Jug came back from four goals down, Jaksic saves a point for NBG

Group B, Day 3: Novi Beograd (SRB) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 12-12

It was the highlighted game of this round – and at the end any TV director would have found it hard to compile an only three-minute-long highlights of the match as it was full of action, tension and fantastic excitements. Something one can expect when the No. 1 clubs from Serbia and Croatia face off.

The Serbs had the better start and jumped to a 4-2 lead in five minutes, however, in a span of 75 seconds the Croats netted three goals from as many possessions to stun their rivals and lead 4-5 after the action-packed opening period.

The hosts came back with a lot more determination, their defence started clicking and limited to Jug to a single goal in the following eight minutes – and that was enough to earn a 7-6 lead by halftime, thanks to Alvaro Granados’ two action goals.

Then in the third the hosts caught the wave, in four minutes they managed to add three more, so they were in a 5-0 run after 5-6, and once Viktor Rasovic’s action goal gave them a 10-6 lead, they seemed to have the game in hand. After winning their first two encounters by 11 and 9 goals respectively, perhaps the Serbs had the feeling that this game would be another easy ride from here, especially since the Croats got visibly off balance during these minutes. Still, one should never write down Jug, which could finally score after 9:44 minutes and when Goran Grgurevic found some space to add an easy one from the centre 44 seconds before the last break, at 10-8 the match was to reopen.

And it happened, even though Dimitrios Skoumpakis’ fine one-timer from the perimeter put NBG 11-8 ahead 23 seconds into the fourth. Soon Martin Biljaka scored a great one from the centre after a drive – then the next four minutes was devoted to a tremendous fight. Both sides missed a man-up, before Marko Zuvela sent the ball home in the dying seconds of an extra – with 2:48 to go, Jug was back at 11-10. And they came further – 49 seconds later it was even as Maro Jokovic put away another 6 on 5. NBG also had an extra, played it after a time-out but no shots were taken and Biljaka finished off the ensuing counter 53 seconds from time. 

Jug staged a 0-4 rush, or 1-6 after 6-10, the hosts were stunned, with the exception of Nikola Jaksic who showed his outstanding skills once more. Though that last 6 on 5 didn’t look too promising, the Olympic champ managed to make an extraordinary shooting move from the back to save the game to a tie 36 seconds to go. Jokovic took Jug’s last shot, hit the post, and in the remaining five seconds Angelos Vlachopoulos also found the way to let the ball fly from the distance but Jug’s goalie Toni Popadic stopped it, to make everything even – besides the final score, both goalies finished the match with 9/21 saving ratio.

How they saw it

Zivko Gocic, coach, NBG

“We played well, especially in the third period. Then we had one blackout, and our opponent made a 6-1 run, it’s hard to explain why this happened to us. I think we had a lot of problems with our concentration, especially in defence. At the end we managed to score and at least saved one point. We fought well, but we have to work on our focus in the future.”

Vjekoslav Kobescak, coach, Jug

“It was a really tough game, I hope everybody enjoyed it. At the start out defence didn’t work, it was soft if I may say this. We changed that afterwards, switched to a special zone once we were behind and at the end we managed to get a good result. I think, this point will be very valuable for us at the end.”