Novi Beograd make back-to-back finals after shootout win

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

Semi-final: Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 8-8, pen: 2-4

The Serbs took the lead, putting away their first man-up, using their best-selling scheme of setting up Nikola Jaksic on the 2m line. Barceloneta had some problems in front, still, their defence worked well to survive the first five minutes, then they found the first great chance, from their best-seller, a counter, finished by Marc Larumbe. Soon they had two man-ups, but their shots never made to the goal, so it was all even after eight minutes.

A fine centre-action earned Barceloneta a penalty and Felipe Perrone buried it – to erase the bad memories from Day 1 when they were 1 for 4 from the 5m line –, then the defence killed a man-down and Alberto Munarriz blasted one from the perimeter for 3-1. The Serbs were frozen in front, nothing really worked at this stage, after opening the scoring 1:41 minutes into the match, they were unable to add any more goals while after some extremely patient passing Dusan Matkovic hit a one-time to beat the shotclock and the goalie for 4-1.

Zivko Gocic called for a time-out but that did not help, though the Spaniards also wasted a time-out as their man-up play didn’t click. Then with some luck, the hosts could score again when Strahinja Rasovic’s shot was deflected by a blocking hand – after 12:23 minutes. Munarriz replied from a penalty, but Dmitris Skoumpakis also found the hole on the wall from the wing – from action, as the preceding 6 on 5 ended with a bad shot and a rebound. The halftime gap could have been three and one goal as well, but both sides missed their last extra respectively, so it stood 5-3.

The Serbs returned to the pool with a lot more determination than in the first half and in three minutes they erased their deficit. Another fine 2m set-up, this time for Dusko Pijetlovic brought them back to minus one, then Strahinja Rasovic blasted one from the perimeter to level the score at 5-5. The Spaniards’ level dropped, they cannot finish their man-up with a shot and Munarriz’s 6m shot was an easy catch for Joao Fernandez. Alvaro Granados then overcame his demons and sent the ball home against his former team from a 6 on 5 – NBG was in a 0-4 rush and led again. Almost eight minutes gone when the Spaniards could finally score, after forcing a penalty in a 6 on 5, Larumbe put it away for 6-6. However, the Serbs were on a roll as their rivals could do little to prevent from netting another man-up, again from the 2m line, again by Pijetlovic. While they were 0 for 3 in the second, they went 3/3 in the third, which gave them a well-deserved 6-7 lead before the last break.

The Spaniards wasted their first extra in the fourth, again without taking a shot, but Munarriz’s next blast from action hit the back of the net to make it even again at 7-7. Granados’ next attempt in a 6 on 5 hit the bar, just like Munarriz’s finish at the other end. At this crucial stage, the Spaniards’ lethal weapon did some damage, a finely timed 2 on 1 counter, finished by Perrone – however, they were still unable to handle NBG’s man-up as Angelos Vlachopoulos made it from the right wing.

As money-time clicked in, the Spaniards had a man-up but couldn’t push the ball in, though a hotly contested ‘non-call’ on the hosts’ steal while the centre seemed to hold the ball blew up their bench. They had more to survive though, two man-downs, but when it mattered the most, they could deny NBG on both occasions – Angelos Vlachopoulos had a shot with 0:02 on the clock, just like last year in the semis against Brescia, but this time his ball hit the woodwork so the decision was left to the penalties.

And even though Barceloneta did well during the game (buried 3 for 3), in the shootout they missed two, Munarriz – who didn’t play as well as usual (was 3/10 in shooting) – hit the post in the second round, and Pavillard’s ball was also pushed to the post by incoming goalie Radoslav Filipovic, and Vlachopoulos closed down the contest as NBG players made no mistake.

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

This win sent the home side to the final for the second time in a row, while Barceloneta had to settle for the bronze medal game – just like on the previous four occasions when they reached the semis.

How they saw it

Elvis Fatovic, coach, Barceloneta

“It’s easier to accept defeat when you know that your players left everything in the water. Really, they gave everything, did their best and lost in the shootout which is about luck anyway. The only thing we could have done better is the third period when we lost our concentration and consequently our composure a bit, first of all in attack and that had an impact our defence, that let Novi Beograd score easy goals from easily earned exclusions. Then we came back, we regained our composure, we played again on a good level, we had our chances – though I don’t want to speak about the last minutes of the game.”

LEN/Istvan Derencsenyi

Zivko Gocic, coach, Novi Beograd

“There was no big things when we came back – I just saw my players weren’t calm enough. They did everything, they stuck to our game plan, they were just a bit too nervous, but I told them in the break to calm down and play the way they did and the way they could. I should congratulate them as they really showed how big heart they have and that they never stopped believing in winning this game, not for a single moment. That was the key.”

Felipe Perrone, captain, Barceloneta

“It was a nice match. Unfortunately, they were better in the penalties after the game finished with a draw. We have to lift our heads and go for a third place on Saturday.”

Alberto Munarriz, player, Barceloneta

“I am obviously sad. We were up by two-three goals in the second quarter, but then received some unlucky goals. In the end, it was a tight game. We had our chances, we both did really well but they were better in man-ups. Then everything came down to the penalties and I missed mine. For the third place we must see who comes but for us it’s really important to win that match. Barceloneta have qualifyed for the Final 8 for many years, which is is a huge achievement. We want to go for a medal on Saturday, so we must recover in the time we have.”

Strahinja Rasovic, player, Novi Beograd

“It was an exceptional match. I want to congratulate my team for making it to the final. This is a huge success. For the final on Saturday whoever comes we need to focus on ourselves. Honestly, we will use the day off to really get a good night sleep and relax physically and mentally in order to be ready and prepared by Saturday.”

Alvaro Granados, player, Novi Beograd

“I think, personally this was the toughest match of my carreer so far, not only because I was playing against my friends. It was an amazing match. It was the tiniest details that made the difference in the end. We had the right approach, and when you get to the penalties it’s always a lottery. This year we have a day off before the final to recover and prepare as best as we can. Last year it was so close. This year we want to make it.”