Water Polo Champions League Men: Recco breezes through to the quarters

Credit to: Tamuna Kulumbegashvili

Recco was the third team to advance to the quarter-finals after an easy win in Tbilisi. Olympiacos took a huge step to follow the Italians as the Greek champions hammered Jug by 10 goals, the worst-ever home defeat for the Croats on the European stage. Brescia won a thriller against Sabadell, while Novi Beograd regained the top spot in Group A.

Group A:
Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v VK Novi Beograd (SRB) 5-12, AN Brescia (ITA) v Astralpool CN Sabadell (ESP) 11-10

Standings: 1. NBG 9, 2. Brescia 8, 3. Sabadell 7, 3. Steaua 0

Group B: Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v Pro Recco (ITA) 9-16, Jug Adriatic Osiguranje (CRO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 5-15

Standings: 1. Recco 12, 2. Olympiacos 8, 3. Jug 4, 4. Dinamo 0

Forcing Brescia to a shootout on the opening day and a stunning win in Belgrade over NBG made Sabadell a serious contender for the quarters, though the other two had been considered outstanding favourites in Group A before the start. And the Spaniards almost did it again, as at 8-8 early in the third quarter they were giving the hosts a tough time in Brescia. Then the Italians caught a wave, hit three goals and killed three man-downs, including a six on four.

With 1:43 to go in the third, Brescia seemed to have the game under control at 11-8, even though Sabadell pulled one back soon. Then in the fourth, the home side’s offence vanished. The Spaniards pushed hard, saving a penalty, then burying one themselves with 4:01 minutes remaining to climb back to 11-10.

Sabadell then had a six on five to level the score, but the Italians hunted down the last pass, then Brescia missed their own powerplay to set up a thrilling endgame.

Sabadell went for seven on six in its last possession and Francisco Valera’s ball found its way to the net from the perimeter with 0:02 on the clock, however, a turnover call on a 2m violation annulled the goal which would have sent the match to a shootout, just like on Day 1.

Novi Beograd bounced back from its shocking 10-12 defeat to Sabadell on Day 3, at the expense of Steaua. Apart from a minor drop in their playing level in the second period, which saw no goals, the Serbs were dominating right from the first quarter. Though the Romanians took the lead after just 22 seconds, their next goal came 16:07 minutes later, when NBG was already 1-5 up. Last season’s runners-up further expanded the gap to claim the must-win match with ease, and now face only tougher challenges in the remaining two rounds.

The big game of the day – Jug versus Olympiacos – didn’t offer the same thrills as on Day 1, when the Greeks had to come back from 3-8 down to beat Jug in the shootout. This time, Olympiacos didn’t let the Croats into the game. Taking an early lead, they shut out the hosts for 12:08 minutes while building a massive 2-6 advantage which was never given away. What’s more, the Greeks’ powerful finish to the match was devastating, as they added six more goals after 5-9 in the last period to hand Jug its worst-ever home defeat on the European stage.

Recco had no headaches in Tbilisi. Despite a sluggish start, with the first quarter ending 2-2, three unanswered goals after 3-3 put the title-holders on the expected track. Thankfully for Dinamo, the Italians weren’t in their usual lethal mood, as the hosts were able to fight back in a few brief spells, but ultimately a 0-5 rush by Recco after 5-7 put the game into bed. This win also sealed Recco’s ticket to the quarter-finals.