NBG in the semis again, while Olympiacos miss eight man-ups in a row

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

Quarter-finals: Novi Beograd (SBR) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 13-11

After some ’warm-up’ attempts, Miroslav Perkovic’s easy put-away opened the scoring, then Olympiacos missed a man-up,  but soon Marton Vamos’ fine action shot from a sharp angle also put the Greeks on the scoreboard after four minutes. Another 2m set-up, this time buried by Dorde Vucinic, gave the lead back to the hosts, then Angelos Vlachopoulos’ brilliant wrist-shot doubled the gap. Ioannis Fountoulis put away the Greeks’ next man-up but the hosts’ Greek Vlachopoulos didn’t leave much chance for Bijac in NBG’s following man-up. On contrary, Filip Filipovic was denied in the dying seconds in an extra, so his fellow Serbs led 4-2 after eight minutes.

Both sides missed a man-up badly, then Alvaro Granados hit one from NBG’s next 6 on 5 to make it 5-2, then Filipovic couldn’t save the Greeks’ following extra as the setup didn’t work at all. The Serb leftie then delivered, he’s never been a player who got worried after three missed shots, while Bijac managed to make a stop in a man-down and Alexandros Papanastasiou made all the way to the goal from the ensuing counter – Olympiacos were back in the game in 46 seconds at 5-4. Granados’ fierce shot from the perimeter, with seconds left on the shotclock, halted the Greeks’ surge, then Fountoulis was blocked in a man-up but after a couple of less dangerous possession by NBG, Vamos’ 6m blast hit the back of the net for 6-5 with 0:40 on the clock. Then Vlachopoulos’ distant shot went wide, while Fountoulis managed to send the ball home from 8m with 1.9sec remaining for 6-6 – by halftime Olympiacos erased the three-goal deficit.

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

Radomir Drasovic’s distant shot 22 seconds into the third looked an easy one at this level – while the Greeks sank back to the level there were at the beginning of the seconds. This time they wasted four man-ups, each landed at Joao Fernandez’s hands though only one looked a really big save. On contrary, Granados sent the ball home for 7-5. Filipovic stepped up to retain some hope for Olympiacos, his ball from 6m went through the arms – however, Drasovic’ pinpoint wingshot reset the two-goal gap at 9-7. It could have been three as the fifth Greek extra was gone in this period, but Drasovic’s next ball flew over the bar in NBG’s man-up, then Fernandez had another easy catch on Fountoulis’ shot to leave Olympiacos 0 for 6 in extras this quarter.

And the pattern did not change in the fourth. Olympiacos wasted two more man-ups, lacking any composure, while Viktor Rasovic netted one from action for 10-7. Papanastasiou’s action shot gave some hope for the Greeks, but then came something really strange – after a fine save Bijac wanted to clear the ball but he somehow pulled it to the net and 40 seconds later the hosts got a penalty and Granados put it away for 12-8. Even with 4:27 to go, the game seemed to be decided. Still, the Greeks needed 50 seconds to halve the gap, Filipovic scored another one from action and after eight missed man-ups, Vamos finally buried one for 12-10. But their surge did not last long, Granados hit his 5th from 6m with 3:10 remaining. Since the next Greek goal, by Papanastasiou, arrived only 1:17 from time, the game was over.

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

The stats were telling – while Olympiacos had 36 shots while NBG only 23, the number of saves (17 for Fernandez and 7 for Bijac) was decisive, just like the man-up conversion – 6 for 10 by NBG and 3 for 17 by Olympiacos, kind of disaster at this level. So it’s inevitable that Olympiacos are still waiting for its first semi-final (final) appearance since 2019 while NBG made it 2/2 in the last two editions.

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

How they saw it

Zivko Gocic, coach, Novi Beograd

“It wasn’t an easy match, but I felt during the entire game that my players want this much more than our rivals. We defended really well in man-down, but I think our man-ups also worked well. We were working much better as a team, we are in the semi-final and we are really happy for that.” 

Igor Milanovic, coach, Olympiacos

“Congratulations to Novi Beograd they deserved this victory. We didn’t play how we had in the season. Our defence was not on the expected level and in extramen I saw only individual intensions and no teamwork, something I really don’t like.”

Dusko Pijetlovic, player, NBG

“I am satisfied. Thankfully, we didn’t pay for our blackout in the fourth quarter. They kept coming back with some lucky goals that don’t always go in. But then we also got lucky a few times, otherwise it would have been a lot harder. I mean they are one of the best teams here. There were a lot of tensions today, tomorrow there will be even more, but I think that this is a good thing for us. We need to stay like this. I think is better for us to play against a team that is physically dominant. We need to figure out a way to stop Perrone.”

Alvaro Granados, player, NBG

“It was a very tough game. The quality of the Olympiacos is unbelievable, but honestly, we also have our qualities. This has been a difficult season for us with a lot of ups and downs. We will have to do our best tomorrow and correct the things that weren’t good today but we know we have the quality to do it.”

Alex Papanastasiou, player, Olympiacos

“This is not what we expected. We won three trophies this season, but we got stopped early on our way via the third one. Novi Beograd were in control of the game in the whole match. I don’t think we ever went into lead. We managed to tie and were always catching up. We had problems with our man-up which was really bad today. Ultimately, I think we lost today because we were too hesitant in many phases of the game. I have to watch the match to see why.”

Marko Bijac, goalkeeper, Olympiacos

“From the beginning of the match, our defence wasn’t working right. We conceded easy goals which made us lose the confidence which would be necessary to win this kind of matches. I want to congratulate Novi Beograd. We now turn to tomorrow’s match.”