Recco and Novi Beograd book Final Four spots

Photo: Jadran Split

Two fine away wins sent the finalists of the last two editions to the Final Four on Wednesday night. Marseille forced Recco into a thriller, but the title-holders scored the last two goals to maintain their unbeaten run (in the Champions League). Novi Beograd had a less nervous finish, thanks to a 0-5 rush in the third period against Jadran in Split.

Champions League Men Quarter Final Stage
Group A Results/Day 4 – Wednesday 24th April 2024

Jadran Split (CRO) 10-15 VK Novi Beograd (SRB)
CN Marseille (FRA) 10-12 Pro Recco (ITA)
Standings: 1. Recco 11, 2. Novi Beograd 10, 3. Marseille 3, 4. Jadran 0

Photo: Jadran Split

The first half of the clash between Jadran Split and Novi Beograd was a typical Croatian v Serbian duel with 16 goals and 19 exclusions.

Jadran jumped to a 2-0 lead, but NBG’s response was swift and professional, four goals in a row and two killed man-downs.

Nikola Jaksic led the charge, netting three, though Jerko Marinic Kragic pulled one back 17 seconds before the break.

After a quick exchange of goals early on in the second, Marko Radulovic put another one away from close – both sides pushed for the 2m line finishes in 6 on 5s and it worked in most cases – then Jaksic hit his fourth from action to make it 4-7.

NBG then missed a 6 on 4 which would have given them a four-goal lead, instead, the ensuing counter ended in a penalty and Marinic Kragic was on target as always.

Two goals apiece followed, Jadran managed to stay close, again with a late extra-man goal, 22 seconds from time, so it stood 7-9 at half-time.

When Angelos Vlachopoulos went for a finish from the perimeter in a man-up one minute into the third period, it might have been seen as part of the usual pattern.

Photo: Jadran Split

But Jadran missed the following 6 on 5, and in the next 47 seconds Vlachopoulos added two more from distance, which led to the substitution of goalie Ivan Marcelic (he came out of the pool with 3 saves from 15 shots) – but as a more dire consequence, Jadran were being pushed down a cliff as NBG led 7-12.

Incoming goalie Mate Anic couldn’t help either, as within 54 seconds he conceded two more.

Indeed, in a span of 3:31 minutes, Novi Beograd produced a 0-5 run which put the game to bed.

The Serbs added only one goal in the remaining time, but their win was never in danger.

Photo: Jadran Split

As a bit of contrast, the first half of the big match in Marseille saw only three goals apiece in the first half, before the artillery started ‘working’ at both ends.

Defences and goalies did a splendid job and the offences also lacked some precision – Marseille missed their first four man-ups and while Recco netted their first, they also struggled in the following ones.

Andrija Prlainovic broke the ice for the home side from the fifth man-up, with 0:25 to go, still, there was enough time for Ben Hallock to hit one from the centre for 1-2.

Ugo Crousillat found the back of the net from a 6 on 5 to make it even, then Daniel Angyal’s blast put Marseille ahead, but fellow Hungarian leftie Gergo Zalanki equalised also from action.

The French went on wasting their man-ups, so it stood 3-3 at half-time.

Two buried penalties kicked off the third, and only 50 seconds had clicked down on the clock.

Offences geared up, Marseille took the lead three more times, but Recco levelled the scores on each occasion.

Photo: @cnmarseille

At 5-4, Marseille had a man-up to double the gap, but missed it, and Hallock sent the ball back to the net after a rebound fell in front of him somewhat luckily.

Manhercz hit a blistering one from action, but this time Konstantin Kakaris replied from the centre for 6-6, and then one goal apiece inside the last minute saw the scores set at 7-7 going into the final eight minutes.

Giacomo Cannella’s rocket gave back the lead to Recco right from the first possession, then Ugo Crousillat fired in a 6 on 5 for 8-8.

Recco’s first attempt in the following man-up was well saved by Dejan Lazovic, however, the Italians got the rebound, then a bit unusually, a time-out was called by Sandro Sukno but it helped.

Even though Marseille got back to full strength, a patient play and a pinpoint shot by Francesco Condemi gave back the lead to Recco.

And after they killed a man-down and Giacomo Cannella beat his defender and the goalie for 8-10, the title-holders seemed to have it.

The hosts had other ideas, Manhercz netted his third from the perimeter and 32 seconds later he set up Crousillat in a quick counter who scored his fourth of the evening to make it 10-10 with 3:17 remaining.

However, just 13 seconds later and for the third time in the match, Hallock pushed Recco forward, this time a magnificent backhander from the centre killed Marseille’s momentum.

With 1:50 to go, the French had another 6 on 5, but they couldn’t convert it and Francesco di Fulvio closed down the contest with a blast in the dying seconds of a possession, 0:58 from time.

It sealed Recco’s victory, which also sent the Italians to the Final Four – together with Novi Beograd.

You can follow all the Champions League Men’s Water Polo Quarter Final Stage action and results – which resumes on Day 5 (Friday/Saturday 3rd/4th May) – live on the dedicated European Aquatics Champions League website.

Photo: @cnmarseille