Champions League, Main Round, Day 10, Group B – Summary

Recco and Marseille ’officially’ qualified to the Final Eight 

Recco and Marseille booked their respective spots in the F8 officially, and Jug needs only one  point in the remaining four rounds to join them – while the race for the fourth spot now features  three contestants as Spandau closed the gap on Hannover and OSC. 

Group B: Pro Recco (ITA) v Genesys OSC Budapest (HUN) 17-14, Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v CN  Marseille (FRA) 7-14, Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 17-11,  Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) 5-16 

Standings: 1. Recco 27, 2. Marseille 27, 3. Jug 21, 4. OSC 13, 5. Hannover 11, 6. Spandau 10, 7.  Steaua 4, 8. Zvezda 4 

Recco and OSC staged a spectacular 63-shot, 31-goal epic in front of a capacity crowd in the brand-new  pool of Milano. Indeed, few home matches of the title-holders offered any excitements in the fourth  period, now the Italians had to dig deep before they could fend off OSC’s renewing challenges.  Ironically, it was Recco’s Hungarian leftie Gergo Zalanki who hit the net in the most crucial moments,  he blasted 6 in the game. OSC still deserves credit as came back from 9-5 to 11-10 and could net 14, by  far the most goals Recco conceded in any game of the current season. Still, it was three shy of what the  scoring machine produced (17) which sealed Recco’s berth in the finals – something not unusual as this  is going to be their 17th appearance since 2003, out of 17 attempts. 

The early evening matches were all decided after three periods if not earlier. Marseille trounced  Hannover with a 0-6 rush in the second and the third period while keeping the Germans off the chart for  15:18 minutes and killing six man-downs during the parade. This was the French 9th win in a row and  their 6th away victory in as many games – and all but one produced 5+ goal-gaps. This success also  secured another trip for them to Belgrade after their F8 debut last June. 

Fellow German side Spandau claimed a much-easier-than-expected victory in Bucharest. Steaua  couldn’t put up a real fight and after falling 2-6 behind by halftime, four more goals and four killed  man-down demolished the hosts completely. The number of shots on target tells the story (11-20) – thus  Spandau re-joined the race for the fourth place though they will have only tougher tests in the remaining  four rounds. 

Jug survived an early scare against Crvena Zvezda which, for at least ten minutes, kept the Croats under  pressure before its defence crashed in the second part of the second period. The Serbs’ new head coach  Dejan Savic – who led the national team to back-to-back Olympic titles and took over the side in an  emergency situation – brought a new mentality to the team but after leading 3-5 they ran out of  miracles. The Greek trio of Jug produced five goals in quick succession and in the third the hosts were  on a 7-1 run which decided the match. They finished the shooting festival (73 shots were recorded  altogether) with 17 goals, just two shy of their Belgrade production (19).


Recco v OSC 17-14 

At the Hungarians’ side, they had to know that only a performance very close to perfection gave them  the slightest chance to leave the brand-new pool in Milano with a positive result. That would have  meant brilliance in offence as it seemed an impossible task to keep Recco on a low score: the Italians  netted at least 13 in all but one of their matches – only on the occasion of their hiccup in Dubrovnik  they were held on 8 goals. 

At least until 4-4, the Magyars were able to keep up with the hosts but it was very clear from the  beginning that the Italian scoring machine would create chances in four out of every five possessions, so  the level of excitements depended on OSC’s scoring abilities and Recco’s concentration level. 

Even after 4-4, OSC kept on setting up a couple of promising opportunities, but in the second they  started missing them. It was quite a contrast: they couldn’t bury a man-up from the 2m line – Recco  converted from a similar set-up. They had a good drive to face the goalie one-on-one, Marco del Lungo  made the save – on the other end Alessandro Velotto had an easy put away. This series of events put the  title-holders 9-5 up after 6-5 so Recco seemed to have it. 

However, the third saw that certain drop in concentration level among the Recco players, first a man down gone, then a 6 on 4, and after 10-6, OSC managed to find the back of the net twice, what’s more,  with some brilliant shotmaking from Krisztian Manhercz and Erik Csacsovszky brought them as close  as 11-10. Velotto’s smart shot had a calming effect, but Marton Levai managed to stop Ivovic’s penalty,  and the Magyars could have come back once more to one goal, had they kept their calm in the last man up of the third period. 

Thus the fourth period promised much more excitements than any previous home game of the title holders where they usually finished off their actual opponent in three periods. Recco’s ‘in-house’  Hungarian Gergo Zalanki came up with another blast from a second chance in a 6 on 5 for 13-10 but  Csacsovszky’s pinpoint shot from the distance kept OSC in the game. However, they should have been  more precise in front to stand a chance – at 13-11, they missed their extra and Zalanki hammered his 5th from the next possession, so instead of one goal, OSC trailed by three again, with five minutes  remaining. 

A well-defended man-down and Balazs Harai’s extreme finish – a back-handed shot from a man-up – gave some hope for the Magyars at 14-12, but Francesco di Fulvio’s perimeter shot found its way to the  net from action, then OSC missed its next man-up while Zalanki’s flawless finish at the other end put an  end to the contest at 16-12, with 2:08 on the clock. 

Recco finally stopped at 17 – indeed, it would have required a herculean effort from the Magyars to  match that, well, they just fell three shy of that in this highly offensive encounter which saw 63 shots  (33-30) altogether. For sure, OSC showed much more than in the previous rounds and they still have a  two-point advantage ahead of the German chasers and they are yet to meet Hannover at home in March.

Hannover v Marseille 7-14 

For three minutes, it looked all the same as the usual home games of Hannover – strong start, two man up goals (one easy put-away, one from a second chance), while Marseille had some struggles in front,  scored goals from action but failed to convert its 6 on 5s. However, the French defence started working  better, harder and its Montenegrin goalie Dejan Lazic outsmarted his fellows in the German offence on  more and more occasions. After a couple of missed man-ups, the hosts started losing their confidence in  attack, and after a while their finishes were anything but sharp and precise. 

Marseille had problems with its extras too, stood 0/4 – but the French netted a series of action goals, and  once they found the back of the net from 6 on 5s, Hannover got in bigger trouble. Marseille shut out the  Germans for the entire second period, killed four man-downs and netted three – and went on expanding  the gap in the third. When Andrija Prlainovic hit another one from a counter for 2-7, Marseille was on a  0-6 run, the same numbers we saw in Hannover’s man-up conversion after 2-1.  

The nightmarish run was halted after 15:18 minutes, and for a while Hannover seemed to have found a  way back as they scored three in 2:03 minutes and cut their deficit to three at 5-8. But it was a short lived surge, Igor Kovacevic blasted two from the distance and Prlainovic finished off another counter,  so the gap quickly jumped back to six goals at 5-11. Not surprisingly, two more man-ups were wasted  by the Germans in the meantime, before Julian Real sent the ball home two seconds before the last  break – still, with eight minutes to go, the five-goal difference meant a mission impossible for the home  side. 

And with no Tom Cruise on board to make a miracle rescue, the fourth period – especially after a quick  goal from the visitors – took the course of a livelier practice session as everyone in and alongside the  pool had settled for the outcome: another fine away win for the French. It was their 6th in as many  matches, and all but one produced 5+ goals gaps (interestingly, the closest one, 8-11, came against  bottom-ranked Zvezda. 

Jug v Zvezda 17-11 

It was immediately visible that the ‘Savic Magic’ worked at the bottom-ranked Serbian side: they had a  much better approach to the game – at least, the new coach’s winning mentality transformed the team’s  morale and for a while their composure reflected on that. 

To highlight this, they rushed to a 2-4 lead in eight minutes, stunning the hosts with a couple of great  action goals and some lucky bounce also helped them. But they worked for that as in defence they  managed to do some damage to the Croats’ man-ups in succession. 

For a while, it remained the same in the second as Zvezda enjoyed a 3-5 lead but then trends started to  change when the Serbs couldn’t capitalise on their scoring chances. And Jug penalised almost all  misses, the Greek ‘commando’ produced one goal after the other. Argyropoulos, Papanastasiou and  Kakarakis netted five combined to stage a 5-1 rush and to shepherd the game onto the desired path.  Jug’s defence also improved a lot, Toni Popadic began to stop the balls, while Vladimir Misovic was  beaten altogether six times in the second period (the number of saves stood 8-3 at halftime – the Greeks  scored 6 of Jug’s 8 goals).

Once the Croats got into the driving seat, their confidence came back and two counters in 51 seconds  gave them a comfortable advantage at 10-6. Rodoljub Gajic pulled one back from a man-up (they were  2/2 in the first, dropped to 1/5 since the beginning of the second), but the hosts defence worked much  better, not allowing any more easy hits for the rivals. In the second half of the third two more action  goals virtually ended the contest at 12-7 (according to Maestro Savic, his players started tiring in the  second half, plus they couldn’t react to Jug’s change of defensive tactics). 

The fourth was a little bit different, the concentration level was no longer the same at both camps and  the Serbian defence could not regain its composure so what seemed to be a game with a promising start,  ended in a bad defeat. They conceded 17 goals (it was a showdown with loads of shots: 38-35), though  one may note that they could not handle Jug’s game as they conceded 19 in Belgrade. 

Steaua v Spandau 5-16 

There was one-way traffic in the pool: the hosts couldn’t create even the impression that they might  have a chance in this match (though their starting goalie, the national team’s netminder Marius-Florin  Tic was missing from their line-up). The Germans were cool, common and collected and did a very  clean job once they caught the rhythm. 

It took a while as they scored their first – an equaliser – after 5:28 minutes but two more followed in  quick succession, altogether three in 1:47 minutes so they led 1-3 after the first period. And they  reproduced that in the second too – in a kind of similar way, as they had a slow start again, for 4:24  minutes the scoreboard was frozen, then Spandau hit two in 89 seconds, killed two man-downs in between and that phase was decisive – the Romanians never recovered after going 1-5 down. Indeed,  they fell apart in the third as they missed four man-ups while the Germans added four more goals to go  2-10 up. 

A couple of stats shed more light what happened in this match: the first half was 2-6, the second ended  in a rout (3-10). The number of shots showed the difference: 15-24 – on goal: 11-20, man-ups: 3/13 and  4/9 – so Spandau cashed three points with ease and kept its F8 hopes alive. 

Fixtures – Wednesday 

Group A (all times are local) 

19.00 Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) 

19.00 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) 

19.00 Jadran Split (CRO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 

20.30 AN Brescia (ITA) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 

Standings: 1. Brescia 23, 2. Novi Beograd 17, 3. Ferencvaros 16, 4. Olympiacos 16, 5. Barceloneta 14,  6. Jadran 9, 7. Radnicki 7, 8. Dinamo 0