Five talking points from Quarter Final Stage Day 2

Photo: Daniel Remes/European Aquatics

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

1. Will Alvaro Granados ever slow down? Spain’s supreme superhero, who hit that winner in the European Championships final, is riding the crest of a wave in the club season too.

He’s now bagged six goals in back-to-back rounds, something that no one else has ever done in the Champions League before.

Granados was superior on Day 1, when Novi Beograd beat Jadran Split at home, and this week he was the saviour of the Serbian side in Marseille, when things weren’t looking that good for the visitors in the second half.

Running out of ideas? Simply pass the ball to Alvaro, and that approach put NBG ahead in a crucial phase of the encounter.

And, of course, after he let the fireworks crack, the defenders devoted extra attention to him, leaving others space, so Granados, inside the last minute, could deliver a brilliant assist to Dusko Pijetlovic, who scored the winning goal from close range.

Photo: @OlympiacosSFP/ / European Aquatics

2. Before the start of the Quarter Final Stage, the four group winners – Recco, Novi Beograd, Ferencvaros and Barceloneta – appeared to be the favourites to make the Final Four, and they all delivered convincing wins on the opening day.

However, Barceloneta fell on the second day to Olympiacos, so they’re the only top ranked side so far who has been beaten by a runner-up in this next phase.

Though losing to Olympiacos in Piraeus should not be considered a huge upset – the star-studded line-up of the Greeks came up with a great performance.

They enjoyed a firm backing from returning world champion goalkeeper Marko Bijac, whose outstanding saves left the Spaniards stranded after a while.

Barceloneta was unusually weak in attack, they produced one from nine on man-up and missed two penalties – something that inevitably led to defeat in the home of Olympiacos.

Photo: Paun Paunović/European Aquatics

3. Title-holders Pro Recco are still unbeaten this season, across all competitions, and they weren’t even challenged in the first two rounds of the Quarter Final Stage.

They beat Marseille with ease at home and a brilliant first half proved to be decisive against Jadran in Split.

As a novelty, veteran Aleksandar Ivovic – a five-times Champions League winner with Recco – scored four outstanding action goals, each after perfectly timed drives.

The Montenegrin is famous for blasting in goals from the perimeter, but this week he charged towards the goal and – thanks to his physical build – it was hard if not impossible to stop him.

His team-mates gratefully offered a series of assists and he buried all four of his chances from close range.

Photo: Lorenzo Marini / European Aquatics

4. Ferencvaros clashed with Brescia 11 times before Wednesday since the 2018/19 season.

In the prelims, they could beat the Italians only once on eight occasions in the group stage and never in Brescia (though they won all three knock-out matches in the previous three F8 editions).

This record changed this week, but it did not come easily.

It was a neck-and-neck contest and Brescia still held the lead at 8-7 deep into the fourth, but then the Hungarians’ staged a decisive and ruthless 0-4 run.

The visitors’ defence worked extremely hard as well and helped bag three really important points – and the result maintains the team’s perfect record this season, also across all competitions, similar to Recco.

Photo: Lorenzo Marini / European Aquatics

5. There were brilliant goals in this round as well – 87 in total, 21.75 per game (it was 89 on Day 1) – with perhaps Gergo Fekete’s hit standing out the most, as he sent the ball to the net from approximately 26 metres out.

Well, OK, there was no goalkeeper to beat in the opposite cage as Brescia, two goals down with 50 seconds remaining, went for a seven on five, but it didn’t work and the Hungarian tried his luck.

It’s challenging to be precise in this situation, in the last minute of an intense and gruelling match, but Fekete – world champion with Hungary last season – did a professional, clean job and secured another crucial victory for Fradi.