Group B: Pro Recco (ITA) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 12-11
The two water polo giants produced a fantastic encounter, and the capacity crowd was loud and enthusiastic as they enjoyed the prime-time entertainment.
Well, at the beginning the stands were in silence as the Greeks took a dream start and led 0-3 with 3:37 to go in the first. The title-holders’ first goal came more than a minute later, from a penalty, and that ‘switched on’ their offence. Soon Aaron scored their second one in action, then they denied the Greeks’ next man-up. With time remaining to level the score, Ben Hallock made it 3-3 from a 6 on 5, five seconds from time.
The script didn’t change much in the second period. Olympiacos regained a two-goal lead early on, but the hosts equalised in 47 seconds. Soon, two Greek goals more came, now they netted from back-to-back possessions in 34 seconds for 5-7. This didn’t last long either, Gergo Zalanki’s fierce shot halved the gap. Olympiacos missed a crucial man-up and Francesco di Fulvio’s blast brought back Recco to even once more at 7-7, with 0:50 from the clock. Once again, the Italians had the last laugh as Francesco Condemi also scored a nice one from action 3 seconds from time, making it 8-7.
Giacomo Cannella doubled Recco’s lead from the first possession in the third period. However, it was Olympiacos’ turn to erase the two-goal deficit which they did by converting two man-ups in a row in 67 seconds, tying the game at for 9-9. Andrea Fondelli replied from a man-up, and in 40 seconds, Condemi made it 11-9 from close. Then the Greeks missed a 6 on 4. Recco missed a big chance at the end of a counter to go three goals up and that hit back as Konstantinos Genidounias buried a penalty for 11-10. Both sides missed a man-up still in the third, setting the stage for a thrilling fourth period.
After almost three minutes of enormous battling, Ben Hallock delivered a huge one from the centre, and the Greeks blew two more big chances as the blocks denied them in consecutive 6 on 5s. Missed opportunities followed one another in succession, with the Italians also wasting their extra-man chances. Finally, the Greeks could hit theirs after collecting a rebound for 12-11, with 1:32 to go. Olympiacos had one more shot at a shootout but Fountoulis hit the bar from their 6 on 5. The Greeks missed 6 man-ups alone in the fourth. It’s worth noting that only a single save was recorded for Recco’s goalie, Marco del Lungo. Nonetheless, the Greeks’ shot-making and man-up play didn’t work this evening, as they were 4 for 16.
Comments from the coaches
Sandro Sukno, coach, Recco
“Congratulations to my boys and also to Olympiacos. It was a very interesting and nice match with high intensity. In the beginning, their goalie made some big saves but then our attack started working. It was a tough game, but we played against an excellent team. It’s great to be ranked first after three rounds before this little break.”
Hrvoje Koljanin, coach, Olympiacos
“It was a game as everybody expected. Recco is one of the best teams in Europe, if not the best – we tried to give our best, and the boys gave everything to get something bigger in this game than we got at the end. It was a really good fight and we got some extra motivation to get better towards the end of the group stage.”