Ferencvaros deny Novi Beograd to reach Champions League final

Photo: European Aquatics

The second Champions League semi-final in Malta – between Ferencvaros and Novi Beograd – opened with a shooting contest with the lead exchanging hands constantly.

Vendel Vigvari put away a dying man-up, then Novi Beograd came up with two nicely set-up 6 on 5s with putaways from close.

Dusan Mandic equalised from the perimeter and Szilard Jansik also sent the ball home from 7m for 3-2.

Angelos Vlachopoulos’ shot hit the back of the net from 6m to make it 3-3 and we’d barely made the 5-minute mark.

After some intense battling, a denied man-up by NBG, Stylianos Argyropoulos took back the lead for Fradi from a counter, however, it stood 4-4 as after a big save from Soma Vogel, Dusko Pijetlovic used all his vast experience and physical presence to score the equaliser from the centre, after a corner throw, with just 0.4sec remaining in the quarter.

Photo: European Aquatics

Vlachopoulos’ sneaking shot surprised Vogel at the beginning of the second and soon NBG doubled their lead as Nikola Lukic’s brilliant blast made it 4-6.

FTC had some problems up front, and needed three and a half minutes to continue scoring, as Edoardo di Somma’s shot made it 5-6 which prompted Zivko Gocic to change his goalie.

Francesco di Michelis came up big immediately with three saves in a row in a man-down, but Vogel also did his best – first his presence alone was enough for Vlachopoulos to overthink his penalty shot which hit the bar.

Then he denied a man-down and Daniil Merkulov finished off a counter for 6-6.

Vogel stopped Filip Filipovic’s rocket in the next man-down, while Merkulov’s nice bouncer in a 6 on 5 put FTC back in the driving seat at 7-6.

This 3-0 run gave them the lead at half-time as Vogel posted his 7th save shortly before the turnaround.

Photo: European Aquatics

Dusan Mandic, after some mis-targeted shots and a calming rest on the bench, returned with a great shot while Alvaro Granados was around his neck, then Argyropoulos beat the goalie from the right wing in a man-up – so 65 seconds into the third FTC was 9-6 up.

Gocic called a timeout, NGB managed to force a 6 on 5, Vlachopoulos took the shot, Vogel had a hand on it, but the VAR said it was behind the virtual line – so this halted NBG’s scoreless run after 7:20 minutes, then De Michelis stopped Merkulov’s attempt in a 6 on 5.

NBG came even closer, though Filipovic also hit the bar from the penalty line, but soon Marko Radulovic could finish a man-up from close for 9-8.

Though FTC had some struggles, missed another 6 on 5 – here NBG lost Granados with his third major.

Then Mandic had some free space after a turnover foul and it was more than enough for him to make it 10-8.

Filipovic sent the ball home from a trademark 6m shot, but his old pal, fellow Serbian Olympic champion Mandic delivered his fourth in a man-up for 11-9.

It was a big back-and-forth, Skoumpakis had a great finish in a 6 on 5, then Pijetlovic seemed to have equalised but the VAR revealed that shortly before the man-up was called, Filipovic had struck his defender.

For this, the captain was ejected for four minutes, and Mandic buried the penalty – instead of 11-11, it was 12-10 and FTC had a lasting man-up.

Photo: European Aquatics

At the start of the fourth, Vlachopoulos’ far from smooth lob somehow made its way to the net as Vogel mishandled it.

FTC missed their man-up, then forced a penalty despite playing one man less and Cuk converted this penalty for 12-12.

Merkulov finally managed to score FTC’s first goal in the 4min man-up (apart from the opening penalty), after more than two and a half minutes.

And that was all they could put together as de Michelis made a big save in the next possession, so the 4min man-up brought a 2-2 partial result.

Photo: European Aquatics

NBG earned a man-up, but the block denied them with 4:10 on the clock.

Mandic missed his next two shots, the second in a 6 on 5 and that seemed to be crucial as NBG managed to equalise.

They had back-to-back 6 on 5s and Cuk sent the ball home from the second for 13-13 with 1:51 to go.

Mandic had another try, again in a 6 on 5, and De Michelis denied him once more, but the Magyars made a steal and went for the winner after a time-out with 0:43 remaining.

No call came for the centre-feed and then it was NBG’s turn to try to score the winner with 19 seconds remaining.

Photo: European Aquatics

It wasn’t enough, so a shootout commenced in the second semi as well.

With Vogel on board, the Magyars seemed to have a better chance – and indeed he delivered the decisive save, in the last round, headed out Skoumpakis’ ball while the Hungarians buried all their shots.

This was Vogel’s 10th win on penalties in his last 11 shootouts, as Ferencvaros joined Recco to contest the title once again after 2021.

It was also the first time both Champions League semi-finals had been decided by penalties.

Follow all the results and action from the Champions League Final Four in Malta live by clicking here.

Photo: European Aquatics