Day 10, Group A – Jadran Split (CRO) v NC Vouliagmeni (GRE) 10-10
Three weeks ago, Jadran completed the first part of their masterplan on reaching the Final Eight as they could win in Kragujevac. This is what their new coach Jurej Mateja emphasised earlier in the season: despite a couple of defeats, he insisted that their chances were very much alive, they just needed to beat Radnicki in Serbia and Vouliagmeni at home. Which sounded like an easy task, but the Croats could defeat only Dinamo in Split despite playing five matches in their pool already…
After a quick exchange of goals Antonio Duzevic scored a brilliant one from the centre and Marko Jerinic-Kragic added an action goal a bit later. So the hosts jumped to a 3-1 lead in four minutes, but missed a 6 on 5 to expand the gap to three. That hit back in the second as the Greeks netted two from action in 42 seconds, and even though Marinic-Kragic buried another penalty, Vouliagmeni kept coming back with two more action goals for 5-5. As a contrast, Jadran missed two more 6 on 5s – were unable to put away four in a row – while Dylan Woodhead capped the Greeks’ fine spell with a man-up goal 12 seconds before the big break to put Vouliagmeni ahead for the first time.
Luka Bukic finally sent the ball home from an extra in the third, but the response came immediately, another action goal. Niksa Dobud finished off a finely played man-up and 56 seconds later Marinic-Kragic blasted his fourth from the perimeter to take back the lead at 8-7. Marios Kapotsis made it even from a man-up, but Bukic buried a penalty, so Jadran was ahead again, though Marinic-Kragic was blocked in a 6 on 5, played after a time-out.
Marino Cagalj made up for him from the Croats’ first possession, his action shot doubled their lead at 10-8. Few would have guessed that this would be the last goal from the hosts – but they were unable to add more in the last 7:18 minutes. For a while Vouliagmeni couldn’t launch threatening actions either, but after a missed extra a bit earlier, they played the second one after a time-out and made it. Despite the local crowd’s loudness was boosted by a complete brass band, silence ruled in the pool soon as Charalampos Troulos’ rocket brought back Vouliagmeni to even in 47 seconds.
There were still four minutes to play, but the nets remained untouched. At crucial stages, at 10-8, then at 10-9, Niksa Dobud hit the woodwork from the centre, then his shot was well saved by Panagiotis Tsortsatos – something unusual from the big man, to miss three straight shots from close range. Credits also go to Tsortatos who posted two more huge saves in man-downs, the second one, denying Bukic 1:23 from time, might be remembered as the one earned the F8 spot for Vouliagmeni.
The Greeks held on, indeed, they had a clear shot to win the match but the ball bounced way above the bar three seconds before the end – a win would have surely cemented their place in Belgrade, they were still really happy with the draw. They kept their three-point lead ahead of Jadran and with four rounds to go this should be sufficient to make the cut.
How they saw it
Jurej Mateja, coach, Jadran
“We are not satisfied with this draw. We had everything in our hands, but we conceded action goals and paid the price. Congrats to the team of Vouliagmeni.”
Vladimir Vujasinovic, coach, Vouliagmeni
“It was a good match and a good result for us since this means we are still fighting for the final eight. I’m really proud of what we have done till now, we really gave tonight everything we have.”