Returning aces deliver NBG a hard-fought win

Day 7, Group B: Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 6-8

Though Sabadell sits in the 7th place, not a single game of theirs was a one-sided contest – the Spaniards made their rivals work hard for their money. And this encounter wasn’t an exception either. Sabadell’s performance was even more valuable as Novi Beograd were back to full strength, lined up all their stars for this match (they missed four key players two weeks ago in Budapest when they lost for the first time in the season).

After almost four minutes of intense battling, Strahinja Rasovic drew first blood, then Alvaro Granados saddened his fellow Spaniards by putting away an extra for 0-2. Sabadell needed 6:42 minutes to break the ice when Francesco Valera converted a penalty. Goals didn’t come easy in the following period either. Again, almost midway into the second, Savo Cetkovic netted a fine one from the centre, while the hosts could score from action after more than 12 minutes. In 57 seconds, a man-up goal brought them back to even and another 55 seconds gone when Kanstantin Averka put them ahead at 4-3. A bit surprisingly, they could keep this lead till halftime.

Dimitrios Skoumpakis netted an extra right away in the third and that signed the change in fortunes – NBG’s defence got even tighter, killed two man-downs and soon the other Greek, Angelos Vlachopoulos put the Serbs ahead once more. Joao Fernandez delivered some crucial saves in their goal before Rasovic blasted one from 6m for 4-6. Averka pulled one back to halt Sabadell’s scoreless phase after 7:44 minutes but Granados doubled NBG’s lead in 28 seconds from a 6 on 5. The Spaniards had two shots in their next man-up but couldn’t make either of them. At least they could deny the Serbs in their extra to prevent them from going three goals up and they repeated that early in the fourth. 

An intense battle ensued in the last period, though for long minutes the nets remained untouched. Then, with 3:32 to go, Averka hit his third from a 6 on 5 for 6-7 but before the Spaniards could have started hoping for something big, Dusan Mandic’s rocket reset the two-goal gap when there were still 2:55 minutes to play. However, Sabadell couldn’t come any closer, they missed another man-up while entering to the last minute, so the F8 hosts could celebrate an important away win.

How they saw it

Quim Colet, coach, Sabadell

“Novi Beograd is a top team, it’s a selection of superstars. My players had two top games against two top teams of Europe in four days – ours is a very good team, but our players are very young and not so experienced, tonight that was the difference. I was satisfied with the level of my team and this game was a great experience for us once more.”

Zivko Gocic, coach, Novi Beograd

“The level of defending was the main difference between the two halves. All in all, we were really good in defence, received only six goals. This was a very important game for us after an extremely turbulent period in January. At the same time, let me add, that it is not real that Sabadell have only four points so far, they showed much more in all the games.”