What a start: Olympiacos take down the title-holder

Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Pro Recco (ITA) 9-7

Olympiacos’ biggest acquisition in the summer, Marton Vamos made an immediate impact at the beginning of the game of the week. The Hungarian leftie converted the Greeks’ first man-up and had a crucial block in Recco’s following 6 on 5. The remaining six minutes were devoted to great defending on both ends, one more extra was denied apiece, so Olympiacos led 1-0 after eight minutes.

The second period began in a similar way, but definitely not the same way – this time Recco’s Hungarian leftie Gergo Zalanki (also wearing cap No. 3 like Vamos) put his team on the scoreboard after almost ten minutes by burying a man-up with a fierce shot (fun fact: the two Magyars won the title together in 2019 with Ferencvaros). Vamos couldn’t bring on his momentum as his penalty was well saved by Marco del Lungo, but the Italians missed their next 6 on 5 too.

Filip Filipovic managed to beat the goalie to take back the lead, 12:24 minutes gone between the two Greek goals, while Recco struggled to put the ball away again, so the halftime score was reminiscent of the ancient times as Olympiacos led 2-1.

Recco came back strong for the second half, Giacomo Cannella blasted one from the perimeter right from the first possession and they could have gone ahead but Marko Bijac made a great save in the following man-down. Still, the inevitable came a bit later – since the Greeks couldn’t find any holes on the Italian wall, Zalanki beat Bijac again in a man-up for 2-3. A rebound helped the Greeks in their next extra and the second shot by Ioannis Fountoulis found the back of the net while Recco couldn’t make their next 6 on 5 – so the 3-3 scoreline before the final period still praised the defences. 

The Lefties’ Reign continued in the fourth, Filipovic netted his second right away in the fourth, from a man-up, then Konstantinos Mourikis scored his trademark goal from the centre. In a game which had seen only six goals in three periods, this double in 41 seconds seemed decisive, though Recco hit back immediately, as Aaron Younger buried a penalty. However, Andro Buslje’s action shot also ended up in the net, thanks to a wicked deflection. 

The title-holders halved the distance by another penalty – that was hotly debated as Bijac made the save, but was attacked and forced his ball-holding hand under the water. Zalanki kept his calm and beat the goalie, but Alexandros Papanastasiou also sent the ball home from a man-up. 

As a sharp contrast to the previous periods, this last one saw the goals flooding. Zalanki kept on rolling, scored his fourth soon (Olympiacos’ new coach Igor Milanovic shouldn’t be too happy with him as the Hungarian ruined the party in last June when the Serbian led Novi Beograd and was seconds away from lifting the trophy, but Zalanki equalised in the dying seconds and buried the decisive penalty in the shootout).

Still, Filipovic was delivering as well, buried a penalty earned during a man-up, but the reply came again from the next possession, Matteo Iocchi netted an extra for 8-7, with 2:49 to go. However, Recco couldn’t penetrate the Greek defence in the remaining time, and after a time-out with 41 seconds to, some risky defending left Papanastasiou alone in the dying seconds of the possession and he decided the game with a fine shot with 11 seconds left.

Thus the Greeks started off the season by beating the title-holder – after failing to make the Final Eight last season, this is already something big from them. At the same time, this was Recco’s first defeat since January – last season they lost to Jug 11-8 in Dubrovnik on Day 7.

How they saw it

Igor Milanovic, coach, Olympiacos

“First of all, congratulation to my players, they played with big heart, won the game which is great. Though I cannot be satisfied with our attack, we were too nervous, our shots were not precise and well-timed. But we played with our heart and in the last period we took advantage from scoring a couple of action goals by Buslje and Papanastasiou. I also wish to send my compliments to fellow coach Sandro Sukno as Recco also had a great game, it was a great match.”

Milos Ciric, assistant coach, Recco

“We expected a similar game. We are at the beginning of the season, where you have games like this. Compliments to Olympiacos but our team also played very well and we will have many more games in the season where we should win.”