@Champions League

What a start: Olympiacos v Recco in the opening round

The draw for the Champions League Main Round was held in the Spaladium Arena, site of the  ongoing European Water Polo Championships in Split. The group stage starts on 15 November,  and right the first round will see a great clash between the 2018 champion Olympiacos and the  last two seasons’ victor Pro Recco.  Group A: Pro Recco (ITA), Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP), Waspo 98 Hannover (GER), Radnicki  Kragujevac (SRB), Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO), Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE), Winner of QG D, Winner of  QG B  Group B: Novi Beograd (SRB), FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN), CN Marseille (FRA), Jug Adriatic  Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO), Astralpool Sabadell (ESP), Spandau 04 Berlin (GER), Winner of QG A,  Winner of QG C  First a meeting was held for the wild card-holder clubs in the presence of LEN First Vice-President  Josip Varvodic, LEN Bureau WP Liaison Fernando Carpena, LEN TWPC Chair Angel Moliner and  LEN Operation Manager Marco Birri. Mr Birri announced that Euro Cup winner Astralpool Sabadell is  the 12th club joining the ‘circle’ after Romania’s Steaua returned its wild card. After this event, the  draw for the main round of the Champions League was conducted in the Spaladium Arena, during a  break in the daily programme of the women’s tournament at the European Water Polo Championships.  As for the F8 participants from last June, seven clubs were part of the draw (fourth placed Brescia plays  in the qualifications). Three of them landed in Group A, 2021 and 2022 winner Recco, Barceloneta and  Hannover, while four, host and last season’s runner-up Novi Beograd, Ferencvaros, Marseille and Jug  ended up in Group B. As for the first group, Olympiacos, winner in 2018 and runner-up in 2019, has  been a regular F8 participant before they surprisingly failed to make the cut last season. They clash with  Recco right away in the first round, a mouth-watering duel featuring many of the continent’s greatest  players.  Barceloneta, Olympiacos and Radnicki were in the same group last season, just like Novi Beograd and  Ferencvaros in the other ‘side’, as well as Marseille and Jug.  Four spots are to be filled by the teams coming from the qualifications and there are some pretty strong  sides in that field too, like Brescia, or the Hungarians OSC and Vasas or Jadran Split from Croatia.  Anyone of those would give a further boost for the excitements we can expect this season.  The main round kicks off on 15/16 November and will end on 23/24 May, then a week later, from 31  May till 3 June the Final Eight shall take place in Belgrade – for the first time over four days,  accommodating the teams’ request to include a rest day as well.

What a start: Olympiacos v Recco in the opening round Read More »

Champions League 2022-2023 Draw – updated

Groups and venues decided for the first round of qualifications The draw for the first qualification round of the men’s water polo Champions League was held yesterday and groups and host venues has been confirmed. However, while the first two ranked sides from each group will qualify for the second round, exact details of the qualifying system for the Euro Cup and Challenger Cup are still being finalised. They will be announced at a future date in accordance with LEN Rules and regulations. Group A (Het Ravijn)  A Hid Vasas-Plaket (HUN)  Steaua Bucharest (ROU)  Primorac Kotor (MNE)  Het Ravijn (NED)  Nepobjedivi Invictum Sarajevo (BIH)  Group B (Oradea)  RN Savona (ITA)  Galatasary Istanbul (TUR)  CSM Oradea (ROU)  ASA Tel-Aviv (ISR)  Group C (Herceg Novi)  HAVK Mladost Zagreb (CRO)  Jadran Herceg Novi (MNE)  EVK Zaibas (LTU)  Enka Istanbul (TUR)  Group D (Turcoing)  EN Turcoing (FRA)  Panionios GSS (GRE)  Vitoria Guimaraes (POR)  Banja Luka (BIH)  KVIK Kastrup (DEN)  Playing dates: 29 September-2 October 2022 

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Champions League, Final Eight, Belgrade (SRB), Day 3 – Summary

Recco scores 12sec from time and retains its title with a shootout win  Pro Recco is crowned for the 10th time after another thrilling Champions League final, decided by  penalties for the second time after 2019. Host Novi Beograd was close as it led 11-9 after three  periods and Nikola Jaksic’s 6th goal 50 seconds from time put the Serbs ahead once more. Still,  Gergo Zalanki hit his 5th in the evening 12 seconds before the buzzer to save the game to a 13-13  tie and a shootout. And there, at 3-3, the two heroes lined up for the last shots – Jaksic hit the  crossbar, Zalanki sent the ball home as well as his team-mates to the seventh if not 10th heaven.  His former club Ferencvaros finished third, after downing Brescia – this game was another 26- goal epic, landed by the Magyars with 14-12.   Final: Novi Beograd (SRB) v Pro Recco (ITA) 13-13, pen: 3-4. Bronze medal match: AN Brescia  (ITA) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 12-14. For places 5-6th: Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Zodiac  Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) 10-12. For places 7-8th: CN Marseille (FRA) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje  Dubrovnik (CRO) 15-13  Most Valuable Player: Giacomo Cannella (Recco)  102 goals, tremendous excitements and another triumph, the 10th one, for Pro Recco – this is the brief  summary of the last day at the Final Eight tournament.  Recco needed to dig really deep to come back from two goals down in the fourth period against the host  side Novi Beograd in front of a capacity crowd. For two and a half periods Novi Beograd was in front,  though the Italians always found the way to equalise, then led 7-8 for the first time in the game but that  didn’t last long. Indeed, after 8-8, a tricky solution – Strahinja Rasovic scored directly from a corner throw – sent the title-holders off-balance and two more action goals put the hosts 9-11 up before the  final period.  Aaron Younger brought back Recco to life in the fourth, but Nikola Jaksic played the match of his life,  put away man-ups, scored from the centre, then he hit his 6th from the perimeter with 50 seconds  remaining – still, Recco had a last chance and Gergo Zalanki kept his calm to equalise once more, with  0:12 on the clock.  And it was the Hungarian leftie, scoring 5 in the game, who decided the contest in the shootout. Earlier  the biggest heroes fell shy of burying their shots, first Dusan Mandic (won with Recco a year ago, now  missed for NBG), then Younger, then, in the last round, right before Zalanki, Jaksic hit the crossbar to  leave the pool in tears soon – because his last year team-mate executed his shot flawlessly to secure  Recco’s 10th title.  Sandro Sukno joined the elite circle of coaches who won the Champions League both in the water and  in charge at the bench (the other coach-and-player legend, Igor Milanovic lost his first final after winning in 2011 and 2015 – and NBG’s defeat also marked only the 4th time when a team  failed to win the final in its home).   This was the first title-defence since 2008 – back then also Recco clinched back-to-back gold medals.  The Italian record-holder lost a single game in the entire season (back in December to Jug in  Dubrovnik), here they survived some scary moments by denying three man-downs at 10-10 against  Barceloneta in the quarters, and now never ceased fighting, even though they were on the edge of losing  in the last minute of this game.   Ferencvaros won the battle of the exhausted sides for the bronze medal. It was tense game, as usual  between these two, with two red cards apiece, great excitements, fine goals – and with the very same  outcome at the end as last years in the semis: the Magyars won 14-12.   They jumped to a 5-2 lead early, Brescia came back to 6-6 but after 7-8 the Italians had a minor  blackout (three man-ups were gone without a shot) and FTC made them pay for that and led 8-11 before  the last break. The Italians scored two fast goals but after an intense fight, coloured by a series of  expulsions, Ferencvaros managed to bury two man-ups in 61 seconds for a 11-14 lead and that secured  their medal. In fact, they were on the podium at the last three editions, though their trend is perhaps not  the brightest (1st, 2nd, 3rd), still, after losing key players year by year, they were happy with this  outcome.  In the games for the lower ranks, Barceloneta woke up in time to down Hannover with a 6-goal rush in  the third period and let its legendary goalie Dani Lopez bid farewell to his seemingly infinity career on a  winning note. The Spaniard, Champions League winner in 2014, World and European silver medallist  with the national team, contributed a penalty save lately to secure his team’s 5th place finish. When he  was substituted two minutes before the end, the entire pool, including the Hannover players, the referees  and the jury table gave him a round of applause.  In the first game of the last session Marseille upended Jug for the 7th place to record its first win in the  F8 (lost all three matches last season), while the Croats had to settle for their lowest-ever rank in the  finals. Well, in years few shall remember that two days ago, early in the fourth period, they led by two  goals in the quarters against Ferencvaros…  Recaps  Final: Novi Beograd v Recco 13-13, pen: 3-4  The first four minutes produced a grand defensive battle, with a man-up apiece – Radomir Drasovic put  it away for the hosts in the last seconds, while Aaron Younger sent the ball back to the net right away  from 5m after collecting the rebound from the first shot.   Marco de Lungo then stopped Djorjde Vucinic’s ball in a man-down and Giacomo Cannella managed to  gain enough advantage in

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Champions League, Final Eight, Day 3 – FLASH QUOTES

19.30, Final – Novi Beograd v Recco 13-13, pen: 3-4  Igor Milanovic, coach, Novi Beograd  “As a coach I don’t count on and definitely not with the penalties, those are pure luck, so it’s better to  focus on the game itself. I think we did well for most of the time, I’m only a bit upset about the last two  goals, perhaps we should have prevented them, or at least one of them. I think this team worked really  well this season, deserved to play for the title, only small things decided the match today.”  Angelos Vlachopoulos, player, Novi Beograd  “I think we were better during the match. We conceded some unlucky, long-distance goals. I think that  made the difference and some missed opportunities at our side. Also, our man-down was bad, we  weren’t active enough. In the end, the penalties are always like roulette. Hopefully, next year we’ll do  better.”  Sandro Sukno, coach, Recco  “I’m really proud of my players and grateful to them, to my staff and to the club. We have had an  absolutely amazing season, won every competition we entered which is what Pro Recco is all about but  that’s not easy to achieve, I can tell you. Today we fought to the very last moment, never stopped  believing, of course, we did mistakes, but that happens – and I think we deserved this victory too.”  Gergo Zalanki, player, Recco  “This match shares the same spot with the 2020 European Championship final in my heart, as two of the  most outstanding memories of my playing career so far. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t even count  how many goals I scored, I just shot when I felt I had to, and I think the whole team did an amazing job.  I think we are the rightful winners, we worked hard, and according to the scoreboard, the hardest to win  the Champions League this year.”  Pietro Figlioli, player, Recco  “This is my sixth title, but it never gets old, I am ready for more! I still feel like a little kid having fun  playing. It helps that I feel great physically. Also, I play in a team that is so stimulating, every training  makes me want to be better for the team. One of our strengths is that we are a very united team. We  never lost the nerve today. From day one, Sandro built this team in this way. This has been a perfect  year. We have won everything!” 17.00, Bronze medal: Brescia v FTC 12-14 Alessandro Bovo, coach, Brescia  “My players were very tired after the semi-final yesterday, still, for all the man-ups and man-downs,  Ferencvaros played them much better today, so their win is well deserved.”  Boris Vapenski, player, Brescia  “We really came here hoping to play in the final. But then all four semi-finalists are top teams and both  semi-finals were so close. I think that the deciding factor for winning today’s match was the motivation.  At the end, the team that won, obviously wanted it more. Also, we were pretty worn out from yesterday  both physically and psychologically. Yesterday we were seconds away from penalties and then we  conceded that unfortunate goal. I congratulate FTC for their well-deserved victory.”  Zsolt Varga, coach, Ferencvaros  “I’m really happy with this medal, this is a kind of coronation of our season. Basically, we were already  happy with making the Final Eight, the team changed from year to year, so finishing on the podium is a  fantastic result for us. Indeed, both our wins today were a great proof how the team had been growing  and improving during the season. Our whole spring went like that, when we had to be up to the task, to  get points in order to survive, we just got them in Piraeus, here in Belgrade, then at our last two home  matches with Radnicki and Brescia. And again, here, in the tensest moments, we managed to keep our  calm and execute our game-plan when it was needed the most, when we were down by two against Jug,  then here, when everything came down to one man-up and one man-down. This shows that this is a  strong team, with great individuals, who can make our club and the community proud.”  Soma Vogel, goalie, Ferencvaros  “Coming here we hoped to play for the gold for the third time in a row, but sadly it did not happen. All  in all, we had a great season. We won both the Cup and the league title in Hungary. We also did well in  the ‘death group’ of the Champions League. It feels good to finish this season with a medal.”  Nemanja Ubovic, player, Ferencvaros  “The third place in the F8 represents the peak of this season. It was difficult after yesterday when we  lost to Recco when we were so close. At the end, the difference in quality was shown and we just didn’t  have enough strength left. This concludes our season. I must say I am proud with how we as a team  reacted to yesterday’s defeat. Ultimately, maybe we just wanted today’s win better.” 14.00, For 5-6th – Hannover v Barceloneta 10-12  Karsten Seehafer, coach, Hannover  “Of course, we are satisfied with this position and this game was also a good for our team. Qualifying  for the Final Eight was a big success already, we did another double in Germany, so our season was  great, we won a game here and today we also did well. We did some mistakes in the third period in  defence, but that’s something which can happen in a game like this.”  Julian Real, player, Hannover  “Our start was pretty well. Somewhere in the third quarter we lost control in defence. I think it was a  nice match for the fans to watch. We enjoyed playing it. Barcelonetta is a great team. For us, it is a big  success to be here. I don’t think we were ready for the match with Brescia, we were

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LEN Final Eight – Final and Bronze medal match – FACTS & FIGURES

Final – Pro Recco (ITA) v Novi Beograd (SRB)  • This can be Recco’s 10th Champions League title – an absolute record. Partizan Beograd (SRB) and  Mladost Zagreb (CRO) are tied second in the all-time ranks with 7 apiece. Novi Beograd can win its  first title in its brief history.   • Italian clubs claimed 14 titles and were 24 times in the final (this will be their 25th appearance). As for  the Serbs, they have 9 titles and 15 appearances in the final. The last Serbian club to win the Champions  League was Crvena Zvezda in 2013, they also won in Belgrade (in a different location, at the Banjica  Pool).  • So far, Champions League (Champions Cup, Euro League) saw a team winning back-to-back titles 8  times:  Partizan Beograd (YUG) – 1966, 1967  Mladost Zagreb (YUG) – 1968, 1969, 1970 (the only triple)  Partizan Beograd (YUG) – 1975, 1976  Spandau 04 (FRG) – 1986, 1987  Mladost Zagreb (CRO) – 1990, 1991  Jadran Split (CRO) – 1992, 1993  Posillipo Napoli (ITA) – 1997, 1998  Pro Recco (ITA) – 2007, 2008  • Since the inauguration of the Final 4/6/8 format in 1997, the host teams won more than half of the  finals, 11 out of 21 (three editions, 2008, 2012 and 2021 were held in neutral venues). Interestingly, in  the 8 finals held between 2000 and 2007, the host won 7 times.   1997: Posillipo Napoli (ITA) • 2000: Becej (YUG)• 2001: Jug (CRO) • 2003: Recco (ITA) • 2004:  Honved (HUN) • 2005: Posillipo (ITA) • 2006: Jug (CRO) • 2007: Recco (ITA) • 2013: Crvena Zvezda  (SRB) • 2014: Barceloneta (ESP) • 2017: Szolnok (HUN)  • It happened only three times, that the host team reached the final but failed to win it: 2002: Honved (HUN) lost to Olympiacos (GRE) in Budapest  2011: Recco (ITA) lost to Partizan (SRB) in Rome  2018: Recco (ITA) lost to Olympiacos (GRE) in Genova In 2011 the winning Serbian side was coached by Igor Milanovic, who now is in charge at  Novi Beograd.  • Indeed Igor Milanovic, the Serbs’ legend who is a two-time Olympic (1984, 1988) and two-time world  champion (1986, 1991) as a player, won the Champions League 3 times in the pool (with Mladost in  1990 and 1991, with Catalunya in 1995), Then already twice as a coach: he led Partizan to win the  trophy in 2011, then Recco in 2015. He can become the first coach in history to lead three different  teams to Champions League titles. Besides him, Zoltan Kasas (HUN) coached Becej (YUG) in 2000,  then Olympiacos (GRE) in 2002 during their respective title-winning campaigns. • Sandro Sukno can also become a Champions League winning coach after lifted the trophy as a player.  The Croatian was part of Recco’s golden team ten years ago, in 2012.  • From that team, Aleksandar Ivovic is still part of the show, this can be his 4th victory after 2012, 2015  and 2021.  • Aussie Aaron Younger can win the trophy for the 4th time too, since 2017 – he was first with Szolnok  (2017), Ferencvaros (2019) and Recco (2021).  • Among today finalists, Dusko Pijetlovic (NBG) and Pietro Figlioli (REC) already bagged four titles  apiece. Whoever wins, shall join an elite circle of 5-time winner legends like Ozren Bonacic (YUG,  with Partizan&Mladost), Mirko Sandic (YUG, with Partizan), Tamas Kasas (HUN, with  Posillipo&Recco) and Stefano Tempesti (ITA, with Recco). There are two greats with 6 titles: Djordje  Perisic (YUG, with Partizan) and Maurizio Felugo (ITA, with Posillipo&Recco) – Felugo is now the  President of Recco.  • This is going to Recco’s 17th appearance in the final. In the previous 16 they had a 9-7 winning edge.  Lifted the trophy in 1965, 1984, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2021 – and lost in 1967, 1970,  1972, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2018.  • On contrary, this is Novi Beograd’s first-ever appearance in the final.  • Of course, the key players of NGB have already tasted Champions League success in other teams – most notably Dusan Mandic who was the MVP here a year ago while leading Recco to win the title. He  was also part of the Partizan Miracle with Milanovic in 2011.   • Dusko Pijetlovic played for winning team led by Milanovic both in 2011 (Partizan) and in 2015  (Recco) – can they make it for the third time?  • Pijetlovic was also member the last Serbian winning club till date, in Crvena Zvezda in 2013, together  with the Rasovic siblings, Strahinja and Viktor. In fact, Pijetlovic lifted the trophy four times in five  years between 2011 and 2015 (Partizan 2011, Recco 2012, Zvezda 2013, Recco 2015), this could be his  5th victory.  • Nikola Jaksic achieved the unique feat of playing the last three Champions League finals: he won in  2019 and was runner-up in 2021 with Ferencvaros, and now is getting ready with Novi Beograd.  • Mandic, Pijetlovic and Jaksic were there in Tokyo in the Olympic champion Serbian team – together  with NBG team-mates Gojko Pijetlovic and Strahinja Rasovic. • On contrary, after years of strong Serbian presence, there is no freshly crowned Olympic  champion in the title-holder’s roster. The only Olympic gold medallist is the coach Sandro Sukno (won  with Croatia in 2012).   • Still, Recco has plenty of experience – from the 2021 winners, nine players are here to retain their title.  • Interestingly, Milanovic’s Partizan in 2011 also featured a Greek player, Theodoros Chadzitheodoru,  like they have Angelos Vlachopoulos for this season – he made the difference in the final period in the semis against Brescia.  Bronze medal match – Brescia v FTC  • After four unsuccessful attempts to win the quarter-final matches in 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019,  Brescia is now playing its second bronze game match after 2021. Last year they beat Barceloneta 13-7  to claim their best-ever result in the Champions League.  • This is the first bronze medal match for Ferencvaros after they reached the final at their first two  appearances (won in

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Champions League, Final Eight, Belgrade (SRB), Day 2 – Summary

Novi Beograd wins the game of miracles against Brescia, faces Recco in the final  Host Novi Beograd and last year’s bronze medallist Brescia produced arguably the most thrilling  match in recent years which offered everything and even more, brilliant goals, a goalkeeper’s  blast to tie the game and a winner 5 seconds from time by the Serbs. As a contrast, Recco  outpowered Ferencvaros and earned an easy win in the rematch of last year’s final. The Italians  are now ready to retain their title – that would be the first double since 2008 when they had also  achieved the feat of claiming back-to-back triumphs.   Semi-finals: AN Brescia (ITA) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 13-14, Pro Recco (ITA) v FTC-Telekom  Budapest (HUN) 10-7. For places 5-8th: Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v CN Marseille (FRA) 11-9,  Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 12-9. Schedule for Saturday – 12.00, For 7-8th: Marseille v Jug. 14.00, For 5-6th: Hannover v Barceloneta.  17.00, Bronze medal: Brescia v FTC. 19.30, Final: Novi Beograd v Recco  The first semi-final saw everything one would expect in a water polo match – and even more. Brescia  managed to take a two-goal lead twice, at 4-2 in the first, then at 6-4 in the second period, but Novi  Beograd kept coming back. It stood 7-7 at half-time, then Brescia took the lead again and again, still,  the Serbs always found a way to equalise. It went on like this until 11-11, when, after a great save in a  man-down from the hosts’ Brazilian goalie Joao Coimbra, Angelos Vlachopoulos put the hosts ahead  for the first time.  It was Brescia’s turn to equalise, and they just did that twice. The second was simply amazing: 39  seconds remained from the game, the Italians set up a 7 on 6 after a time-out and their goalie, Petar  Tesanovic, instead of taking the usual spot in front of the opposite goal, stayed back and went for a 7m  shot – and the ball hit the back of the net for 13-13! But the real drama was still ahead, and for that, you  need an original Greek – NBG had that hero, Angelos Vlachopoulos, who scored the winner 5 seconds  from time. It was his 5th goal in the game (from 5 shots), and his third in the fourth period (to make it  even more dramatic: Vlachopoulos played for Brescia last season).  Thus, right upon their first try, Novi Beograd made all the way to the final, the first Serbian team since  Radnicki played for the gold medal in 2014 – and the living legend of local water polo, two-time  Olympic champion Igor Milanovic led a third club to the final as a coach, after Partizan (in 2011) and  Recco (in 2015).   The second semi lacked the same tensions and thrills – it was rather the copy of last year’s final when  Recco’s superior condition prevailed against the tiring Hungarians. It stood 5-5 at halftime but a 4-0 run  by the Italians decided the outcome, a late goal did not change anything, Recco won 9-6. This time the  Italians were already 5-4 up at midway, despite missing their first six man-ups – Soma Vogel kept his  team in the game by some fine saves in the early stages –, and in the third period they blew their rivals away. Another 4-0 run till 8-4 did the damage, the Magyars didn’t have too much left in the  tank – two late consolation goals were only enough to lose the match with the similar gap (10-7) as in  last June.  So it was Recco’s turn to make its second final in a row – Ferencvaros achieved that in 2019 and 2021,  now missed the chance to have a triple run – and they also have a chance to retain their title; the Italians  were the last one to do it, but it happened long ago, in 2007 and 2008.  In the games played for the 5-8th places, Hannover managed to pull off another upset, just like last year  against Olympiacos – this time the Germans downed Marseille with a fine finish. They had lost to them  twice in the prelims and for three periods the French were in control here too. Then they faded in the  fourth and Peter Muslim led Waspo to a big win – the Croat scored six goals, including five of  Hannover’s last six hits.   In the other game the two utterly disappointed QF losers faced off. Unlike the teams in the previous  encounter, both Barceloneta and Jug were really close to cause an upset but fell short by a single goal – and this had a lasting impact. The Spaniards had more reserves, produced a 4-0 run after 2-2 and even  though Jug had a bit similar surge as a day before when it came back from 6-2 to 7-6, the Croats were  unable to hold on, Barceloneta rebuilt its 4-goal lead and never looked back.  Recaps  Semi-finals  Brescia v Novi Beograd 13-14  The Serbs could have drawn first blood, but Strahinja Rasovic was denied in a clear 2 on 1 by Petar  Tesanovic – and the ‘re-counter’ was finished by Nicholas Constantin-Bicari with a fine 5m shot. The  hosts equalised right away, Radomir Drasovic put away an extra. It wasn’t a problem for Brescia either,  Vincenzo Dolce netted their first extra for 2-1. Not the next one, though, Joao Coimbra came up with  two big saves, the first one with his head – but he couldn’t put a hand on Vincenzo Renzuto’s ball  coming from the perimeter.   Miroslav Perkovic pulled one back after he calmly put away a man-up from close but Jacopo Alesiani’s  outside shot also sneaked in from the goalie’s hand for 4-2. Vasilije Martinovic badly missed NBG’s  next 6 on 5, then Brescia wasted back-to-back extras in the same possession. The gap could have been  three, instead, Martinovic stepped up and netted the next extra from the same spot, to show some  courage, so it

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Champions League, Final Eight, Day 2 – FLASH QUOTES

14.30, For 5-8th places: Hannover v Marseille 11-9  Karsten Seehafer, coach, Hannover  “For us this is a big win. We did it last year against Olympiacos, done it again now against Marseille,  two great teams of quality so for us this is a huge achievement. We played much better today than  yesterday, especially in defence, our man-up worked much better, but it was the defence and our  wonderful goalie Moritz Schenkel who made the difference. Oh, and of course Petar Muslim, he had his  usual big day today. Qualifying here and winning a game here is a huge success for Waspo and we have  one more game to play. That will be hard, for sure, but now let us be just happy for what we just did.”  Petar Muslim, player, Hannover  “After yesterday’s loss today we showed what a team play is. I am really glad with how we have reacted  to yesterday’s defeat. Yesterday Brescia litteraly shut us down with their agressive play. Today we  showed that Waspo does have a place at F8. We are absolutely looking forward to tomorrow’s match  and want to make a step up from last year’ s 6th place. It would be a great farewell of this team that has  been together for three years and has won so many trophies.”  Marko Macan, player, Hannover  “We reacted well to yesterday’s defeat and this is what makes me proud and hopeful for tomorrow.  Yesterday was really bad. Today we won against Marseille which had defeated us in group phase twice  this season. They are a great team. Tomorrow we want to do more and try to catch the 5th place as a  step forward for the future.”  Milos Scepanovic, coach, Marseille  “We could have won this game earlier but somehow we didn’t have the necessary power to score in the  important moments. As you know, we had positive cases here in the team, missed an important player  which affects our rotation and that made more of our key men exhausted. But we should still have  played much better than this, as we showed many times in the season. I’m really sorry that we couldn’t  repeat that level here, we definitely play below our level in this tournament. But we qualified here,  developed a lot in the season, we lost twice here but this happens in sport.”  Vladan Spaic, player, Marseille  “It was a difficult match to play after yesterday’s loss. We had a good season, we were 2nd in our  group. I don’t know, maybe we weren’t prepared psychologically good enough. I think we should have  done better today. We will try to do better tomorrow and show what we know and can do.”  Ugo Crousillat, player, Marseille  “For sure, we wanted to win today. My congratulations to our rivals, they absolutely deserved to win.  We were really bad today but tomorrow we will do everything to win. Of course these matches are not  easy to play but we are athletes and that’s sport.” 16.30, For places 5-8th, Barceloneta v Jug 12-9  Elvis Fatovic, coach, Barceloneta  “It was hard for both teams to recover from last day’s matches and neither team could play on the same  level as yesterday. I was happy to see how the players reacted and I think this win just reinforces that  we have had a good season, despite the loss yesterday. Today in the third Jug started coming back, it  was no surprise, they changed their game a bit, we started committing mistakes in front, and they are  extremely good in counterattacks. Once we calmed down and began to play smarter in attack – as the  defensive mistakes were originated from the attacks –, we regained the control.”  Oscar Asensio, player, Barceloneta  “After yesterday’s loss it was really difficult to concentrate on today’s match. However, we really did  want to win in order to play for the 5th place. It was important for us. We wanted to represent our club  in the best possible way.”  Unai Biel, player, Barceloneta  “It was difficult to play today after losing yesterday’s game. Luckily, F8 is played every year unlike the  Olympics. Still, we did our best and everything our coach wanted us to do. For sure, we want to win  tomorrow too. Waspo is a tough, typical German team. They are strong and never give up. I think our  advantage will be our pace.”  Vjekoslav Kobescak, coach, Jug  “Even if it looked like that, we were doing the same what we had done against Ferencvaros – it was  absolutely not the same, nothing similar. Both teams were exhausted, both of us lost in the same way  and we gave everything, really everything yesterday. Even there was a small hope in the third, right  from the beginning it was obvious, that it’s not the same speed and it also turned out that we had less  gasoline in the tank. It’s not good to lose but the one yesterday was more painful. Tomorrow we try to  finish our season with a win, that would be important as all in all we had a good run this year.”  Loren Fatovic, captain, Jug  “Both teams lost yesterday and were kind of playing by force. We were tired. Once again, we suffered  for having short roster this season. All in all, what is important is that we coclude this season without  penalties or injuries before a busy summer ahead. I wish all the luck to all four semi-finalists.”  Maro Jokovic, player, Jug  “It was a physically demanding match. We had some good moves but felt a bit tired after yesterday.  They were forcing fast rhythm which we could not keep up. Still it is a great learning experience for our  young players.” 18.30 Semi-final: Brescia v Novi Beograd 13-14  Alessandro Bovo, coach, Brescia  “Maybe it was entertaining for the fans but not for me as a coach. I think we played well in several parts  of the game, but our defence did not work as effectively

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LEN Final Eight – Semifinals – FACTS & FIGURES

General  • In the Prelims, Group A has been labelled as the toughest group ever in the history of the Champions  League. Quarter-finals mirrored that: three of the semi-finalists come from Group A (ranked 1-3rd) and  the 4th placed side Barceloneta almost upset title-holder Recco to make a complete sweep by Group A  teams.  • Three semi-finalists are the same as in last year: Recco, FTC and Brescia made the top four again.  Novi Beograd is the new one (Barceloneta came up short this time). Recco and FTC were also part of  the SF show in 2019.  • Just like last year, Italy has two teams in the semis. This happened three more times since the  introduction of the F6/8 format: 2017: Szolnok, Eger (HUN), 2015: Primorje, Jug (CRO), 2014:  Radnicki, Partizan (SRB).  • The most dominant scene was seen in 2006: three Italian clubs advanced to the Final Four (Recco,  Posillipo, Savona), though host Jug pipped them for the title.  • All four semi-finalists are coached by former players who are Olympic champions – Brescia:  Alessandro Bovo (ITA, 1992), Novi Beograd: Igor Milanovic (YUG, 1984, 1988), Ferencvaros: Zsolt  Varga (HUN, 2000), Recco: Sandro Sukno (CRO, 2012)  • There is a chance for an all-Italian final – the last time two clubs from the same nation clashed for the  trophy happened in 1998, when Posillipo Napoli and Pescara (both ITA) met in the F4 in Zagreb. This  scene happened only twice earlier in history: there was an all-Croatian final between Jadran Split and  Mladost in 1993 and all-Yugoslavian contest between Partizan and Mladost in 1971.  Head-to-head, team stats  18.30 AN Brescia (ITA) v Novi Beograd (SRB)  • The two sides already met in the prelims. Here in Belgrade, they played an 11-11 draw on 14  December – Boris Vapenski saved one point for the Italians with a man-up goal 0:05 minutes from time.  In Brescia, Novi Belgrade won 16-13, that was Brescia’s first loss in the prelims on Day 10. Dusko  Pijetlovic (5 goals) and Nikola Jaksic (4) were the Serbians’ heroes of that game. • Brescia failed to reach the semis upon its first four tries in the F6/8 (lost QFs in 2014, 2017, 2018,  2019), in Belgrade they made the top four again after 2021.  • Novi Beograd reached the semis right on their first appearance in the F8.  20.30 Pro Recco (ITA) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN)  • This is the rematch of last years final: Recco won 9-6 a year ago here in Belgrade. • Other recent encounters – prelims: 2019-20: 13-13 (in Recco, Budapest game wasn’t held after the  cancellation of the rest of the season). 2018-19: 9-6, 13-7.  • This is the 7th consecutive semi-final appearance for Recco. They won 3 (2015, 2018, 2021), lost 3  (2016, 2017, 2019).  • Ferencvaros had two F8 appearances and reached the finals both times (2019, 2021)

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Champions League, Final Eight, Day 1- FLASH QUOTES

14.30, Quarter-final: AN Brescia v Waspo 98 Hannover 12-5 Alessandro Bovo, coach, Brescia “I think during the whole game we played very well in defence, that was the key today. We had many exclusions but we played our man-down well, we have good energy, good pace, controlled the game so I’m very satisfied with our performance.” Christian Presciutti, captain, Brescia “We went into the match strongly and concentrated, knowing fully well that is the only right way for us. They are a really strong team with excellent players. We know what we want at this F8 and it was important for us to get into our rhythm. Now we must recuperate, get our energy back and keep going for the semi-final.” Boris, Vapnenski, player, Brescia “We started off with determination. For us, this is the only way if we want to win no matter who we’re playing against. It was also important for us to get our rhythm. The 1st match is always the hardest. I think we managed to save enough energy for tomorrow. I was already asked who would we prefer but all I can say that of course it’s always more difficult playing against the home team. Having said that I come from Belgrade and wish them well too.” Karsten Seehafer, coach, Hannover “Our offence was down during the whole game, we were missing our man-ups in succession. Brescia played well, aggressively, they kept us under pressure during the whole game at each position, almost everywhere in the pool and we had to even fight to have fouls. They were the better team, no doubt, so I congratulate them.” Marko Macan, player, Hannover “I am angry at myself first and foremost. Brescia fully deserved today’s win. They are a top team. They started off strongly, I mean just days ago they were playing the final series against Recco in Italy. For us, to be able to beat a team like that, we need to be at our 120% and today we were far from it. We are all to blame for missing this opportunity. Last year we were 6th so we must keep our head up and try to make a step further no matrer who comes. We’ve been together for almost two years now and it’s a shame that we couldn’t capitalise on that better today.” Matija Brguljan, player, Hannover “I am not satisfied with myself or the team in general. Brescia played a fair game and fully deserved to win. They were better today. I really thought that we could be competetive but we simply didn”t deserve to win today. I think we didn’t play nor prepared for this match in the best way.” 16.30, Quarter-final: Recco v Barceloneta 11-10 Sandro Sukno, coach, Recco “We faced a very good team, Barceloneta played an excellent game, both teams could have won it but at the end we did that and that what counts in games like this. I think the first period was a bit strange, there were too many goals, defences did not find the right rhythm, but then everything was settling, and the real match began. We did not play that well, for sure, but we never stopped fighting, going ahead. You know, it’s not easy to be part of Pro Recco, you come here, everywhere you hear, Recco, Recco, Recco, the other seven teams don’t have that pressure, but we really showed that we are a TEAM, played like a team and this brought us to the semi-final, and I hope we won’t stop there.” Francesco di Fulvio, player, Recco “It was a really tough match. We knew it would be like that. When Munarriz came back, their game improved a lot. We never lost the nerve during the match, no matter if we were up or down in that moment, we maintained our focus. I think this is the most beautiful F8 in last couple of years. You have four-five teams all ready to seize the trophy. I don’t care who comes next. We must concentrate on our own game.” Elvis Fatovic, coach, Barceloneta “We had our chances to win this game, but we missed them. I don’t know the stats but our man-up was too bad, we missed a lot, especially when we had very important ones. Sometimes we scored easily, then we missed two or three at 10-10. That was a combination of our mistakes and Recco’s great defending. It was great to qualify, we wanted more and we were close to achieve that but what can I say, Recco deserved to win this match at the end.” Felipe Perrone, captain, Barceloneta “It was the little details that ultimately decided the match. They played the second half better than we did. Both teams displayed fantastic tactics. Now we have two more games and we must play them the right way. Then shortly the Worlds are starting, it us a very busy summer for water polo.” Albert Munarriz, player, Barceloneta “It was a very tough match. We had a man-up plus a time-out towards the end and didn’t score, they made their man-up about a minute and a half before the end and that was it. It was the little details that proved to be decisive. It was a very good match to watch and a real festival of the beauty of our sport. We have two more matches, we need to recover and prepare for them. It is important to finish the season in a positive way.” 18.30, Quarter-final: Marseille v Novi Beograd 10-16 Milos Scepanovic, coach, Marseille “Well, this is not the prelims, a much higher level where you need to bring your best. Today we couldn’t do that, but I don’t want to look dissatisfied. Of course, I am a bit, and I don’t want to look for excuses either, still, we missed a key player from our rotation and that required extra efforts from the other players, and they got exhausted after a while. This is

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Champions League, Final Eight, Belgrade (SRB), Day 1 – Summary

Recco, Ferencvaros survive thrillers, Novi Beograd, Brescia enjoy easy cruises Last season’s finalists survived thrillers to reach the semis once again. Title-holder Recco did it for the 7th time in a row after downing Barceloneta 11-10, while Ferencvaros won its 3rd quarter-final in as many appearances, coming back from two goals down in the fourth against Jug. Brescia also made the top four like in 2021, with an easy win over Hannover, while host Novi Beograd crushed Marseille to reach the semis right on their first try. Quarter-finals: AN Brescia (ITA) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 12-5, Pro Recco (ITA) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) 10-11, Olympique Marseille (FRA) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 10-16, FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 14-13. Schedule for Saturday – Semi-finals, 18.30: Brescia v Novi Beograd, 20.30: Recco v FTC. For 5-8th: 14.30: Hannover v Marseille, 16.30: Barceloneta v Jug Barceloneta pushed Recco to the edge and missed three man-ups in a row at 10-10 in the fourth period, but the Italian defence withstood the pressure, denied all and Hungarian leftie Gergo Zalanki scored the game-winner for the title-holders with 1:16 from time. Earlier in the game Recco fell behind after 4-3 and chased the Spaniards basically for three periods. Changing their goalie and some fine defending saved them at 5-7 and they really stepped up in the fourth to pass their toughest test in the season and reach the semis for the 7th time in a row. 2019 champion and last year’s runner-up Ferencvaros was flying high in the first half of the game against Jug, but a four-minute scoreless period, followed by a six-minute drought turned the game into a thriller (they scored 8 in the first half, and only one in the third). The Croats came back from three goals down and early in the fourth they led 10-12 before Denes Varga started his magics. His double in 35 seconds brought the Magyars back to life and they edged out Jug – just like in 2019 – for another semi-final appearance. It’s due against Recco, so the 2021 final shall be replayed in the top four. As for the lop-sided matches, Brescia’s trouncing of Hannover came as no surprise, the Italians delivered the win with ease, as a favourite should do. A 7-0 run in the first half did enough damage to enjoy a calmer second half. They will face Novi Beograd in the semi-final as the hosts breathed through the game against Marseille. The French enjoyed an amazing 11-game winning streak in the prelims but lost their last two matches and their sinking didn’t seem to stop here. They conceded 16 goals, the most in the season. The Serbs were in the mood – as their legendary coach Igor Milanovic said –, they produced a series of brilliant goals and made the semis right on their first appearance in the F8. In the group they already met Brescia, played an 11-11 tie in this pool before handing Brescia its first defeat in the prelims in Italy (13-16). Game recaps Brescia v Hannover 12-5 The Germans would have needed a perfectly executed game-plan in order to have a chance against the hotly favoured Italians – brilliant defending and effective offense. They lacked both, especially their attacks seemed to be weak though here the credits went to the Brescia defence which were as aggressive as ever and Petar Tesanovic also did a splendid job in the goal. Though Hannover opened the scoring, Brescia hit back quickly then added three more in the last three minutes of the opening period, including one with one second remaining on the clock. The trend didn’t change in the following quarter, it happened for the second time in the first half that Hannover played a 6 on 5, missed it and Brescia scored from the ensuing one-on-one counter, the worst-case scenario according to the coaches’ handbook… Hannover was 7-1 down when they could score again in the dying seconds, indeed they had a scoreless phase of 14:19 minutes when Brescia scored seven unanswered goals and that decided the match by halftime. In the third, after an early exchange of goals the pace of the game slowed down, Brescia didn’t push that hard while the Germans were unable to penetrate their defence seriously. Shortly before the last break the Italians netted two in a minute, though, while Hannover pulled one back from a penalty, but the 10-4 lead set up a calm finish for the Italians. Recco v Barceloneta 11-10 It was as thrilling as it could be – the clash of the 9-time champion and the team which can be considered a regular semi-final participant (and won the title in 2014). Recco seemed to gain control in the first period, took the lead three times but the Spaniards managed to equalise thrice. Even though initially they struggled to find their rhythm but a 6 on 4 helped them to score their first after three minutes and did some fine defending as well. Still, Recco was in front after the first period as five seconds were enough for Aleksandar Ivovic to put away a man-up in last second for 4-3. The first twist came at the beginning of the second when the Spaniards netted two within a minute, both from action to put Recco to the chaser’s position. Aaron Younger levelled the score from an extra and then came more than four minutes of brilliant battling, one man-up was missed at both ends, defences worked well and we seemed to have a tied first half but Felipe Perrone sent the ball to the top left corner from the perimeter for 5-6. Barceloneta looked more focused, 13 out of their 14 shots were on target while Recco had 7 out of 18. As far as concentration is concerned, the opening scene in the third showed nothing different when Marc Larumbe’s ball, coming from almost zero angle in the last second of the possession, bounced in from

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