As expected, thrilling matches kicked off the Champions League season. Since only the group winners shall qualify, matches in the opening round saw all-in approach from all teams. Spain’s CN Barcelona and Serbia’s Crvena Zvezda were the big winners of the opening day in Group A, while Serbia’s Radnicki landed a historical shootout win over Primorac of Montenegro – this was the first tied match in a round robin tournament decided by penalties in club competitions.
Group A (Hannover)
Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v CN Barcelona (ESP) 9-11, EPS Honved (HUN) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 7-10
CN Barcelona managed to beat host Hannover though the Germans opened the match in their usual strong way. They jumped to a 2-0 lead with two extraman goals, a kind of start we’ve seen many times in the Champions League in the past seasons. However, Barcelona also started scoring goals, so the action packed first period saw seven in total as Waspo led 4-3. Defences ‘stepped in’ for the second period, after a quick exchange of goals four minutes of battling ensued and Luc Bertrand could put away an extra 3 seconds before the buzzer to make it 5-5 by halftime.
Three more minutes went down the clock without a goal in the third, then Barcelona took the lead for the first time, but Hrvoje Benic could equalise from action with 1:25 on the clock. Then came a decisive minute, with two goals from the Spaniards, the second came again with 0:03 remaining to give Barcelona a two-goal lead before the final quarter. There dramatic scenes followed each other – Hannover managed to go even with two action goals while shutting out Barcelona for four minutes. Then came the visitors, two action goals in a span of 54 seconds for 8-10, then they managed to survive back-to-back man-downs and secured their win from a 6 on 5 with 1:11 remaining. Waspo pulled one back in the dying seconds but that didn’t have any impact on the outcome.
Two former champions clashed in the other game, Crvena Zvezda (2013) faced off with Honved (2004). The Hungarians took the better start and went 3-1 up, but then came a brilliant spell from the Serbs who scored seven goals in a row. Three in 63 seconds early in the second period was the key for Zvezda, followed by three killed man-downs and another action goal from Marko Radovic. Honved was done, two more hits in the third virtually ended the contest at 3-8. The Magyars, after a scoreless phase of 11 minutes, climbed back to 6-9 early in the fourth but Radovic’s action shot in 25sec was a fine calmer for 6-10 and the Hungarians could score one more only 18sec from time.
Group B (Kragujevac)
Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Primorac Kotor (MNE) 12-12, pen: 5-4, ASD Duisburg (GER) v Noisy Le Sec (FRA) 8-17
Host Radnicki won a tremendous fight against Montenegrin Primorac – also made history as the first team winning in a penalty shootout as, according to the new rules, draws are eliminated even in round robin tournaments.
The Montenegrins stunned the hosts by scoring two from their first two possessions, but Radnicki came back in the first to make it 3-3 with 3:17 to go. No more goals were scored in this period, nor in the first minutes of the second, then came a whirlwind with four hits in 96 seconds, three of those from the Montenegrins who added more a bit later for 4-7 but the hosts pulled one back before halftime. And opened the third really well, netted two and denied a Montenegrin man-up between the two for 7-7. After a longer silence, Tim Perov scored from the centre for Primorac but Miroslav Randjic also hit one from action for 8-8.
The fourth was as thrilling as it could be. The Montenegrins took the lead twice but the home side equalised, then they managed to go ahead twice but Primorac found the way to make it even again and again. So the game ended in a draw and the decision was left to the penalties. Nine shots were made in a row, then Drasko Brguljan, who netted the equaliser for 12-12, hit the post in the last round, letting the Serbs bag two points while Primorac got oone.
The other game was a lopsided contest right from the beginning. France’ Noisy Le Sec rushed to a 0-4 lead in the first against Duisburg and never looked back. The French were already 2-9 up by halftime and claimed a comfortable win, Viktor Rasovic hit five for them.