could beat Brescia, had a great first half against Recco and now lost in the penalties to Barceloneta. Little things decided this game, but we shouldn’t be sad – this a great result for Vouliagmeni.”

Jon Nicholas Porter, goalkeeper, Barceloneta

“I just love the penalty shootouts. It is mostly about luck. Fortunately, I am a big guy and he hit me in the face. I think we deserve a bit more than the bronze, but it’s nice to finish off the season with a victory.”

Roger Tahull, player, Barceloneta

“It was an exciting match. We started well but then towards the end of the third and in  the beginning of the fourth quarter we started playing non-sense, only thinking to score more goals. Vougliameni played a super tournament here. I think that they deserved to be in the final. Later on, we had some luck and obviously today the stars were on our side. We came here for gold and we always strive for the best, and the bronze is a medal too.”

Dusan Matkovic, player, Barceloneta

“Just as Roger has said we came here for the best result. I think we have the potential to play for the gold next year too. Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed this year. As a consolation prize, we have the bronze. I think, all in all, we can be satisfied. We only lost two matches this season in the Champions League. It is nice to close it with a victory.”

Dimitrios Nikolaidis, player, Vouliagmeni

“Today we played with a very good team. We had nothing to lose here. In the end, we lost in the penalty shootout. It’s really the worst situation. Still, I am happy to be here at the Final 8. We were a big surprise. I will always remember this great year and this whole experience.”

Efstathios Kalogeropoulos, player, Vouliagmeni

“It was the last game of this wonderful season. Today we gave our best against a really good team like Barceloneta. The penalties are always something like a Russian roulette. I am happy with what we showed in the last game here and the whole experience. We didn’t feel any pressure today. After the first match here, our goal was to play better and better and enjoy it and we did it. We leave Belgrade in a happy mood.”