FTC sink Barceloneta, Olympiacos topple Brescia

Photo: Jordi López / European Aquatics

Ferencvaros claimed another fine away win with a majestic performance, this time in Barcelona, to maintain their perfect run this season, and the Hungarians are getting closer and closer to the Final Four. Olympiacos are also heading home in a jubilant mood, after beating Brescia in a sensational match, and – at the halfway mark – the Greek giants sit nicely in second place in Group B.

Champions League Men Quarter Final Stage
Results Day Three – Group B

Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) 8-10 FTC Telekom Budapest (HUN)
AN Brescia (ITA) 12-13 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
Standings:
1. FTC (9pts), 2. Olympiacos (6pts), 3. Barceloneta (3pts), 4. Brescia (0pts)

Photo: Jordi López / European Aquatics

Since Ferencvaros returned to Europe’s biggest stage in 2019 – their previous appearance among the champions was back in 2001 – they met Barceloneta and Brescia in the prelims a couple of times, but could never win a game in those two pools.

Now they have ticked both challenges in this season’s Quarter Final Stage within two weeks.

After coming away with a great win in Brescia on day two, the Hungarians managed to down Barceloneta in Barcelona, something not many teams have been capable of.

It was a big defensive contest in the first half – the opening period saw one goal apiece, then FTC took the lead, but the Spaniards soon hit back with a double for 3-2.

Unai Aguirre then stopped Dusan Mandic’s penalty to the home crowd’s delight, but the Hungarians were beginning to show their true character and put away two man-ups in the last 70 seconds to lead 3-4 at halftime.

In the third, they took the upper hand, at 3-5 they had a fine chance to go up by three, wasted it and Barceloneta bounced back quickly to equalise for 5-5.

Veteran magician Denes Varga hit a magnificent one from the perimeter for 5-6, but the hosts’ master shooter, Alberto Munarriz – who had missed a penalty earlier in this quarter – made no mistake nine seconds before the buzzer to make it 6-6.

FTC wasted back-to-back man-ups early in the fourth, but their defence was still working well, killing two man-downs, and between those two, Stylianos Argyropoulos finished off a counter for 6-7.

Soon, Varga came up with another pinpoint shot from action, then a quick put-away by Unai Biel on extra halved the distance, but next Varga set up Gergo Fekete on man-up and then Fekete stunned Aguirre with a rocket from the perimeter for 7-10 with 2:05 to go.

Another man-up score from Bernat Sanahuja gave the hosts some hope, but that was all and it ended 8-10.

It was the Hungarians’ third straight victory in this stage, and again by two goals, just like against Olympiacos and Brescia.

Photo: Jordi López / European Aquatics

Elsewhere, in Italy, Olympiacos arrived fresh from upsetting Barceloneta in the second round, while Brescia were desperate for a win to keep their slim hopes of making the Final Four alive.

The Greeks took the lead four times in an action-packed opening period, but the hosts managed to level the score every time.

Trends changed in the second, as this time the Italians took the initiative, with good man-up plays, and a fine action goal from US star Max Irving, giving them the lead three times, but Olympiacos also levelled the score after each.

Then, after being 7-6 down, Konstantinos Gouvis hit two in 45 seconds to put Olympiacos ahead at half-time.

Brescia refused to lie down and kept battling, and after 8-9 they managed to score back-to-back goals to lead once more (10-9) – thanks again to some magic from Irving.

As it turned out, it was the last time the hosts’ led, as Alexandros Papanastasiou’s great drive quickly brought the Greeks back to even, then Marton Vamos blasted two from man-ups in 55 seconds, and for the first time in the match, Olympiacos were up by two at 10-12.

Vamos was on fire, as the Hungarian leftie let another rocket fly early in the fourth and his hat-trick ultimately made the difference.

Though there was still 6:23 minutes to play, Olympiacos defended well after 10-13 and even though they didn’t score again, they only conceded a single goal to Brescia while it mattered.

Irving’s fourth goal of the night came too late, in a 7 on 6, 16 seconds from time for 12-13, and the Greeks comfortably kept the final possession to sail away with a crucial victory.

The Champions League Men’s Water Polo Quarter Final Stage resumes on the 23rd and 24th of April with day four, and you can follow all the action and results live on the dedicated European Aquatics Champions League website.

Photo: Jordi López / European Aquatics