Qualification Round

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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Champions League, Main Round, Day 14, Group A – Summary

Another comeback secured Ferencvaros’ second position  FTC-Telekom staged a great comeback against group-winner Brescia, scoring five goals in the  last period to keep the second place. Since Barceloneta and Novi Beograd also did its respective  ‘home works’, the F8 host Serbs finished third and the Spaniards remained fourth and need to  face title-holder Recco in the quarter-finals.  Group A (Wednesday)  FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA) 8-6, Jadran Split (CRO) v Zodiac Atletic  Barceloneta (ESP) 13-15, Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 11-13, Dinamo Tbilisi  (GEO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 14-13  Final rankings: 1. Brescia 30, 2. Ferencvaros 28, 3. Novi Beograd 27, 3. Barceloneta 27, 5.  Olympiacos 20, 6. Radnicki 13, 7. Jadran 9, 8. Dinamo 6  Tie-breaking: Novi B v Barceloneta 11-9, 12-12  Final Eight, Quarter-finals: Brescia v Hannover, Ferencvaros v Jug, Novi Beograd v Marseille,  Barceloneta v Recco (The schedule and starting times are to be published later)  Ferencvaros and Brescia produced hard-fought battles in the previous season, the Italians downed the  Magyars twice in the prelims only to lose them in a spectacular match in the semis. This autumn they  produced a thrilling draw on the opening day, and they came up with another memorable showdown in  this last round.  Brescia, had won the group already, forced another big fight and kept the game under control till early  in the fourth leading 3-5. However, the Magyars did a great job and managed to score five in the last  period, Denes Varga’s 15m backhanded shot to the empty net in the last seconds was a coronation of  this great encounter. (Daniil Merkulov scored the crucial goal after 6-6 with 13 seconds to go – just like  he did in Barceloneta when his late shot earned a valuable point for his team.)  Barceloneta did a fine job in Split, though the level of the Spaniards’ defence dropped in the last one  and a half periods and the Croats came back from to 13-14 after being four goals down but Barceloneta  managed to net one more to bag all three points.  The last game of the prelims was the in-house derby of the Serbians – since they face each other in their  domestic final, Radnicki was no way making the life of the Novi Beograd players any easier. Indeed,  they kept their arch-rivals under pressure for four periods, had a penalty at 10-11 but missed it and  Nikola Jaksic put away a man-up in the next possession for 10-12. That decided the game and secured  Novi Beograd’s third place and a quarter-final against Marseille, an obviously more promising match up than facing title-holder Recco on the opening day of the Final Eight, even at their home.  In the fourth game Dinamo upset Olympiacos – the Greeks’ season ended in utter disappointment,  instead of playing for the trophy, they claimed only one point in their last four matches. Recaps  FTC v Brescia 8-6  Brescia didn’t offer any free meal for the hosts even though the game didn’t matter for the Italians,  rather for the Magyars who needed a win to secure the second place. However, the visitors wanted to  bounce back from the shocking defeat in the first leg of the Italian semis (had lost to Trieste at home) so  their approach was pretty serious throughout the match.  It was mirrored by their very tough and disciplined defensive efforts, the Magyars found really hard to  find fine scoring chances, Petar Tesanovic stopped the forced shots with ease while his team-mates  made most of their opportunities in front.  Boris Vapenski put away the first man-up after just 33 seconds, Denes Varga did the same at the other  end two and a half minutes later. The hosts missed their next two extras and even though a save denied  Brescia in its 6 on 5, Christian Presciutti managed to send the ball to the net while the excluded player  rushed back.  The following period began the same way, Vincenzo Renzuto scored from action for 1-3 and even  though the Italians couldn’t score more in the remaining 7:35 minutes, they did their best in the back to  concede only one – Marton Vamos blasted one from the perimeter with 3:09 before the middle break  but couldn’t go on aftar that.  A bit contrasting, Ferencvaros opened the scoring in the third, Szilard Jansik put the ball away from a  man-up after 50 seconds for 3-3 but this time the hosts were unable to carry on and remained scoreless  for 7:10 minutes. The Magyars didn’t have any clean shots on equal strength and struggled to convert  man-ups, missed two in the previous period and four more in this one. Nicolas Constantin-Bicari  finished off a man-up nicely a bit later for 3-4 – and the rest of the period was devoted to defensive  greatness, both sides had some heroic efforts to kill man-downs one after the other.  The Magyars seemed to get in trouble early in the fourth when Stefano Luongo scored from action for  3-5 but for the first time they found some rhythm, Denes Varga offered another glimpse of his magical  skills when he just let the ball fly from 7m and 45 seconds later Erik Molnar finished off a counter for   5-5. Still, Brescia had more, Constantin-Bicari sold another great wrist-shot against his former team mates to convert a man-up for 5-6 and the 2019 champions needed two goals in the remaining 2:24  minutes to reach safe waters (and avoid dropping to the fourth place and a QF match-up with Recco).   The first arrived from a penalty, hotly questioned by the Italians (it was called after a rebound in a man down) – Marton Vamos buried it with 1:24 to go for 6-6, but the draw was still not enough as it was  hard to imagine that Barceloneta and Novi Beograd would not win their respective matches a bit later.  Their defence worked well, a steal offered the Magyars another opportunity, they earned a man-up,  called a time-out and Daniil Merkulov

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Champions League, Main Round, Day 14, Group B – Summary

Recco staged eight minutes of power-demonstration  Recco beat Marseille and sealed its usual No. 1 position in the prelims – a perfect 5-0 storm in the  second period secured the title-holders’ win over the group’s runner-up. A late 0-3 surge earned a  point to Jug’s teen team in Hannover, while OSC gained a consolation win in Bucharest and  Crvena Zvezda managed to avoid being bottom-ranked, thanks to a last-grasp winner in Berlin.  Group B: Pro Recco (ITA) v CN Marseille (FRA) 11-8, Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Jug Croatia  Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 14-14, Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 11-12, Steaua  Bucharest (ROU) v Genesys-OSC Budapest (HUN) 9-15  Standings: 1. Recco 39, 2. Marseille 33, 3. Jug 31, 4. Hannover 21, 5. OSC 19, 6. Spandau 10, 7.  Zvezda 7, 8. Steaua 4  Everything has been decided on Day 13 in this group, not even the Final Eight berths but the rankings as  well – so the games were entertaining and also used by the teams to gear up for the final crucial matches  of the season.  Recco inaugurated its magnificent sea-side outdoor pool with a fine win over runner-up Marseille. The  Italians staged an eight-minute-long power demonstration in the second period when they rushed to an  8-3 lead – but the French climbed back and had possessions to go even at 9-8 early in the fourth before  Recco closed down the contest.  Since the current format of the Champions League has been launched in 2014, Recco finished atop in all  but one season – it was right in the first edition in 2014 when in a rare scenario they came second and  had three defeats in the group (and finished 6th in the F6). In the seven full seasons played since, the  Italian giant had three more losses in 82 group matches (and a fourth one in the halted pandemic  season). All in all, in the last eight years they produced 84 wins, 3 ties and 4 losses in the prelims (78-1- 3 without 2020), and they posted perfect marks four times (10/10 in 2015, 2017, 2021 and 14/14 in  2019) and never had more than one loss in the other four years.  The battle of the other two qualified sides ended in a spectacular draw. All credits go to Jug’s  youngsters as the Croats fielded only four of their regular players (though they netted 13 goals out of  14) and nine juniors as their focus is on their championship final series. Hannover seemed to have the  game in hand at 14-11 but Jug managed to save it to a draw with a great rush at the end.  In the matches of the lower ranked sides, OSC claimed another consolation win in Bucharest while  Crvena Zvezda finished the prelims the same way they had started it on Day 1: they beat Spandau, this  time with a goal scored 0:06 on the clock. Too bad that they could grab only a single point in the 12  rounds between these two matches. Recaps  Recco v Marseille 11-8  The clash of the top two offered some fine water polo – in fact a seven-goal win for Marseille would  have altered the rankings but that was something no one had seen coming, not even the French.  Gergo Zalanki scored the first Champions League goal in the newly opened pool, Benjamin Hallock  added another one later while Marseille needed five minutes to open its account. But they managed to  score more in the first, indeed two in the last 40 seconds so it stood 3-3 after eight minutes.  The next chapter was absolutely different, it was Recco all the way and a strong message for the top  guys in Group A: go for your wins tomorrow and try to avoid a clash with us or you may face the same  fate. Indeed, the Italians blew the French away with a 5-0 storm, their offence was overwhelming, their  defence was perfect (killed two man-downs) so they were 8-3 up at halftime.  However, the third unfolded differently – the perfect storm was over, Marseille scored from a penalty  and a man-up in 48 seconds and that gave their confidence back. Though Hallock put away a 6 on 5 for  9-5, another man-up goal and another penalty halved the gap while Recco missed two extras. When  Andrija Prlainovic netted the French’s first man-up at the beginning of the fourth, the game heated up  pretty much at 9-8 and after killing a man-down, Marseille had a couple of possessions to go equal. But  they couldn’t score from those – indeed, they didn’t add any more in the last 7:19 minutes while  Aleksandar Ivovic blasted his third for 10-8 and after some fine defending by the title-holders, Hallock  put an end to the contest from a dying man-up.   Hannover v Jug 14-14  In the middle of the Croatian league final, Jug sent a team full of youngsters – only four key players  ’accompanied’ the teens to Hannover – so the Germans’ task looked easy: mark the four ‘seniors’ and  the game can be handled with ease. Well, if that was the plan, it did not work for sure as the two Greeks,  Stylianos Argyropoulos and Alexandros Papanastasiou, plus the two elder Croats Marko Zuvela and  Filip Krzic (whose father, Ognjen substituted the head coach Vjeko Kobescak for this tour) scored 13 of  the 14 goals Jug produced.  Still, Hannover had the game in hand – though the ‘teen squad’ held on for a while and grabbed the lead  in the first half eight times, but the Germans managed to equalise every time and after 8-8 a double in  46 seconds gave them a 10-8 lead at the halfway mark.  The Croats climbed back early in the third with two action goals from Papanastasiou but in the  remaining time of this quarter the hosts stepped up, scored three unanswered goals, killed two man downs before the last break so they seemed to sit comfortable in the driving

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Champions League, Main Round, Day 14 – Preview

Avoiding Recco  All spots are booked for the Final Eight, the rankings are cemented in Group B – so the last round  of the prelims offers minor excitements for Wednesday when Group A contestants stage a last  surge to keep or shake up the current positions. The fourth placed side will face title-holder Pro  Recco in the quarter-finals.  Ferencvaros has a single-point advantage in this ‘avoiding Recco’ game – though the 2019 champions  have the toughest match-up on paper, an encounter with group-winner Brescia. The Hungarians have  enjoyed a brilliant run recently, claimed big away wins over Novi Beograd and Olympiacos, a hard fought home victory against Radnicki – and lately they thrashed fellow Champions League participant  OSC 18-9 in the domestic league final. On contrary, Brescia suffered a shocking home defeat against  Trieste in the Italian semis – and this upcoming match means little or nothing for the Italians as they  already won the group, though they may wish to use it to bounce back for the home play-offs.  The other two rivals chasing the higher ranks in Group A are F8 host Novi Beograd and Barceloneta.  The Serbs have another showdown with their good old arch-rivals Radnicki – it’s also a rehearsal for  their probable clash in the domestic final. Barceloneta, sitting in the fourth place, visits Jadran in Split,  an almost sure win for the Spaniards but it can make no impact if Ferencvaros and Radnicki also pulls  off wins. In the head-to-head, Novi Beograd is favoured as they played a 12-12 draw and beat the  Spanish 11-9 at home.  The top four positions are settled in Group A – well, Marseille may finish atop if the team stages a  miracle in Recco and wins by 7 goals, but this is something not even the French are dreaming of. All  other games are about finetuning for the season-ending clashes in the respective play-offs across Europe  – and of course, for the Final Eight to be held in Belgrade on 2-4 June, in the indoor pool of Novi  Beograd.  Group A (Wednesday)  18.30 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA)  19.00 Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)  19.00 Jadran Split (CRO) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)  20.30 Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Novi Beograd (SRB)  Standings: 1. Brescia 30, 2. Ferencvaros 25, 3. Novi Beograd 24, 3. Barceloneta 24, 5. Olympiacos 20,  6. Radnicki 13, 7. Jadran 9, 8. Dinamo 3  Group B (Tuesday)  18.15 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)  19.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v CN Marseille (FRA)  19.00 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB)  20.00 Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Genesys-OSC Budapest (HUN) Standings: 1. Recco 36, 2. Marseille 33, 3. Jug 30, 4. Hannover 20, 5. OSC 16, 6. Spandau  10, 7. Steaua 4, 8. Zvezda 4 

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Champions League, Main Round, Day 13, Group A – Summary

Brescia finishes atop, Ferencvaros, Hannover book last berths, Olympiacos is out  Ferencvaros and Hannover booked the last two available berths in the Day of Thrillers when each  game offered nailbiting finishes – three were decided by a single goal, the other two ended in a  draw. Olympiacos, built for another title-run, will miss the finals for the first time since 2015, a  last-grasp goal by Novi Beograd even denied their win today. Ferencvaros beat Radnicki after  giant struggles and that not only secured their F8 spot but lift them to the second place as Brescia  earned a draw in Barceloneta which also secured the Italians’ top spot in the group. In the clash  of the Germans, Hannover delivered the necessary victory over Spandau in Group B, so they will  return to Belgrade after last year’s appearance in the finals.  Group A: Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 12-12, FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v  Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) 13-12, Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v AN Brescia (ITA) 12-12,  Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v Jadran Split (CRO) 12-11  Standings: 1. Brescia 30, 2. Ferencvaros 25, 3. Novi Beograd 24, 3. Barceloneta 24, 5. Olympiacos 20,  6. Radnicki 13, 7. Jadran 9, 8. Dinamo 3  Group B: Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) 10-9  Standings: 1. Recco 36, 2. Marseille 33, 3. Jug 30, 4. Hannover 20, 5. OSC 16, 6. Spandau 10, 7.  Steaua 4, 8. Zvezda 4  After a cost-saving season, Olympiacos boosted its line-up once more with quality foreigners (with the  core of Greece’s Olympic silver medallist team already in the house), and their target was definite: to  win the cup again. They reached the finals three times between 2016 and 2019, lifted the trophy in 2018  – but this season something went wrong as they will not go to Belgrade.  They should have needed a miracle after losing to Ferencvaros on Day 12 – but they couldn’t deliver  their part in the afternoon as they were unable to beat Novi Beograd. The Serbs were leading most of  the time, though the Greeks came back in the fourth, even took the lead, but a buzzer-beater one-timer  by Strahinja Rasovic saved the game to a tie after a time-out called 0:01 to go.  This made Ferencvaros’ job easier, they needed a single point against already eliminated Radnicki to  advance. However, they found themselves in the midst of a giant struggle as their rivals got a two-goal  lead early in the second period and could even hold it early in the fourth. But the Magyars fought back  and with a 3-0 run they turned the game, then scored the winner after 12-12.   This not only sent them to the finals but also rocketed them to the second place, thanks to Brescia’s fine  efforts in Barceloneta. The Italians offered another convincing performance, two missed penalties in the  third rocked the Spaniards’ boat and even though they fought hard and managed to level the score with  a double in the last 70 seconds, but they never had a real chance to win this game. A victory would have  put them back to the runner-up position – at the same time, Brescia cemented its top ranks and they can  even lose in Budapest on the last day. Dinamo saved some pride, beating Jadran in an exciting, tight match meant that they would  not finish the season with zero points.  In Group B, Hannover needed a win against fellow German side Spandau to secure a third F8 berth in as  many seasons. Spandau didn’t offer any free meal for its local arch-rival but with a 4-0 run by the hosts  from 4-6 to 8-6 – and a 12:50-minute long silence of the Berliners – put the encounter on the desired  path and Waspo prevailed at the end.  Recaps  Olympiacos v Novi Beograd 12-12  The two sides produced a brilliant battle – too bad that Olympiacos was set to bow out even before the match, as it was hard to see that Ferencvaros would go down twice in its remaining two home  encounters – that was the Greeks’ only chance, besides beating Novi Beograd first, then Dinamo in  Tbilisi.  In fact, they failed to complete the first part of the mission. The Greeks’ game was all but consistent in the season – and that was mirrored in this match too.  They needed almost six minutes to score their first goal, then they managed to add another one in 50 seconds, only to concede two more in 35sec, the second one 3sec from time. Their struggles became  even more visible in the second period when they had no less than six man-ups plus at least two more  clean scoring chances but could only net two goals while the Serbs made most of their chances and led  4-6 at halftime.  Then all of a sudden – or in three minutes, until the middle break lasted – the home side went through a transformation and came back flying. In 1:42 minutes they scored three unanswered goals for 7-6, then  killed a man-down and had a 6 on 5 to double the gap but it was wasted and soon Strahinja Rasovic  equalised from action. Filip Filipovic replied with a fine blast against his fellow Serbs but after a save  Vasilje Martinovic could send the ball home from the wing in a dying extra for 8-8. The Serbs missed  their next one while Georgios Dervisis converted the Greeks’ 6 on 5 – still, there was time for another  equaliser, by Radomir Drasovic, again from a man-up, so the last quarter started from 9-9. It looked inevitable that the outcome would come down to the man-up conversions in the last period as  the defences worked hard and didn’t let any easy goals. The Serbs buried their first two, the Greeks kept  their nerves and replied immediately both times. The first miss came from the visitors at 11-11 and  Konstantinos Genidounias hit the back of the net from the Greeks’ extra, after a time-out,

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Champions League, Main Round, Day 12, Group A – Summary

Brescia goes to Belgrade, FTC is set to join at the expense of Olympiacos  Olympiacos, which made the final three times between 2016 and 2019, may miss the Final Eight  for the first time since 2015 as 2019 winner and last season’s runner-up Ferencvaros upended  them in Piraeus – thanks to the out-of-Earth performance of its goalkeeper Soma Vogel. An easy  win confirmed Brescia as the first side to book its spot in Belgrade from Group A (besides host  Novi Beograd) and Barceloneta is also on its way to return to the big stage.  Group A: Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 8-10, Zodiac Atletic  Barceloneta (ESP) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 18-4, AN Brescia (ITA) v Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) 12- 8. Friday: Novi Beograd (SRB) v Jadran Split (CRO) 14-7.  Standings: 1. Brescia 29, 2. Novi Beograd 23, 3. Barceloneta 23, 4. Ferencvaros 22, 4. Olympiacos 19,  6. Radnicki 13, 7. Jadran 9, 8. Dinamo 0  In the rematch of the 2019 final, Ferencvaros stunned Olympiacos and that may have disastrous  consequences for the Greeks who are now set to miss the top flight for the first time since 2015. The  Hungarians bounced back from their back-to-back defeats in March and after having beaten Novi  Beograd ten days ago, they now upended Olympiacos in Piraeus with a commanding performance.  The Greek supporters created a fantastic atmosphere, just like last weekend, but it seems that the men  team will not follow the triumphant women’s side which had won the Euro League title last Sunday in  the same pool.  The game was a man-up-man-down contest for almost three periods but in the third the Magyars started  scoring from action, and from 5-4 down they rushed to a 6-9 lead by the end of the quarter. The Greeks  climbed back to 8-9 with 58 seconds to go but another action goal decided the outcome (the hosts could  score only from 6 on 5s). In fact, it was Ferencvaros’ defence which made the real difference, especially  goalie Soma Vogel who posted an amazing 15 saves, finished the game with 65.5% – while  Olympiacos’ Croatian goalie Marko Bijac was substituted after three periods where he had only 4 stops.  Now Ferencvaros needs one win from its last two home matches (against Radnicki or Brescia), while  Olympiacos must bring down Novi Beograd before travelling to Tbilisi, but that last match may not  have any impact at the end.  Brescia and Barceloneta delivered at their respective home encounters. By sinking Radnicki with a  convincing performance, Brescia is now officially confirmed as a Final Eight participant – though to  finish atop they may need one more point and that’s still a challenge as their last two clashes are due in  Barceloneta and Budapest.   The Spaniards maintained their winning streak as they thrashed Dinamo by staging a 8-0 rout in the  second half and they already led 10-4 by then. Novi Belgrade did something similar on Friday against  Jadran, won the last 14 minutes 7-0 after 7-7 – the Serbs and the Spaniards still have a mathematical  chance to catch up Brescia. Recaps  Olympiacos v FTC 8-10  It turned out early that in this game goals would be extremely valuable. The first period saw only one  apiece, Ferencvaros put away its first man-up from the 2m line, the Greeks needed 7:02 minutes to hit  first – after minutes of hard fight Ioannis Fountoulis, already without a cap, finally beat Soma Vogel  (with whom he was team-mates in the previous three years).  In the second the trend continued: defences barely let any shooting chances, only 6 on 5s offered  scoring opportunities and the teams used those relatively well. Olympiacos missed one but later scored  from the second in the same possession. The Hungarians responded immediately, again from the 2m  line and later Denes Varga sent the ball home from the left wing to retake the lead. It didn’t last long as  Konstantinos Genidounias scored in the last second of their next man-up for 3-3. It was the Magyars’  turn and they finished off their extra from 2m for the third time – but Fountoulis was on target again for  4-4.  Ferencvaros opened the third with a missed extra and Filip Filipovic let the ball fly for the first time in  the game, it hit the back of the net – this was the 5th man-up goal from the Greeks. Their rivals missed  another extra but after the corner Vendel Vigvari scored the first action goal from the back to make it   even again. Vogel denied Filipovic in a man-down and Denes Varga’s pinpoint shot – again from action  – put FTC ahead once more. The Greeks got another man-up, Filipovic wasn’t guarded as closely as in  the first half and for him this was an easy hit. Vigvari kept his calm after a time-out and didn’t leave any  chance for Bijac from the next extra while Kolomvos hit the crossbar from the centre. Varga stole the  ball in a man-down brilliantly and young Erik Molnar finished off the counter – the gap jumped to two  and Vogel came up with two huge saves in the next man-down to keep the distance. Soon it was three as  Vigvari netted his third 11 seconds from time for 6-9 – it looked quite promising for the Hungarians  with one period remaining.  The Greeks tried to score from action in vain, either Vogel or the woodwork denied them. Their  problems were mounting when even their man-up let them down, after a time-out they had two shots but  the block, then Vogel stopped them. Ferencvaros just focused on the defence, didn’t take any risk in  front – and that worked. Vogel produced his 15th save and Ferencvaros could keep the ball for almost a  minute. When Kolomvos could tip in the ball from a man-up for 7-9, 2:09 minutes were left in the  clock. The Greeks regained possession and got another extra and after a rebound Filipovic’s blast did  the damage – with 58

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Champions League, Main Round, Day 12, Group B – Summary

Hannover shocks OSC, Recco survives some scares in Belgrade  Hannover came up with an outstanding shooting performance, scored 11 man-up goals to shock  OSC in Budapest and gain a four-point lead in the race for the Final Eight with two rounds to go.  The top three ranked sides carried on, though none of those wins came with the expected ease – especially Recco got into a scary situation but scored the last two goals after 12-12 against  underdog Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade. Earlier in the Serbian capital Novi Beograd beat Jadran in  a Group A match brought forward from Saturday.  Group B: Genesys OSC Budapest (HUN) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 12-17, Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v  Pro Recco (SRB) 12-14, CN Marseille (FRA) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU) 15-10, Jug Adriatic  Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) 12-9  Standings: 1. Recco 33, 2. Marseille 33, 3. Jug 27, 4. Hannover 17, 5. OSC 13, 6. Spandau 10, 7.  Steaua 4, 8. Zvezda 4  Group A: Novi Beograd (SRB) v Jadran Split (CRO) 14-7  OSC had some better performances in its away encounters: beating Jug in Dubrovnik, winning a bit  miraculously in Berlin, then pushing Recco to a full-force performance for four periods all showed the  Hungarian side’s quality – however, their home record just did not mirror that. Recco, Marseille and Jug  beat them soundly (they lost to Spandau by default due to Covid) – and that scoreline set up an all-or nothing duel with Hannover.   And the Germans stunned them right in the first period with a 1-4 run and the Magyars couldn’t really  recovered from the opening shock. Their defence didn’t click, Hannover’s man-up play looked as easy  as the ABC, they put away 11 extras – so OSC ended up conceding 17 goals at home, the same amount  Recco scored against them in Italy. That had been understandable – this Friday crash means that Waspo now enjoys a four-point advantage and despite facing a couple of tough challenges, against Spandau and  Jug, both at home, they are very much in the driving seat.   The top three ranked sides all won though they had some struggles while bagging three more points.  Recco slowed down once it went 3-7 up in the middle of the seconds period, the youngsters of Crvena  Zvezda smelled blood, staged a 4-0 rush, and twice in the third period they even took the lead. At the  end, the title-holders prevailed, though, as they managed to score the last two goals of the match after  12-12 while not letting any easy scoring chance to their rival in the final 3:18 minutes.  Marseille also had some headaches as Steaua came back to 9-7 after 9-4 but the French kept the control  and rebuilt the gap in the fourth. Jug also had some problems even after netting three connecting goals  to take a 7-5 lead by halftime against Spandau. The Germans came back to 8-8 but ran out of gas and  were unable to add more for ten minutes while the Croats had a 4-0 run during this phase.  In Group A, Novi Beograd beat Jadran once more after the Regional League final on Sunday. The Serbs  netted 14 again while the Croatian side couldn’t keep up with them in the second half this time. Though the visitors led 6-7 early in the third, for the last 14 minutes they became invisible while the  F8 host staged an 8-0 rush to get back to the winning track and cut the difference to three points behind  Brescia, which faces fellow Serbian side Radnicki on Saturday.   Recaps  OSC v Hannover 12-17  OSC started the game in great speed, created four fine chances – missed three of them while Hannover  did nothing special, just waited for the opportunities and made most of them. Rather all. The Germans  put away their first seven (!) man-ups in the first half, while Moritz Schenkel and his defenders  managed to unbalance the Hungarian offence on more and more occasions.  Hannover jumped to a 1-4 lead in eight minutes – and the scoreboard already saw what was coming as it  ‘decided’ not to show anything any longer. The small interruption did not bother the Germans, though  Vince Vigvari kicked off the second period with a smart goal in 12 seconds, but Hannover kept on  scoring from man-ups and after their first action goal the hosts opted for substituting the goalie. Soon  Marton Levai should come back when it stood 3-8 (and the number of saves was 1-6). The Hungarians  climbed back to 5-9 by halftime but their rivals seemed to be very much in control, despite wasting their  last two extras.  Kristof Sziladi’s lob from a dying attack gave some hope for OSC at the beginning of the third and a  killed man-down and a buried penalty brought them back to 7-9. But Darko Brguljan’s 6m shot found  the back of the net, OSC missed its next 6 on 5 badly and their momentum was gone. A 2-shot man-up  play reset Hannover’s 4-goal lead at 7-11 with 2:34 to go, and even though Ferenc Salamon blasted one  from the distance, Fynn Shutze didn’t miss the next 6 on 4. OSC converted its double man-up too, but  their last shot hit the crossbar while Ivan Nagaev’s left-handed pinpoint shot flew to the net from 8m for  9-13, three seconds before the buzzer – and Hannover was on its way to a third consecutive Final 8  appearance.  Erik Csacsovszky pulled one back from the distance, but the Hungarian defence had no solutions to  deny Brugljan who buried another man-up with ease while the Germans brilliantly killed the hosts’ next  6 on 5. Brguljan hit his fourth from action for 10-15 and Schenkel came up with two more saves in  man-downs, then Petar Muslim’s bouncer ended up in the net, again from a man-up. A couple of 6 on 5  were converted, then another one was well saved by Schenkel – as for contrast, the conversion was

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Champions League, Main Round, Day 11, Group A – Summary

Barceloneta sinks Olympiacos, Ferencvaros comes back to life  Brescia, winning easily against Dinamo, broke six points clear once more as Ferencvaros came  back to life and claimed a sound away win against future F8 host Novi Beograd. This has set up a  do-or-die clash with Olympiacos for the next round as the Greeks were sunk by Barceloneta. The  Spanish defence was tremendous once more – so now we see two teams with 20 points and another  two with 19 in the ranks, which promises sheer excitements for the remaining three rounds.  Group A: Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 9-5, Novi Beograd (SRB) v  FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 11-14, Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Jadran Split (CRO) 13-10, AN  Brescia (ITA) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 16-8  Standings: 1. Brescia 26, 2. Novi Beograd 20, 3. Barceloneta 20, 4. Olympiacos 19, 5. Ferencvaros 19,  6. Radnicki 13, 7. Jadran 9, 8. Dinamo 0  Barceloneta found the right rhythm in February and was able to carry on that after one month: the  Spaniards’ defence worked brilliantly in the last three rounds, keeping Radnicki on 3, Ferencvaros on 7  and now Olympiacos on 5 goals. Indeed, after their dominant performance against the Greeks it’s hard  to see them not making the Final Eight.  On contrary, Ferencvaros bounced back spectacularly after miserable back-to-back defeats in February.  The Magyars did a splendid job in Belgrade, they had a tremendous run when they rushed to a 3-8 lead  after 2-2, holding the Serbian scoring machine on a single goal for almost 14 minutes. Later they always  had the answers when Novi Beograd managed to reduce the gap to two goals a couple of times. Now  they are on level in points with Olympiacos – and these two face off in Piraeus next Saturday; it’s a  rematch of the 2019 final but now the F8 appearance is at stake.  Brescia’s undefeated run came to an and one month ago as Novi Beograd caught them in their own pool  but with the Serbs’ setback, the Italians had a clear chance to double their lead as they met bottom ranked Dinamo. And they didn’t make any mistake, after a slow start a 6-1 storm in the third was more  than enough to secure the win and to rebuild the six-point lead ahead of the others.  In the ‘lower house’ Radnicki came back from 5-8 down with a remarkable second half against Jadran – they have an extremely slim hope of making the cut, but this would rather belong to the category of  miracles.  Recaps  Barceloneta v Olympiacos 9-5  Barceloneta seems to be the team in this group which managed to maintain its brilliant form from  February. The Spaniards went through some struggles around the turn of the year, but a great win in  Kragujevac and an even bigger in Budapest marked a great transformation – and they just carried on  with that against Olympiacos. Indeed, their defence reached a fantastic level: they conceded 3 in Kragujevac, 7 in Budapest and now held the Greeks on 5 goals, the fewest Olympiacos  scored in a game this season (for the second time, they also netted 5 upon losing at home to Brescia).  The Spaniards forced the visitors’ top shooters to outside attempts, their vibrant defending style left  only a handful of occasions when the top guns of Olympiacos saw a clear view of the goal. Altogether  only 13 shots were on target from the Greek camp, out of 28, their best scorers’ shooting percentage  was anything but: Genidounias 2/8, Fountoulis 0/3, Filipovic 2/8 – 4/19 combined, a full appraisal of  the Spanish defence.  The Greeks could score at 2-0, after 6:51 minutes, then Barceloneta started extending the gap to go 5-2  up in the second – Filipovic hit his second 13 seconds from time, though few would have guessed that  the 2021 LEN Award winner Olympic champion would not add any more in the remaining of the game.  Olympiacos virtually sank in the third as the Spaniards shut them out in the entire period, while Luke  Pavillard netted from action from their first possession, then 33 seconds to go Felipe Perrone buried a  man-up for 7-3 and it was clear that this evening there would be no way back for the Greeks.  They needed almost four more minutes to come a bit closer, Genidounias buried a penalty to halt their  11:51 minute-long scoreless run but Oscar Asenso’s great centre-shot put an end to the contest with  3:39 to go. Two more goals, one apiece, were scored in the remaining time, so Barceloneta is very much  back in business and since they have a home game with Dinamo and an away match in Split, their F8  appearance is very much in sight now. At the same time, Olympiacos faces Ferencvaros in a do-or-die  game in a little more than a week and the Greeks need a tremendous lift in form to keep their F8 hopes  alive.  Novi Beograd v Ferencvaros 11-14  One month is a long time – and can turn everything upside down. Back in February Novi Beograd was  on the rise, the team showed real signs of improvement and when they beat Brescia in Italy, they  seemed to find the right track. On the contrary, Ferencvaros was miserable, a shocking defeat in Split,  followed by a huge blow, a 10-goal thrashing against Barceloneta at home.  However, that was then – and this time the Hungarians produced a game very much reminiscent of their  heydays. They were disciplined, still creative, and very much in control at both ends in the pool. Their  first stunning run came in the first period after 2-2 when they scored three extraman goals from three  connecting possessions within 2:05 minutes to go 2-5 up. One goal apiece was netted before the action packed, 9-goal opening period finished – to be followed by a giant battle, when defences tightened up  and the net was found only once, by Szilard Jansik who netted a brilliant action goal for

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Champions League, Main Round, Day 11, Group B – Summary

Jug joins Recco and Marseille in the F8, Hannover passes OSC  With a fine win, Jug booked its spot in the Final Eight as expected, while Recco and Marseille  kept on winning so their battle for the top spot is still open. The French’s winning streak now  stands at 10 matches, this last one came at the expense of OSC, and since Hannover beat Crvena  Zvezda, the Germans got ahead of the Magyars in the ranks so their encounter in Budapest next  week will probably decide the last available berth.  Group B: Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 14-11, Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Pro  Recco (ITA) 6-11, CN Marseille (FRA) v Genesys OSC Budapest (HUN) 13-9, Jug Adriatic Osiguranje  Dubrovnik (CRO) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU) 14-7  Standings: 1. Recco 30, 2. Marseille 30, 3. Jug 24, 4. Hannover 14, 5. OSC 13, 6. Spandau 10, 7.  Steaua 4, 8. Zvezda 4  After losing to Recco in the opening round, Marseille turned onto the winning track, and no one could  derail their campaign ever since. OSC arrived to France with high hopes based on their brave  performance in Recco, but after the French set the tone with a 3-0 start, the Magyars could never come  closer than two goals.   It cost them the fourth place as Hannover overcame some early scares against Crvena Zvezda and with  the brilliant shots of its lefties Ivan Nagaev and Fynn Schutze – they netted 7 combined –, the Germans  built a commanding four-goal lead in the third period and never looked back. In the next round  Hannover visits OSC – that clash will most probably decisive in the run for the last available F8 berth.  The third one has just been booked by Jug – it was not surprising as the Croats had an easy task and  they delivered against Steaua at home. After 2-2 they had a 5-0 rush to leave no excitements for the  second half. Jug has made the Final for the 6th time in a row, though after consecutive semi-final  appearances they missed the top four in the last two editions, but they have been definitely on the rise in  recent weeks.  Title-holder Recco didn’t have any headaches in Berlin, they had three good periods only to slow down  for the last eight minutes. The Italians still won comfortably though they scored the fewest goals, 11,  while winning a game in this season.  Recaps  Marseille v OSC 13-9  The French kicked off the game in style, buried three of their first four man-ups to go 3-0 up while the  Hungarians couldn’t create any real danger in front. They finally opened their account after 5:24  minutes but could not reduce the gap further as after a killed man-down they missed their second man up before the first break. This pattern continued in the following period: the French had a couple of chances to  increase their lead, but the Magyars defended well, however, they were unable to capitalise on that and  soon Marseille found the way to regain some comfort. The hosts did really well in the 6 on 5s, their  outside shooters usually found the holes, so they led 6-3 at halftime. OSC, which had come up with  some spectacular offensive performances in Dubrovnik and in Recco thanks to their brilliant shots from  the perimeter, struggled this time in front – the three goals they scored in 16 minutes were a clear proof  for that.  When Vladan Spaic put away another extra – this time from the 2m line – Marseille seemed to have it at  7-3 but OSC found the tools to finish two man-ups in 58 seconds to climb back to 7-5. And they denied  another French man-up but were unable to cut their deficit to a single-goal – and in the last 90 seconds  Marseille scored two fine action goals, Andrija Prlainovic and Ugo Crousillat let the ball fly from the  distance – Manhercz’s goal between the two was little more than a consolation.  The French opened the last period with an easily converted 6 on 4 for 10-6, but OSC unleashed a last  surge and with two hits in 48 seconds they trailed only by two again at 10-8 with 6:05 minutes to go.  But Crousillat’s another blast from action killed their last momentum just 21 seconds later and the leftie  put an end to the contest in a minute as he made it 12-8 (he finished the evening with 5 goals). Even  though there were 4:40 minutes to go, OSC was done – two more goals were scored, one apiece, so  Marseille claimed an easier-than-expected win, their 10th straight victory. At the same time, OSC fell  one point behind Hannover so the clash with the Germans in Budapest next week will be a do-or-die  match.  Hannover v Zvezda 14-11  Zvezda opened the match in a stunning mood and quickly jumped to a 1-3 lead and held on for 4-5 deep  into the second quarter. Then the Serbs started fading a bit and the hosts’ lefties turned the cards, Fynn Schutze and Ivan Nagaev scored a series of fine goals from the perimeter. Hannover led 6-5 at halftime  and soon the lefties put them three goals up, then Alexandar Radovic converted a penalty for 10-6.   The Serbs didn’t let it go, though, a double in the last 39 seconds brought them back to 10-8 before the  final period, however, they were unable to come any closer. After a quick exchange of goals, Schutze  netted his fourth to reset the four-goal gap – but Zvezda fought on and pulled two back once more, so it  stood 13-11 with 1:33 to go, still, the Serbs didn’t have any realistic chance to grab at least a point. In  fact, Jon Winkelhorst and the Germans had the last laugh as he scored from the last counter to secure  three extremely valuable points to Hannover.  Spandau v Recco 6-11  The Italians didn’t leave much doubt that they would collect

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Champions League, Main Round, Day 10, Group A – Summary

Novi Beograd ends Brescia’s unbeaten run, Barceloneta knocks out Ferencvaros  Novi Beograd ended Brescia’s unbeaten run and reduced the Italians’ lead to three points so the  race for the top spot has reopened. Barceloneta destroyed last season’s runner-up Ferencvaros in  Budapest, their huge, 7-17 away win earned them a crucial advantage in the race for the Final  Eight. Olympiacos bounced back from its two-game losing streak as they sank Jadran in Split.  Water polo fans were entertained for sure: the four matches produced 111 goals, a 27.75 per game  average.  Group A: FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) 7-17, Jadran Split  (CRO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 12-16, AN Brescia (ITA) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 13-16, Dinamo  Tbilisi (GEO) v Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) 13-17  Standings: 1. Brescia 23, 2. Novi Beograd 20, 3. Olympiacos 19, 4. Barceloneta 17, 5. Ferencvaros 16,  6. Radnicki 10, 7. Jadran 9, 8. Dinamo 0  Novi Beograd handed Brescia its first defeat, so the last unbeaten side fell this season. For almost three  periods, the Italians were always in front, in the third they kept a two-goal lead for long before the Serbs  netted two in the last 68 seconds for 11-11. The storm continued in the fourth when they added three  more from connecting possessions, so after 11-9 they went 11-14 up and bagged all three points at the  end. It was an action-packed match with 38 major fouls, but also an entertaining game which reduced  Brescia’s lead to three points so the Serbs will have a shot at the top spot in the remaining rounds for  sure.  Ferencvaros staged an unbeaten run of eight matches, though it included four draws, but now the  Hungarians face a mountain to climb after losing their second match in as many rounds. The second one  happened in a shocking way as Barceloneta simply demolished them in Budapest. The Spaniards  reproduced their miraculous opening period performance from Day 9 when they had netted 7 goals in  Kragujevac in eight minutes – now they led 3-7 after the first period and soon they went 3-10 up and  never looked back. It was a crucial game in the race for the F8 spots so such a big difference in the  crucial stats was a bit astonishing, the number of shots on target was 15-24, the shooting percentage was  25% versus 53%, an amazing offensive display from Barceloneta. Also, the other results even reinforce  how bad day the Magyars had as even the other losing sides could produce at least 12 goals, while the  master shooters had only 7.  Olympiacos arrived to Split under enormous pressure: the back-to-back defeats in the previous rounds  meant that the Greeks’ star-studded line-up might need to deal with the possibility of missing the cut for  the finals. But the 2018 champions responded well, lift their game and with an early 0-4 rush they took  firm control of the proceedings and never let the Croats back to the game. Though Jadran had some  hopes before this match as they upset Ferencvaros two weeks ago, but this defeat put them out of  contest. The game pattern was similar in Tbilisi, where Radnicki built a three-goal lead early on and  maintained that gap till the end.  Recaps  Brescia v Novi Beograd 13-16 Brescia converted its first man-up right after 29 seconds – then, within a minute or so, the visitors lost  their key man, 2021 F8 MVP Dusan Mandic who was fouled out, so the beginning looked not the best  for the Serbs. Though it did not disturb them too much as they went on keeping up with the hosts who  were also on fire and with a fourth man-up goal they took a 4-3 lead by the end of the first.  The scoring parade continued in the second, the defences and the goalies couldn’t really have a say, one  blast followed the other, Brescia took the lead, the visitors replied, it happened four times in this period,  so it stood 8-7 at halftime. Djordje Lazic put away an extra, for the first time the hosts enjoyed a two goal advantage and for a while they seem to dominate the game as they always had the answer to Novi  Beograd’s hits. The big turning point came after 11-9, Dusko Pijetlovic scored a brilliant one from the  centre and 5 seconds from time Strahinja Rasovic also sent the ball home from a man-up for 11-11.  And the Serbs came back strong for the fourth, they scored three from as many possessions, killed two  man-downs en route and in a span of 1:52 minutes they sailed away with the game as they staged a 0-5  rush altogether and led 11-14. Vincenzo Renzuto buried a 6 on 4 to end the hosts’ miseries but the home  defence couldn’t find any solution to prevent the Serbs from finishing off their man-ups from the 2m  line, Pijetlovic and Nikola Jaksic scored five times from these setups during the game, so at the end the  Belgrade side pulled off a great win as well as ended Brescia’s unbeaten run in the Champions League.  It was one of the toughest matches of the season, the refs called 38 personal fouls (17-21), but it also  offered premium entertainment for the water polo fans – and perhaps a preview for the last part of the  season as Novi Beograd seems to have caught the wave.  FTC v Barceloneta 7-17  If someone had any doubts whether Barceloneta’s amazing first period in Kragujevac was a one-time  wonder, the Spaniards offered a very straight answer – no, they have just hit a brilliant form in recent  weeks. After storming to a 0-7 lead against Radnicki – which had beaten Olympiacos in the previous  round –, Barceloneta downed Ferencvaros in Budapest in the first period, netting seven goals once   more. The Hungarians managed to stay a bit closer, they trailed 3-7, but even substituting goalie Soma  Vogel and denying Barceloneta in its first two possessions in the second didn’t

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