First home loss for Szolnok in four years
While Olympiacos (GRE) beat arch-rival Jug (CRO) in a tight match and kept its five-point lead in Group A, the biggest surprise came in Group B where all four teams playing at home lost. Including Szolnok (HUN) as the title-holder team was beaten by fellow Hungarian side Eger – this happened to them for the first time ever in the Champions League.
A 4-0 rush at the beginning seemed to place Olympiacos in a great position against Jug in Piraeus in the highlighted match of Group A. However, the replay of the 2016 final soon showed that Jug was still a threat – by the middle of the third the Croats climbed back to 5-4. A lucky goal at the other end gave the hosts a two-goal lead and their Croatian goalie Josip Pavic posted a couple of great saves to prevent his compatriots from closing up. Soon after the start of the fourth a former Jug player Paulo Obradovic widened the gap (7-4) but the Croats kept coming back and they trailed by one again with 2:18 to go. However, Obradovic netted another one to secure an important win for Olympiacos (8-6) so at the halfway mark they enjoy a five-point advantage.
One of the surprise sides of the season, Dynamo (RUS) pulled off another valuable win to retain their second position. This time they earned three points in Budapest in the home of OSC (HUN) which is visibly struggling this season. Last year they had just missed the cut to make the Final Six, now they suffered their fifth straight defeat after starting their quest with back-to-back wins. In fact, Dynamo rolled over them in the first half gaining a decisive 1-6 lead. The Hungarians couldn’t come any closer in the remaining part (5-10) and they need a wonder to qualify.
Brescia (ITA) also had a strong start – indeed the first period decided everything as the Italians flew to a 7-0 lead against Partizan (SRB). Credit to the young Serbs that they kept on fighting and ‘won’ the remaining three periods 6-9 though Brescia’s win was never in danger (13-9). Here the fourth game is due on Thursday, a crucial encounter featuring Barceloneta (ESP) and Hannover (GER).
The fourth game of this group was played on Thursday and it unfolded a real drama. Barceloneta (ESP) was the great favourite but Hannover enjoyed an outstanding day which resulted a brilliant clash. It was a chasing game as the Spaniards were almost always in the lead, many times by two but their rivals could always come back to equal. Though Barceloneta went 12-10 up with 3:49 to but three minutes later it stood 12-12. Hannover’s Montenegrin ace Darko Brguljan played the best game of his season as he netted six goals, and his inspirational performance seemed to earn at least a point but at the end Barceloneta had the last laugh. They earned a 6 on 5 on their last possession and Josip Vrlic scored the winner with 0:05 remaining on the clock. Barceloneta escaped a fourth draw in the season while Hannover lost the same way as they had done in the opening evening in the home of OSC, conceding a goal in the dying seconds.
All four home teams lost in Group B. While a couple of these results were predictable, Szolnok’s defeat against fellow Hungarian side Eger is the most stunning result on Day 7. Since the title-holder side first made the prelims in the Champions League in the autumn of 2014, it has never lost a game at home. But this run ended now, after 17 matches – 16 wins and 1 draw – Szolnok left its own pool empty-handed. The all-Magyar clash produced a real thriller with loads of twists and turns. Eger took the lead for the first time early in the second at 3-4 but Szolnok replied with three unanswered goals. The visitors came closer, however, an action goal three seconds before the middle break halved their deficit (7-6). The third saw only one hit apiece while Eger started taking control in the fourth. With 5:17 to go they were ahead at 8-9 but the title-holders managed to equalise twice (10-10). Szolnok could have gone ahead but missed a crucial 6 on 5 while Eger managed to bury another extra: just as in the previous one, Daniel Angyal put away the ball from the 2m line. Only 14 seconds were left and Szolnok couldn’t save the game to a tie from the last possession – the three points were crucial for Eger to continue its campaign in a fine position in the second half of the group stage.
Recco (ITA) could thank this and broke three points clear by beating Spandau (GER), the brightest surprise of the season. And the Germans were on the verge of causing another upset as Recco sat too comfortable in the driving seat after having gained a 6-10 lead before the last quarter. With 3:25 to go, Spandau pulled one back and with 00:39 remaining on the clock the hosts trailed by only one. Twelve seconds from time they got the ball and had a 6 on 5 but couldn’t complete their miraculous comeback – this time the magical 10-9 meant only a fine loss to Spandau (previously they stunned the two Hungarian sides by winning with that scoreline).
Jadran (MNE) claimed a big win in Sabadell (ESP) which virtually ousted the Spaniards from the hunt for the qualifying berths. In fact, Jadran kept up with the ‘big boys’ of the group thanks to its great effort in this away match. The Montenegrins were ahead for most of the time, after two periods they went 3-6 up and led by two before the last one (6-8). Sabadell levelled the score in 63 seconds early in the fourth but Jadran responded well with connecting goals, then killed three man-downs to collect three pretty valuable points (8-10).
Though Alphen (NED) prepared to earn a positive result at last against another newcomer Steaua (ROU), the Dutch couldn’t get off from the losing trail. They were unable to find their rhythm while the Romanians enjoyed their best spell so far. The hosts could score their first goal at 0-13, in the fourth period (after 24:36 minutes) and even though they added three more later but couldn’t avoid another bad defeat.
Champions League, Day 7
Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 8-6
A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN) v Dynamo Moscow (RUS) 5-10
AN Brescia (ITA) v Partizan Belgrade (SRB) 13-9
Barceloneta (ESP) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 13-12
- Olympiacos 19, 2. Dynamo 14, 3. Brescia 13, 4. Jug 10, 5. Barceloneta 12, 6. OSC 6, 7. Hannover 6 (6), 8. Partizan 0
Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) v Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) 8-10
Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v ZF-Eger (HUN) 10-11
Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Pro Recco (ITA) 9-10
AZC Alphen (NED) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU) 4-15
1. Recco 18, 2. Szolnok 15, 3. Spandau 15, 4. Eger 13, 5. Jadran 13, 6. Steaua 6, 7. Sabadell 3, 8. Alphen 0