Day 9, Group A – Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Jadran Split (CRO) 11-13

After Olympiacos had brought down Vouliagmeni, as expected, the outcome of this match had a decisive impact on the race for the fourth qualifying spot behind the three giants. A win would have boosted Radnicki’s chance to return to the big stage after 2014 – but at the end it was Jadran which bagged all three points and came within grasp to catch up the Greeks.

The Croats really stepped up at the beginning, they stormed to a 0-3 lead, defended extremely well, Radnicki could score their first only 31 seconds before the first break. And Jadran had an answer even before the buzzer as Marin Tomasovic put away an extra with 0:07 on the clock.

Jerko Marinic-Kragic, Split’s hero of the home Europeans back in September (scoring the winning goals in the final), joined the show right away in the second to give his side a 1-5 lead. Though Radnicki managed to pull back two in 1:08 minutes, Marinic-Kragic was on fire and came up with a double in 17 (!) seconds to reset the four-goal gap. Tomasovic also hit his third from a counter lately, so Jadran enjoyed a comfortable 4-8 advantage at halftime.

Marinic-Kragic left the scoring machine switched on to expand the difference to five, again from the first possession (and from a 6 on 5) – at 4-9 all seemed to have been settled. However, Jadran couldn’t maintain this high level after a while, and the hosts smelled blood. They buried two extras in 45 seconds, killed a man-down, then Aleksa Ukropina sent the ball home from their next man-up while the fans got loud at 7-9, with 3:35 remaining from the third. Radnicki had a possession to come even closer, but the post saved the Croats and at the other and Zvonimir Butic netted a momentum-killer goal from a 6 on 5. After making three man-ups in a row, the Serbs missed the following two, though Ukropina just beat the buzzer from the last one in this period for 8-10 to give some hope for the hosts.

The fourth began with a fine chance for the Serbs, but Josip Vrlic couldn’t beat the goalie from the 2m line in the next extra and Tomasovic hit his fourth from action. Instead of 9-10, the score was 8-11 and that put the writing on the wall for the Serbs. Ehen Butic netted another one from the perimeter, it was virtually over at 8-12, even if there were 5:29 minutes to play. Though Jadran were running out of steam again, and the home side climbed back to 10-12, Ivan Zovic’s action goal – the third one in this period for the Croats – closed down the contest. 

Nikola Lukic’s 4th came too late, with 1:09 remaining, so Jadran claimed a huge win and jumped ahead of Radnicki in the ranks and now trail by only three points to Vouliagmeni. Credits go to goalie Mate Anic who delivered 9 saves, while this evening the Serb netminders had an off day, they could make only three stops combined, despite facing only 16 shots.

How they saw it

Uros Stevanovic, coach, Radnicki

“We tried everything, but we couldn’t play on the level we wanted. This loss means that we won’t make the Final Eight this season.”

Jurej Matelja, coach, Jadran

“This was a great win, a great effort from the team. We did really well for most of the time, now we are looking forward to beating Vouliagmeni in Greece and trying to surprise the big teams in one or two matches, and they would be enough to reach the Final Eight.”