Five talking points from Quarter Final Stage Day 1

Photo: Miodrag Todorovic/European Aquatics

Here are five takeaways from the opening day of the Quarter Final Stage in the men’s Champions League.

1. Alvaro Granados was the hero of the day – he hit six goals for Novi Beograd as the Serbians downed Jadran Split with a really convincing performance.

The Spaniard, also hero of the European Championships final as his magnificent backhand decided the match in Zagreb back in January, was on fire once more.

Five of his six hits came from action, so he contributed a great deal to NBG’s perfect start.

Photo: Dániel Kovács/European Aquatics

2. Playing against your former club is always special – and it’s really special when you play for a foreign team and face your buddies from the national team in a Champions League match.

This happened to Stylianos Argyropoulos AND Marton Vamos in the same match – the Greek ace is a key player for Ferencvaros, while the Hungarian is the only leftie in Olympiacos’ line-up.

Between 2017 and 2021, Argyropoulos played for Olympiacos – during the very same years Vamos was with Ferencvaros; when the two sides met in the 2019 final they played in the opposite team.

Now it’s the reverse and as Vamos put it, it was strange to arrive to his hometown as a tourist.

As for Day 1, Argyropoulos had a lot better day – indeed, had it been a match MVP award, it should have gone to the Greek who scored four brilliant goals and was instrumental in Ferencvaros’ successful start to their campaign to reach the Final Four.

On the contrary, Vamos kicked off the evening in style, with a brilliant goal from a counter, then faded just like his team.

His night went from bad to worse after he was fouled out late in the third, so had to watch from the bench as his side continued to sink in the second half.

Photo: Miodrag Todorovic/European Aquatics

3. Croatia was the absolute best at the back-to-back majors in the winter. After losing the European final amidst heartbreaking circumstances at home to Spain in Zagreb, they came back even stronger for the Worlds, winning a series of nail-biters – including shootout victories in the semis and final – to land the title in Doha.

However, that grand run may have worn their players out a bit.

Their magnificent goalkeeper, Marko Bijac, did not even travel to Budapest with Olympiacos, while seven world champions in Jadran Split’s line-up were unable to keep up with Novi Beograd – a 7-0 run by the Serbs in the first half decided the match unusually early.

It’s yet to be seen how fast the Croatian aces can recover, but they’ll need to respond on day two to keep their hopes of making the Final Four on track.

Photo: Pro Recco Waterpolo 1913/European Aquatics

4. Title-holder Recco came up with another highly-efficient team performance.

Nine of their eleven field players shared the scoring duties against Marseille – and the individual stats also show that the world-class players did what the game plan required from them.

They took 26 shots and scored 15 goals – the shooting percentage, 58%, is absolutely fabulous at this level.

Risky attempts were rare, big shooters like Giacomo Cannella (3/3) and Gergo Zalanki (1/1) let the ball fly only when they saw a clear chance.

At the same time, their defence was tight, with only 16 of Marseille’s 25 shots troubling Marco del Lungo in goal.

Also, the French rocket-producer Thomas Vernoux was limited to a single shot in the entire match – it was a takeaway from Doha even Recco’s coaching staff learnt very well.

Photo: CNAB 1913/European Aquatics

5. In the first round of this stage, the four group-winners all played at home against the respective runners-up – and all four bagged fine wins, not a single match produced a scenario where the visiting sides had any realistic chance of turning things around in the fourth period.

The clash of Barceloneta and Brescia wasn’t an exception either – though the rich past of these two sides might have suggested a different outcome.

Since 2015, they have met 11 times and the Spaniards have only managed to win twice.

Those victories came in the ‘Covid tournaments’ back in 2021, when they beat Brescia in both group games at a neutral venue (in Budapest), but the Italians took the upper hand when it really mattered – in the F8 – when they met again in the bronze medal match.

Otherwise, Barceloneta could force only draws, even in the home clashes.

This time, it was a different story, as the Spaniards controlled the game right from the beginning, with Brescia only on equal terms – at 0-0 – for just 35 seconds.

Once the hosts jumped to a 2-0 lead midway through the first, the Italians could only chase them.