Group A: Novi Beograd (SRB) v Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) 10-12
The hosts kicked off the match in commanding style. Alvaro Granados scored two goals against his fellow Spaniards, and Angelos Vlachopoulos added another man-up goal, giving NBG a 3-0 lead. They seemed to carry on their momentum from the previous match, where they claimed a significant 13-8 win against Brescia. Later, the visitors managed to set up their Dutch center-forward, Guus van Ijperen, for back-to-back man-up goals, but NBG still led 4-2 after eight minutes.
The trends didn’t change much in the second period, only slightly. Sabadell’s man-down defense improved a bit, but NBG ‘replaced’ that tool with action goals, netting two in this phase. Additionally, Vlachopoulos buried a penalty, and the Serbs sat comfortably in the driving seat, holding a 7-4 lead.
Perhaps they felt too comfortable, as they couldn’t score for more than three minutes. After making it 8-5, Sabadell quickly scored twice in 80 seconds, showing the first sign that they had no intention of giving up. This time, NBG had an answer, and it was spectacular, with two goals in 42 seconds, extending their lead to 10-7, with 1:52 left on the clock. Few would have guessed at this point that this would be NBG’s last goal of the day. Perhaps no one foresaw what Sabadell was about to produce in the remaining ten minutes.
Even though Blai Mallarach pulled one back from an extra, still, the 10-8 lead and the hosts’ superiority in individual quality seemed to promise a smooth ending. It never happened, though. Alberto Barroso netted another goal with a fine shot from the perimeter, just 47 seconds into the fourth quarter. NBG missed back-to-back man-up in the same possession, and then a third one a bit later. This backfired, as Sabadell earned a penalty, which Francesco Valera converted to make it 10-10 with 4:17 minutes remaining.
As the pressure mounted and the hosts’ game didn’t click, they started to fall apart. Their next man-up went without a shot, while Barroso showed the way to score from a 6-on-5. Sabadell took the lead for the first time in the game with 2:55 to go.
Filip Filipovic, known for scoring decisive goals in his heyday, sent the ball wide from the following extra-man. Meanwhile, Barroso was on fire, finding the hole between the blocking hand in a 6m attempt to make it 10-12, leaving only 41 seconds remaining in the game. Not surprisingly, NBG missed their last 6-on-5 opportunity – they were 0 for 6 in the last period and were unable to score in the last 9:52 minutes. Sabadell secured three points with a 0-5 run, putting them in the pole position at the halfway mark in the group stage.
Comments from the coaches
Zivko Gocic, coach, Novi Beograd
“It’s difficult to say something clever after this game. We lost to a very good team, though I think we are the better side, but we played badly from the second period. Our concentration level was not good enough, we needed to analyse this match to find out how to move on. We have to fight till the end to qualify for the next stage.”
Quim Colet, coach, Sabadell
“This was a spectacular victory for my team. Our players’ mentality is great, and this is a very important win for us. Our team keeps improving, today we had another step up in our performance.”