Big winners of the day: Zvezda, Vouliagmeni, Tourcoing

Serbia’s Crvena Zvezda is on its way to the Champions League after another big victory in Group A, they downed Spain’s CN Barcelona. Greece’s Vouliagmeni beat Italy’s Ortigia in the group’s big match while France’s Tourcoing upset Hungary’s OSC in Dubrovnik.

Group A (Hannover)

CN Barcelona (ESP) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 9-14, Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Apollos Smyrnis (GRE) 11-10

Crvena Zvezda is on its way to the group stage after winning another crucial encounter. After beating Hungary’s Honved, the Serbs now brought down CN Barcelona with a rather convincing performance. After 3-3, they scored four unanswered goals and despite the Spaniards pulled two back later in 51 seconds, Zvezda remained dominant and led 5-8 at halftime. In the third they delivered the decisive blow, first they hit two in a minute for 5-10, then added three more after 6-10 in the last three minutes in the third period to go 6-13 up before the last eight minutes.

Host Hannover managed to bounce back after the opening day defeat to Barcelona. It looked easy after the first period as they hit three in 99 seconds and carried on in the second to lead 4-0 against Challenger Cup winner Apollon. However, the Greeks started climbing back late in the second and by netting a double in 42 seconds deep into the third they were back in the game at 7-6. Two fast goals early in the fourth gave some calm for the Germans at 10-7 but with 1:45 to go Apollon trailed by only one again. Though they didn’t have a shot to make it even as a man-up hit by Luka Lozina won the game for Waspo, the last Greek hit came too late, 31 seconds from time.

Group B (Kragujevac)

AN Brescia (ITA) v ASD Duisburg (GER) 11-4, Primorac Kotor (MNE) v CN Noisy Le Sec (FRA) 10-16

One of the dominant forces in recent years, AN Brescia made a clean job upon its debut in Kragujevac. The Italians stormed to a 4-0 lead, Duisburg could score its first goal after 10:37 minutes but couldn’t really challenge the big favourite. It stood 6-2 at halftime and Brescia didn’t push that hard in the second half as they will have two tough encounters on Saturday.

The first against Noisy Le Sec will be crucial as the French did another great job, this time against Primorac. The first period was even then they staged a brilliant second period, hit seven goals in eight minutes, US star Alex Bowen and Montenegrin ace Dusan Matkovic led the charge, they netted nine in total to secure another big win for Noisy.

Group C (Oradea)

Vouliagmeni NC (GRE) v CC Ortigia (ITA) 12-8, CSM Oradea (ROU) v Primorje Erste Bank (CRO) 7-10

Last season’s sensation Vouliagmeni clinched a key victory on the opening day as they beat Italy’s Ortigia in a hard-fought battle. The Greeks, reaching the semis in May, did the first damage after 3-3 as they had a 3-0 rush. The Italians pushed hard as well, came back to 6-5 with 3:45 to go but a fine goal from the centre and a penalty reset the Greeks’ three-goal lead before the last period. Two more goals in 50 seconds at the beginning of the fourth closed down the contest and the Greeks are one step closer to another run in the Champions League.

Primorje also claimed a big win against host Oradea – they also excelled in the second period when they jumped to a 2-6 lead, scoring four in a row. The Romanians tried desperately but missing a 6 on 4 and two more man-ups in succession in the third didn’t help them. Primorje buried a penalty for 3-7 but the hosts could halve the distance by the end of the third. The fourth saw two missed 6 on 5s at both ends, then, after five minutes of battling the Croats could score first and that was crucial. Though Oradea pulled one back twice, their rivals could always score again and won by three at the end. 

Group D (Dubrovnik)

Jug Adriatic Osiguranje (CRO) v Dinamo Bucharest (ROU) 16-4, Genesys-OSC Budapest (HUN) v CN Tourcoing (FRA) 5-10

After a bit sluggish start – scoring their first after almost six minutes, taking a modest 2-1 lead in eight minutes –, Jug geared up and with an 11-1 run in the middle two periods they bagged the compulsory victory.

Though previously Hungary’s OSC was thought to be the strongest challenger of the hosts, but they seemed to be out of the contest – instead, France’s Tourcoing will call out Jug for the qualification. OSC missed three man-ups, then the French netted two and kept that gap till the end of the first. The second saw some terrific defending, both sides missed a penalty and two man-ups apiece, the next goal came 53 seconds before the middle break, by the Magyars, but Dragan Draskovic replied with an action goal for 2-4 with 0:19 on the clock. Tourcoing added two more in the third to take a decisive lead at 2-6 – OSC fought hard, came back to 4-6 one minute into the fourth but 42 seconds later Duje Zivkovic’s action goal killed the Hungarians’ momentum. Two more hits came in the following two possessions for 4-9 and the Tourcoing’s elite mix of French and international players sailed away with a huge victory.