Novi Beograd showed no mercy in Sabadell and took revenge over the Spanish side with a convincing performance. That paved the way for Brescia who took the chance as an easy victory over Steaua sent them to the quarter-final round. In a match of prestige, Recco edged out Olympiacos with a last-gasp goal, though the Greeks held a massive lead late in the third period.
Group A: Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) v VK Novi Beograd (SRB) 7-10, AN Brescia (ITA) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU) 16-7
Rankings: 1. NBG 15, 2. Brescia 11, 3. Sabadell 10, 3. Steaua 0
Group B: Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Pro Recco (ITA) 10-11, Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 19-13
Rankings: 1. Recco 18, 2. Olympiacos 11, 3. Jug 7, 4. Dinamo 0
Sabadell would have needed at least two points in its last home game against group leader Novi Beograd – a regular-time win, which they had claimed in Belgrade on Day 3, would have rocketed them to the first place.
However, Novi Beograd showed no mercy as they took revenge and never left any doubt that they were better side in the early afternoon encounter.
Just like in their previous clash, against Brescia at home, the Serbs won the match with their outstanding defending. They limited the Italians to five goals in the fifth round and now allowed only seven to the Spaniards.
At the same time, their powerful offence did the damage in front. NBG already took control in the first half, but the hosts stayed close and trailed 4-6 at halftime. Trouble began when the Serbs hit two in 46secs for 4-8: Sabadell pulled one back to break its seven-minute-long silence, but Angelos Vlachopoulos buried an extra still in the third to reset the four-goal gap before the final period.
Though NBG could add only one goal in the last eight minutes, victory was never in danger.
This win secured NBG’s first place, as well as opening the door wide in front of Brescia which only had to beat Steaua to join the top eight.
Achieving that was never in question against the Romanians who had been unable to force a tight match in the previous five rounds. This match was no exception either as the Italians stormed to a 4-0 lead in eight minutes and soon were 7-1 up deep into the second period.
They led 12-3 after three periods so they avoided the embarrassment of not making the top eight after six straight F8 appearances.
The day’s only thriller was played in Piraeus where Olympiacos and Recco were entangled in another huge fight, as usual between these two since long years.
It was all about prestige as in Group D the rankings had already been cemented after the fifth round.
Still, the Greeks pushed hard and for most of the time they seemed to catch the title-holders, just like they had done at the beginning of the last season. Late in the third they led 8-5, soon had a man-up for +4 – they missed it, and Gonzalo Echenique’s action goal narrowed the gap to two 45 seconds before the last break.
Two minutes into the final quarter, Ioannis Fountoulis hit one for 9-7, but within a minute Gergo Zalanki blasted one, then Nicholas Presciutti equalised from a 6 on 5 and there was still 3:42 minutes to play.
Another missed man-up came from the hosts and Presciutti added another one from a counter to put Recco ahead for the first time in the game at 9-10, with 2:32 to go. A rebound helped Olympiacos in a dying 6 on 5, Alexandros Papanastasiou put the ball away from close to tie it with 34 seconds on the clock.
Still, Recco had it at the end, earned a man-up and Francesco di Fulvio sent the ball home when the clock showed 0:01… Recco thus maintained its unbeaten run this autumn, finishing 6/6 in the group stage and stands 11/11 so far in the Italian league.
In the other match Jug bowed out on a high note at least – the Croats staged a feast in shooting (took 37 in 32 minutes) and scoring (19 goals) as Hannes Daube hit a season-high seven goals (had 10 shots, the only player with double digits in a single game in the group stage), to offer something positive for the Dubrovnik fans who now have to prepare for Euro Cup ties, something they haven’t seen for a long time.
Champions League now takes a longer break as the European Championships come in January and the Worlds in February – action shall resume on 8 March.
The draw for the Quarter-Final Round, together with the Euro Cup eight-finals, shall take place on 15 December.