Group D: Vouliagmeni (GRE) v Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) 11-12
Vouliagmeni was the surprise side in the Final Eight last May. After upsetting Brescia in the quarters and some heroics against Recco in the semis, they almost caught Barceloneta for the bronze medal, lost by penalties at the end.
The results of the first round suggested that this time Barceloneta wouldn’t have the same problems. They staged a rout against Spandau, while Vouliagmeni, losing a couple of key players in the summer, didn’t have a real chance in Marseille.
The first four minutes went according to expectations as the Spaniards took a 1-2 lead. Then came a whirlwind, a bit out of the blue, with three action goals from Vouliagmeni in a span of 101 seconds, pushing Barceloneta off-balance. They trailed 5-3 after eight minutes (they had conceded six in the whole game against Spandau on Day 1) and seemed to be in trouble at halftime when the Greeks led 7-4.
However, last season’s bronze medallists came back as determined as ever, regrouped, and ready to fight. By hitting two goals in 40 seconds, they were very much back into the game. Soon they levelled the score, then killed a man-down, and 50 seconds later they were already in the lead at 7-8 as the clock hit the 4:00-minute mark, thanks to Roger Tahull’s brilliant centre-shot.
The hosts managed to get up from the floor, though. They netted an extra, managed to deny a man-down, and put the following 6 on 5 away to regain the lead at 9-8, 1:27 from time. Barceloneta missed another man-up, so Vouliagmeni started the final quarter with a single-goal lead in hand.
It didn’t last long, though. Bernat Sanahuja buried a man-up 24 seconds into the fourth, but Ubovic’s fine action goal was a worthy reply for 10-9. Sanahuja was on fire, hitting another one at the end of a dying man-up to equalise once more, then Vouliagmeni missed a crucial man-up midway through the quarter, and Sanahuja scored his third in this period (fifth in the evening) to put Barceloneta ahead with 2:24 to go.
However, it was Ubovic again who finished off a 6 on 4 two minutes before the buzzer, so it was all even again at 11-11. The Greeks had the ball after a shot hit their post but couldn’t create bigger danger, and Nikolas Paul Garcia found the back of the net from the perimeter with 0:46 on the clock. After a time-out, the hosts earned a man-up but their passing wasn’t that sharp, and Felipe Perrone hunted down the decisive cross nine seconds before the end to secure three crucial points in a hard-fought battle.
Vladimir Vujasinovic, coach, Vouliagmeni
„I don’t know, how far we can go – what I know is that today we tried everything, we played a good game, but we couldn’t win at the end.”
Elvis Fatovic, coach, Barceloneta
“The only positive thing is that we won this match. We didn’t start well, though I have to mention that this was our very first match in the season when we faced a really tough rival, and we were forced into a balanced game. The best thing was that we never gave up, not even when Vouliagmeni led 7-4. They played great water polo and we experienced that they could cause problems for us, enough to recall the game we had some months ago in the Final Eight. I’m happy with this win as it is not easy to play here and win a match here.”