Olympiacos edges out Jug, Recco scores 24, Mladost wins crucial game
In the lowest‐scoring game so far in the season, Olympiacos edged out Jug 6-5 and kept the first position in Group A. Recco jumped to the top spot in Group B after netting a season-high 24 goals against Dinamo – here Mladost almost blew away a five-goal lead in the last quarter but cashed all three points at the end against Marseille, a crucial win in the hunt for the F8 berth. Terrassa also sneaked higher in the ranks after another single-goal away victory, this time in Hannover. After the five games brought forward because of the commencing U20 World Championships, the last round of this year will conclude on Friday and Saturday.
Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 6-5, Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) v Sintez Kazan 12-9, Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) Fri 19.00, Jadran Split (CRO) v Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) Fri 19.00
Standings: 1. Olympiacos 19, 2. Jug 15, 3. Barceloneta 13 (6), 4. Szolnok 9 (6), 5. Jadran Carine 7, 5. Spandau 5 (6), 7. Jadran Split 4 (6), 8. Sintez 3
Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v CN Terrassa (ESP) 8-9, HAVK Mladost Zagreb (CRO) v CN Marseille (FRA) 12-11, Pro Recco (ITA) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 24-9, A Híd-OSC Budapest (HUN) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) Sat 19.00 Standings: 1. Recco 17, 2. FTC 16 (6), 3. Mladost 13, 4. OSC 12 (6), 5. Terrassa 9, 6. Marseille 9, 7. Hannover 3, 8. Tbilisi 0
In the highlighted game of the round Olympiacos and Jug produced an absolutely thrilling battle, where the defences worked almost flawlessly – 11 goals in today’s water polo is quite a rarity, especially when both sides have huge offensive potential. Goalkeepers excelled, Emmanouil Zerdevas posted 8 saves (61.5%), Toni Popadic came up with 14 stops for 70% – still, that wasn’t enough to earn a point.
Olympiacos jumped to a 3-0 lead with two brilliant goals from centre-forward Konstantinos Mourikis but the Croats came back soon though they needed 11:42 minutes to score their first goal. But once they got it, they started rolling and late in the third they managed to equalise for 4-4 and after a killed man-‐up they had a 6 on 5 to go ahead. They missed the opportunity – and Emmanouil Mylonakis sent the ball home from the ensuing counter for 5-4. Seven minutes of hard fight followed and the Greeks could score first in the final period: their Croatian ace Ivan Buljubasic netted an action goal, again after a missed extraman from Jug. Jug struggled in that part of the game, was 1 for 10, and even though Loren Fatovic pulled one back with 2:13 to go for 6-5, Zervadas managed to get a hand on Merkulov’s shot 44 seconds from time and the post denied the Croats’ last attempt. The Greeks bagged three points in another tense match – which saw Jug’s coach Vjeko Kobescak ejected – and their third single-‐goal win gave them a four-point lead so far (Barceloneta can come closer on Friday).
The other game in Group A was just as nerve-wrecking despite Jadran Carine seemed to have the edge several times during the match. They produced a strong opening quarter where they took a 3-0 lead and were 5-1 up deep into the second but Sintez had a better spell to come back to 6-5. The Montenegrins responded well, netted three connecting goals and at 9-5 all looked bright again. Still, the Russians kept coming back, and in the fourth they scored three straight goals from back-to-back possessions, two from the distance, what’s more, at 9-9 they had a ball to take the lead. A bad pass ruined their attack, and after a calming time-out Duro Radovic’s left-handed blast put Jadran Carine back on the right track. Sintez missed a crucial man-up and Radovic netted his 4th which decided the outcome – a third action goal 67 second later sealed the hosts’ fine win and put them to a promising position for the second half of the prelims.
Recco performed the ‘compulsory dance’ flawlessly against Dinamo, the Italians stormed to an 8-0 lead in the first period, turning the game into a gala. They closed the calendar season with a new scoring record of 24 goals – and at least until Saturday they took the first place in Group B.
Mladost bounced back from the devastating defeat in FTC’s home last Wednesday and kicked off their crucial match against Marseille with a splendid 4-0 opening period. The French didn’t collapse though, and showed their composure by scoring five goals in the second period while climbing back to 6-5. Franko Lazic’s spectacular 8m blast gave a calming two-goal lead for Mladost and after 7-6 the Croats managed to score a series of truly magnificent goals – two from the centre, in between Konstantin Kharkov’s flip-flop was simply brilliant – while Marseille lost ground again and with 6:42 to go the hosts took a decisive 12-6 lead. Still, the French didn’t give in, with 1:45 to go they reduced the gap to two, 49 seconds from time had a man-up but missed it badly so their last shot, also a splendid one, just beat the buzzer, but the three points remained in Zagreb so Mladost is back to the hunt for the Final Eight.
Terrassa gained another dramatic away win: six days after upsetting Marseille, the Spaniards came from behind to beat Hannover in a nervous match. The Germans rushed to a 3-0 lead but it didn’t last long, the Spaniards scored four in a row. Then came the home side’s surge and Hannover went 7-5 up in the third but Terrassa pulled one back before the last break and added three in the fourth. The visitors shut out their rivals for 12:36 minutes while producing a 0-4 rush, Hannover’s last goal 15 seconds from time arrived way too late. With this win the Spanish newcomers manoeuvred themselves pretty close to the top ranked sides – when Champions League action resumes in February, the Spanish might cause more surprises.