Day 8, Group A: Vouliagmeni (GRE) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 10-9
In the previous round the Greeks kept the game under control and won convincingly. Their start was like the continuation of that match, jumped to a 2-0 lead, held on for 4-2 in the action packed opening period, though the Germans could pull one back 9 seconds before the first break.
What came next was a bit out of the blue. Hrvoje Benic’s fine finish from a man-up was part of the show in Waspo’s first possession – Andrija Basic’s backhander from the perimeter was not. Still, it caught the goalie by surprise, just like Benic’s next distant shot from the outside 58 seconds later which gave a two-goal lead to the visitors. A penalty halted Hannover’s run (they staged a 0-4 rush altogether), but Benic hit his third in this quarter from another extra for 5-7. Dimitrios Nikolaidis halved the distance with a fine centre-shot, but Benic was on fire and put away one more 6 on 5, three seconds before the middle break for 6-8.
Marios Kapotsis pulled one back 50 seconds into the third, but Luka Lozina beat his defender in the centre for 7-9 17 seconds later. Few would have guessed that this was Hannover’s last goal in this match. But it happened – incoming young goalie Emmanouil Andreadis began to deliver one save after the other, and, as a consequence, the Germans also tried to place the ball a bit higher and wider to avoid his arms, so many shots hit the woodwork. While the starting netminder Panagiotis Tzortzatos was 1 on 9, Andreadis posted 6 saves on 7 attempts – rather 6 on 6, once he conceded that goal by Lozina.
With this significant improvement in defence, Vouliagmeni went step by step, though it didn’t go with ease. A fine action goal deep into the third brought them one closer, then Nikolaidis hit another one from the centre 29 seconds from time to bring his team back to even at 9-9.
The final act produced a tremendous fight. Hannover survived a man-down, and then in the next they denied the first shot, came back at full strength, but Nikolaos Papasifakis’ ball from the left wing somehow made it to the net with 3:57 on the clock for 10-9. The Germans couldn’t really hurt the hosts’ zone, they earned only one exclusion in the entire second half (it was a 6 on 4, rather), but only inside the last three seconds in the third. They couldn’t force one in the last period while Andreadis hunted down their shots from the perimeter. Without goals and play-breaks, players started to be worn out, so no real chances opened and at the end this single goal in the fourth decided the outcome.
This was a huge win for the Greeks as they broke five points clear ahead of Radnicki in the race for the fourth qualifying spot (and hoped that local arch-rival would win later in Kragujevac), while this loss may end Hannover’s quest for a 4th straight Final Eight appearance.