OSC and Savona finish atop. Hungary’s OSC Budapest and Italy’s Savona topped the respective groups at the end of the first qualification round in the Champions League. While the four favourites advanced with ease from Group A, Sintez Kazan fell shy of making the top four in Group B, thus the Russians are the surprise casualty of this opening phase.
Group A (Savona): 1. Savona (ITA) 12, 2. Montpellier (FRA) 11, 3. CN Terrassa (ESP) 10, 4. Primorac Kotor (MNE) 7, 5. Vitoria Guimaraes (POR) 3, 6. AZS UW Warszaw (POL) 0
Group B (Podgorica): 1. OSC Budapest (HUN) 18, 2. Jadran Split (CRO) 15, 3. Jadran Herceg Novi (MNE) 12, 4. Apollon Smyrnis (GRE) 9, 5. Sintez Kazan (RUS) 6, 6. Enka Istanbul (TUR) 3, 7. EVK Zaibas (LTU) 0
The top four ranked team’s qualified for the second round.
Qualifying for the second round didn’t cause any headaches for the four favourites in Group A, however, the games played between each other were extremely tight. Montpellier had two ties (versus Terrassa and Primorac) and managed to beat home side Savona 10-9. Still, the French came only second as Savona won all the other matches, including a thriller against Terrassa where they came back from three goals down to score the winner 69 seconds from time. The Spaniards also had some fun, they saved their match against Montpellier to a tie amidst miraculous circumstances – they scored two in the last 55 seconds, the last one came from their goalie Lazar Andric, with 0:06 remaining on the clock.
The only team with a clean sheet was OSC in Group B. The Hungarians, runners-up in last season’s Euro Cup did a splendid job, netted 94 goals and they had only wins by a gap of three or more goals. Jadran Split finished runner-up, on the opening day they upended host Herceg Novi 15-10 which turned out to be decisive in the race for the second place (which grants a better seeding for the second round’s draw).
Since this group featured five quality sides, one had to fall and it was Sintez Kazan which could not survive the opening round. It came down to their opening match against Apollon, where the Russians flew high in the first eight minutes and led 3-7 but the Greeks had a brilliant run in the second period when they came back from 4-8 to 8-9. In the third, they could take the lead for the first time and in the fourth they rushed to a four-goal lead to clinch this epic encounter with 18-15 at the end. Since neither of them could beat the other three strong sides, the Greek booked their spot in the next round, while Sintez’s campaign came to an abrupt end as early as September.
The draw for the second round will be published on Monday.