Orizzonte claims second title with magnificent first half
Ekipe Orizzonte clinched its second Super Cup trophy by beating Euro League champion Sabadell in a thrilling final in Spain. The Italians flied high in the first half and took a 2-9 lead but the hosts climbed back to turn the last two minutes into a heated battle, still, they didn’t have a realistic chance to equalise. Orizzonte won this title for the second time after 2008.
Women’s Super Cup Final, Sabadell
Astralpool-Sabadell (ESP) v Ekipe Orizzonte 11-13
With only six players remaining on board from the Euro League winning side, Sabadell faced a challenging match against LEN Trophy-holder Orizzonte, which went through a lighter transformation in the summer.
With its US aces gone, Sabadell’s offence significantly weakened and that was visible right from the beginning. Two missed man-ups marked that in the first minutes, while Orizzonte found the back of the net twice in 34 seconds in the middle of the opening period. Maica Garcia stepped up to save the hosts and managed to net a fine goal from the centre after 5:18 minutes but Ann McKelvey put away a 6 on 5 so the Italians led 1-3 after eight minutes.
When Julia Forca scored a bit luckily early in the second for 2-3 it promised that Sabadell might find the right rhythm. What came instead were minutes of horrors for the Spaniards as Orizzonte scored six goals in a row. Arianna Garibotti stunned Laura Esther twice in 51 seconds from the distance and later came three more action goals plus a man-up at the end to give the LEN Trophy winners a commanding if not decisive 2-9 lead by halftime.
A sharp contrast between the goalies told the story of this period, while Ester was unable to cope with the outside shots, Giulia Gorlero delivered one big save after the other – the number of stops stood 2-10 at halftime, somewhat mirroring the scoreboard. The man-ups were similar at this stage: 0 for 5 at Sabadell, 3 for 3 at Orizzonte.
To give at least some hope for the capacity crowd, the home side started the second half differently. Marina Cordobes put away a 6 on 5, Kaur Sofi added one more from action, then they killed the first man-down and Forca pulled one more back for 5-9. The surge was somewhat halted by a fine goal from the centre by Rosaria Aiello but the Spaniards kept going, found the right shots to beat Gorlero and came back to 8-11 before the last quarter.
Last Easter they also trailed 8-11 against Olympiacos in this pool in the Euro League final and then they staged the comeback of the season with a 5-0 rush. Delivering the same plan would have required burying the first two man-ups at the beginning of the fourth, but missing both and then conceding two action goals in a span of 24 seconds turned the project into a mission impossible.
They tried it, though, with 2:13 to go the gap was reduced to two at 11-13, and Sabadell had a possession. Forca’s lob landed on the bar however, then a 7 on 6 set-up saw a blocked shot and the Italians played out the time to earn a well-deserved win. This also means that the LEN Trophy winners now clinched back-to-back wins in the final, but the Euro League champions still hold a 9-5 lead in the all-time head-to-head.
David Palma, head coach, Sabadell
“In the first half the Italians beat our zone defence with unexpected ease, we weren’t as intensive as we should have to. For the second half we changed our game, we went for pressing, played with more aggressively but the distance was too big to cover.”
Martina Micelli, head coach, Orizzonte
“The first half was brilliant, we played on a really high level both in offence and in defence. For the second half the game completely changed, just as the referees’ approach which is not that surprising when you play here and we couldn’t react that well. But at the end we played well enough to save two goals to the end and we are really proud and happy to win this final.”