Brescia survives the defensive battle

Image courtesy of Oriol Olivé/Astralpool Sabadell

Group A: Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) v AN Brescia (ITA) 5-5, pen: 4-5

One could barely see such defending in the Champions League – well, from Brescia it was just another day in the office (at least at the beginning of the season, they usually came up with such performances), but now Sabadell also was up to the task, so goals had a really high value.

The first four minutes were already a teaser of what could be expected in this match. Javier Bustos drew first blood, and scored a fine one from the centre, then Vincenzo Renzuto hit one from the distance for 1-1. They had three more chances in the opening period, but Edu Lorrio started delivering one big save after the other. Vincenzo Dolce beat him, though, again from the perimeter for 1-2 – but then scoring was ‘suspended’ by the defenses. Brescia killed three man-downs in a row, later missed two in front, and two more early in the third.

At this stage, the home side was under enormous pressure while the quality of Brescia’s defending was mirrored by the shots on target – standing 4-11 and praising Lorrio’s efforts in the goal.

Sabadell’s struggle was halted by their Dutch center Guus van Ijperen’s brilliant center shot – it was their first hit after almost 15 minutes. The reply came almost immediately, Renzuto buried a penalty, and then both sides missed two more 6 on 5s, so Brescia led 2-3 before the final period.

Though both teams were 0 for 7 in man-ups, they finally found a way to score from man-ups so fans could see as many goals in the last period as in the previous three. Though only after one more miss apiece – then Sabadell could score from a 5 on 4, followed by the usual miss from Brescia (0 for 9…) and Blai Mallarach’s pinpoint distant shot to go up 4-3. Sabadell just doubled the number of goals scored in this game in the previous 27 minutes in a span of 52 seconds. When two minutes later Kanstantin Averka put the ball away for the first 6 on 5 goals of the game and Sabadell led 5-3 with 2:13 to go, Brescia was in trouble.

Not for long, though, they earned a penalty from the next possession and Bruce Irving buried it and they still had 1:51 to level the score. A minute later they just did that, but only after having managed to deny Sabadell’s ‘match-ball’, a man-up, then they got one and Irving sent the ball home from their 10th try to make it 5-5, 58 seconds from time.

This left the decision to the penalties – and, unlike in the regular time, in the shootout, everyone was on target, except Fynn Shutze in the last round. His ball was stopped by Petar Tesanovic, while Lorrio – producing a truly amazing 75% saving percentage (15/20) across the four quarters – was unable to touch the fifth ball either, so Alessandro Balzarini landed two points for the Italians.

How the coaches saw it:

Quim Colet, coach, Sabadell

“This is a new team, with seven new players, we need more time to practice and polish our tactics. The players were very nervous, this was our first game at home and for three quarters we didn’t play that well. Then in the first five minutes of the fourth, we hit a really high level but our defence collapsed in the last two minutes so Brescia could equalise.”

Alessandro Bovo, coach, Brescia

“We made many mistakes in attack, our offence was very bad in the whole match. We had problems without (Dordje) Lazic, confused in the position game many times. We had too many misses in our man-ups, it was a disaster, I would say. Still, we had a good spirit so it’s great that we could win the match at the end.”