Day 14, Group B – FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) 10-12
Switching to a full-time head coach of the Hungarian national team, this was the last home game for Zsolt Varga at FTC’s bench. The encounter was advertised accordingly: a farewell party for the club’s legend who worked here for 10 years and led FTC to Champions League triumph in 2019 and most recently, just days earlier, to the 25th title at home.
And the game was also special as it was held outdoors – to prepare the team for the Final Eight, to be staged outside as well –, on the sacred ground of the Margaret Island, the Mecca of water polo as most of the world know it.
So, everything was set to have a wonderful evening but besides an approaching storm Sabadell were also there to ruin FTC’s evening and with a series of fierce outside shots they indeed did big damage in the first half. Thanks to those four action goals from the perimeter, the Spaniards took a commanding 3-6 lead.
Early at the third they were 3-7 up, and it all looked really awful from the celebration perspective. The home players must have felt that as they geared up and fought themselves back to 7-8 by the end of this period (scored one more in eight minutes than in the entire first half). And with two more in the fourth, FTC took the lead at 9-8 and seemed to finally have it in their hands.
However, the Spaniards hit back with a double in 39 seconds, and even though Daniil Merkulov levelled the score for 10-10, the next minute decided everything. Sabadell netted two 6 on 5s and killed a man-down in between – a winning effort at this stage. This catapulted them to the 5th place, a great achievement from the young side – they finished their run on equal points with Jug which will go to the Final Eight anyway as the results obtained against each other (14-10, 12-15) favoured the Croats.
Sabadell’s victory is even more sound as they handed Ferencvaros their first home defeat in the season, in the Champions League and all in all in Hungarian soil (FTC remained unbeaten in the national league and in the cup).
How they saw it
Zsolt Varga, coach, Ferencvaros
“First of all, congratulations to Sabadell, they had a really good game. As for my team, I should say that it happened to us again – when we don’t feel the pressure, we couldn’t play on our top level. This was a returning problem this season, once the qualification was secured and the pressure was gone, we were not able to play with the necessary concentration level in Marseille, for example, and this was the case today as well.”
Quim Colet, coach, Sabadell
“For us, this was a fantastic end of the season, and we claimed this victory in the cathedral of water polo – for me, this place is considered a holy ground. We played really well against a great team, I’m really satisfied.”