Zvezda and Vouliagmeni completed the mission

Serbia’s Crvena Zvezda and Greece’s Vouliagmeni already qualified to the Champions League, while Croatia’s Jug is on its way back to the group stage. Brescia and Radnicki shall play a kind of final on Sunday to decide the top spot.

Group A (Hannover)

CN Barcelona (ESP)–EPS Honved (HUN) 9-8, Crvena Zvezda (SRB)–Apollon Smyrnis (GRE) 12-10, Apollon–Honved 11-10, Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Crvena Zvezda 6-14

Standings: 1. Crvena Zvezda 12 points (4 matches), 2. Barcelona 6 (3), 3. Hannover 3 (3), 4. Apollon 3 (3), 5. Honved 0 (3)

Apollon forced a tough match against Crvena Zvezda in the morning session, but the Serbs withstood the pressure and by halftime they managed to gain a three-goal advantage, thanks to a double in 35 seconds late in the second period. Adding two at the beginning of the third for 11-6 seemed to be enough to claim the win. Indeed, it was, though the Challenger Cup winners fought hard, even trailing by four (12-8) before the last break. With 3:53 to go they came back to 12-10. The tension packed last minutes saw red cards for an Apollon player and for their coach, yellow for the Serbian boss a bit later, but no more goals came so the Serbs practically clinched the first position.

Their Champions League berth was secured in the afternoon when they thrashed host Hannover. Though the Germans could rest in the morning, they were no match to the Serbs who blew them away in the second half. They led 3-4 after the first and won the following two periods 3-10 to secure their place in the group stage.

In the other two matches, Barcelona managed to edge out Honved in the morning and the Hungarians also suffered a single-goal defeat in the evening from Apollon – in a rare scenario, here the fourth period didn’t see any goals.

Group B (Kragujevac)

ASD Duisburg (GER) v Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) 8-13, CN Noisy Le Sec (FRA) v AN Brescia (ITA) 9-10, Brescia v Primorac Kotor (MNE) 11-3, Radnicki–Noisy Le Sec 13-10

Standings: 1. Brescia 9 (3), 2. Radnicki 8 (3), 3. Noisy Le Sec 5 (4), 4. Primorac 1 (3), 5. Duisburg 0 (3)

Though Brescia stormed to a 0-4 lead against Noisy Le Sec and the French could score only after 13:30 minutes but after denying a 6 on 4, they managed to come back to 3-4 by halftime. Two more action goals in 31 seconds in the middle of the second brought them back to even at 5-5 and after an exchange of man-up goals it stood 6-6 before the last period. And there Ivan Krapic, then Alex Bowen put the French ahead twice, but after 8-7 the Italians stepped up, Alessandro Balzarini netted two in a minute to retake the lead and after a killed man-down, Edoardo Manzi also put away a 6 on 5 for 8-10 with 1:58 on the clock. Dusan Matkovic buried a 6 on 4 and Noisy had 1:31 minutes to save the game to a shootout. They even had a man-up 30 seconds from time, but Viktor Rasovic’s shot was well saved by Petar Tesanovic.

This was a precious victory and Brescia rolled on in the evening by beating Primorac with some tremendous defending. The Montenegrins led 1-2 after eight minutes – but Brescia allowed them one more goal in the following three periods while they hit 10 goals to set up the expected ‘final’ against Radnicki.

The host Serbs did a clean job in the morning against Duisburg, then faced off Noisy Le Sec late in the evening. The French had a brilliant spell in the first period, netted four in a row to lead 3-5, but Radnicki hit back with five goals in the second. Lately, once fell 8-6 behind, Noisy scored twice in 32 seconds to make it 8-8 by halftime. However, two fast goals in the third killed their momentum – indeed killed their game almost completely. They were unable to score in the entire third period, Lazar Vickovic added an action goal for 11-8, and since the French were still struggling in front, Nemanja Stanojevic’s man-up goal five minutes from time decided the outcome. Luka Plevancic also scored from the centre for 13-8 with 2:47 remaining to complete their 5-0 run – Noisy could score again only towards the end. Their scoreless phase of 16:42 minutes cost them the chance to go throgh

Group C (Oradea)

Primorje Erste Bank Rijeka (CRO) v Vouliagmeni NC (GRE) 12-14, CSM Oradea (ROU) v CC Ortigia (ITA) 7-14

Standings: 1. Vouliagmeni 6, 2. Ortigia 3, 3. Primorje 3, 4. Oradea 0

Vouliagmeni took a flying start against Primorje, they led 0-4 after little more than four minutes and 1-5 at the end of the opening quarter. They maintained that gap till halftime, despite the Croats managed to score three times but the reply came on each occasion. At 5-10 the Greeks seemed to keep the match under firm control but Primorje staged a great 4-0 surge and with one minute before the last break they came back to 9-10. A man-up goal with 32 seconds to go and killed man-down in the remaining time gave back some confidence for Vouliagmeni, though. Still, the Croats pushed on, cut the gap to a single goal three times but again, Vouliagmeni had the answers. Well, after 12-13, three minutes of battling came where Primorje had some chance to go even but at the Nikolaos Papasifakis’ action goal closed down the contest 46 seconds before the buzzer. This also secured Vouliagmeni’s Champions League spot as Ortigia beat host Oradea so Vouliagmeni would go through anyway even if they lose to the Romanians on the last day. 

Group D (Dubrovnik)

Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v EN Tourcoing (FRA) 17-8, Genesys-OSC Budapest (HUN) v Dinamo Bucharest (ROU) 20-9

Standings: 1. Jug 6, 2. Tourcoing 3, 3. OSC 3, 4. Dinamo 0

Jug is on its way back to the Champions League as they were almost walking on the water in the first half against Tourcoing. The French, beating OSC on the opening day with a convincing performance, might have big hopes for Saturday – but Jug came up big, rather giant, in the evening. The Croats hit four in the first period, but the real things were just to come in the second when they added no less than nine goals in eight minutes (indeed, after missing a couple of shots early on, they scored the 9 goals in 6:22 minutes, practically from each possession). Tourcoing’s defence was in ruins as they trailed 13-3 at halftime – the second half was moderate as Jug sailed away with a 9-goal win.

That almost secured their Champions League participation – there is only one scenario where they can lose their berth: if the French don’t beat Dinamo in regular time on the closing day and OSC, which blew away the Romanians, somehow upends Jug in the last game.