Last-grasp goals earn precious points for Ferencvaros and Brescia
Last season’s runner-up Ferencvaros played another thrilling draw, the fourth in five rounds, this time in Barceloneta, and a bit later bronze medallist Brescia also shared the points with Novi Beograd. Both sides were two goals down late in the game but managed to equalise in the dying seconds so they are still unbeaten. Just like Olympiacos which was the real winner in this round as now they broke two points clear after another convincing win, this time over Jadran.
Group A: Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 12-12, Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Jadran Split (CRO) 12-10, Novi Beograd (SRB) v AN Brescia (ITA) 11-11, Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 14-7
Standings: 1. Olympiacos 13, 2. Brescia 11, 3. Ferencvaros 7, 4. Barceloneta 7, 5. Novi Beograd 7, 6. Jadran 6, 7. Radnicki 4, 8. Dinamo 0
Ferencvaros already set a special record in the Champions League, no team ever began its quest with three straight draws – and they added one more. This was different, though, they had had great chances to win any of the first three matches while now in Barceloneta they were trailing for most of the game. In fact, the Magyars were 11-9 down with 2:26 to go, then came back to 11-11 but the Spaniards netted one with 23 seconds remaining. However, Daniil Merkulov scored from a 7 on 6 with 0:02 on the clock, so Ferencvaros is still unbeaten this season.
Olympiacos is also running an unbeaten course, but they are amassing wins – this time the Greeks downed Jadran with ease. With the inspirited play of Ioannis Fountoulis and Filip Filipovic, both scored five goals in the game, they took a 12-6 lead deep into the third. Though their focus was lost for the last 10:03 minutes (no goals, netted four per period up until then), and Jadran started climbing back but the Croats couldn’t come closer after 12-10.
The battle of Novi Beograd and Brescia was also full of twists and turns. Brescia had a great spell in the second and third period, had a 0-4 surge while switching off the Serbian scoring machine for 11:47 minutes and taking a 3-6 lead. Then the hosts came back to life, netted three from as many possessions in 94 seconds and the last period started from 7-7. Dusan Mandic’s brilliant double earned the Serbs a two-goal lead for the first time and they maintained that gap till 11-9 when there were only 76 seconds remaining. Still, it was enough for the Italians to equalise, the point-saver came 5.8 seconds from time, courtesy of Montenegrin leftie Boris Vapenski. This left three teams with 7 points and Radnicki took the chance to cut the gap in the ranks by claiming its first win by knocking out Dinamo.
Olympiacos v Jadran 12-10
Though Jadran went ahead right from its first possession, Olympiacos responded with three straight action goals in 2:30 minutes, two of them from counters and added one more from a penalty, shortly before the first break to build a massive 4-1 lead. The Croats needed 7:15 minutes to score again, Marin Delic managed to put away an extra from the right wing and he repeated that later but on both occasions the Greeks replied immediately with 6m shots, so the gap remained the same. The Croats – admittedly focusing on their upcoming cup F4 – weren’t as sharp as in the previous rounds so it was no wonder that soon Olympiacos rushed to 8-3. That was too much for Jadran’s coach Mile Smodlaka who called a timeout which served as temporary help only. Jadran pulled one back but in the third the duo of Filip Filipovic and Ioannis Fountoulis kept on producing great goals to put Olympiacos 12-6 up – the two had 5 goals apiece, netting 10 of the 12 goals of their team.
After taking a six-goal lead, the Greeks’ concentration level started to sink, by the fourth that slowly became embarrassing as Jadran netted its fourth goal in a row to climb back to 12-10 and there were still 3:24 minutes to play. However, the Croats couldn’t come closer so at the end Olympiacos bagged three more points comfortably, while Jadran avoided a bigger defeat which was very much in the cards in the third period.
Barceloneta v Ferencvaros 12-12
The first period offered an open attacking game, leaving little chances for the two young goalies – while in Barceloneta the ‘take-over’ phase in the red-cap position has already begun this season as Unai Aguirre gets more and more matches, it was a bit surprising that the Hungarians opted to field reserve goalie Daniel Szakonyi.
The two net-minders had various fortunes – some big saves were followed by easy goals, though there were a handful of shots which would have definitely beat veteran Dani Lopez or Soma Vogel. Anyway, the match was quite entertaining, the first five goals came from action before Felipe Perrone put away a 6 on 4, then Daniil Merkulov sent the ball home from a 6 on 5 to give Ferencvaros a 3-4 lead in the first period.
Marc Larumbe’s fine action shot kicked off the second, then Szakonyi caught a penalty but later he couldn’t put a hand on two more balls coming from the distance. At the other end, Nemanja Ubovic missed a huge one-on-one chance from the centre at 4-4 and that also marked a significant drop in the visitors’ efficiency in attack. They could net one goal in this period, after a steal and the ensuing counter but had two man-ups where they couldn’t even take a shot, so the home side was 6-5 up at halftime. Martin Famera blasted his second – that was a real rocket –, Denes Varga responded with his hard-to follow wrist shot then came another crucial possession: the Magyars killed a man-down, got the ball but gave it away, the Spaniards recovered it again after a blocked shot and Luke Pavillard hit it from the distance for 8-6. The other leftie Marton Vamos also let the ball fly from the perimeter for 8-7, followed by some fine defensive efforts and turnover fouls and it was the Spaniards who hit first, Unai Lana finished off a counter for 9-7. Vendel Vigvari halved the gap once more from a man-up 39 seconds before the last break.
Three minutes gone in the fourth, when Denes Varga buried a man-up to go even after a long time – they missed one earlier – but the Spaniards – bit of struggling up until then – responded immediately with another perimeter shot from Larumbe. Aguirre made a great save at Ubovic’s shot from the centre and that seemed to be decisive as Larumbe added one more, this time from the lefties’ side, again from action, it was his fourth and Barceloneta led 11-9 with 2:26 remaining. The Hungarians weren’t done, though, Fekete dunked a man-up for 11-10 and soon they earned a fourth man-up in this period – the Spaniards got none before that – and Merkulov equalised after a timeout for 11-11, 58 seconds from time. It was 0:36 on the clock when the Spaniards could set themselves up for a 6 on 5, also after a timeout, and they played it brilliantly as Famera had an easy put-away from close. Still, there were 23 more seconds to play, the Magyars went for a 7 on 6 and their Russian master-shooter Merkulov found the way among the blocking arms to make it 12-12 and save his team’s unbeaten run.
Novi Beograd v Brescia 11-11
The first period brought what one might have expected from this match, it was a balanced battle, both sides had fine finishes, the Serbs had one more and led 3-2. From the second quarter, the game-pattern switched to become a roller-coaster and the Serbs went down first. Well, they hit the rock-bottom indeed as nothing worked in front, they even missed a penalty – though credits went to Brescia’s goalie Petar Tesanovic for that – while Brescia netted two to go 3-4 ahead by halftime. The host sides’ miseries continued in the third as Christian Prescutti scored a third straight man-up goal for the Italians and soon Vincenzo Renzuto made it 3-6 from action. Then, all of a sudden, the hosts started rolling. Once Strahinja Rasovic halted their disastrous 11:47-minute long offensive blackout, they came back to 6-6 in a span of 94 seconds from back-to-back possessions. Djordje Lazic came up with his trademark backhanded centre-shot for 6-7 but Dusko Pijetlovic converted an extra 21 seconds before the last break.
And it was Brescia which began to fall in the fourth, thanks to Dusan Mandic who produced two fantastic goals despite being double-guarded on both occasions (and he was way off his usual form for three periods, making his efforts even more remarkable). The Italians needed 3:20 minutes to score in this period, Vincenzo Dolce netted an extra for 9-8 but Strahinja Rasovic scored his fourth, also from a man-up. Soon Boris Vapenski had some luck but with only 1:19 remaining, the Serbs earned a penalty during a man-up and Mandic completed his hat-trick in the fourth. At 11-9, Brescia had only one option, scoring twice from the two (possibly) remaining possessions. And they just did that. Stefano Luongo buried another man-up, then the Serbs played only with the time but not the ball, soon Brescia earned one more 6 on 5, and even though their first shot was brilliantly saved by Gojko Pijetlovic, Vapenski got the ball from the corner-throw and sent it under the crossbar with 5.8 seconds from time. Thus, he also saved his team’s unbeaten run in the dying moments, just as it happened to Ferencvaros earlier in the evening.
Radnicki v Dinamo 14-7
Dinamo could play one tighter match so far, when Jadran laid back too early on Day 2 in Split after taking a 14-7 lead and the Georgians fought themselves back to lose the game by two at the end. Otherwise, they were badly beaten in their other three encounters, conceded 20 goals twice and 19 once. In Split they got 15 – now they finished the match with 14 in the back, though they had no chance to earn a point this time either.
The Serbs didn’t leave much room for doubt, stormed to a 3-0 lead early on and never looked back. They were expanding the gap period by period, and they never took their legs off of the gas – pushed as hard as they could, and the game was virtually decided by halftime as they went 7-3 up. Milos Cuk led their charge, netted four goals but a couple of young guns also enjoyed some fine moments as Radnicki claimed its first win in the group.
Before Tuesday, four teams stood with 6 points ahead of Radnicki which collected only one in four rounds. None of those sides managed to win today (three were part of the tied matches, Jadran lost), so Radnicki’s hope strengthened a bit as these three points cut the gap somewhat.
19.00 CN Marseille (FRA) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)
19.00 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU)
19.00 OSC Budapest (HUN) v Pro Recco (ITA)
20.00 Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
Standings: 1. Recco 12, 2. Marseille 9, 3. Jug 9, 4. OSC 7, 5. Hannover 5, 6. Zvezda 3, 7. Spandau 1, 8. Steaua 0