Barceloneta clinches F8 spot, Jug marches on, Olympiacos bounces back
All three favourite sides earned fine wins on Wednesday and group leader Barceloneta is the first team to secure its spot in the Final Eight. Jug and Olympiacos are yet to add a couple of points to qualify officially but practically they are battling for the top spot and not worrying what’s happening behind their back. At the same time, the hunt for the fourth place will be as thrilling as it can be.
Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 7-11, Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) 12-6, Sintez Kazan (RUS) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 10-14, Jadran Split (CRO) v Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) 13-9 (played on Tuesday)
Standings: 1. Barceloneta 25, 2. Jug 24, 3. Olympiacos 22, 4. Jadran Carine 13, 5. Szolnok 12, 6. Spandau 11, 7. Jadran Split 7, 8. Sintez 3 Euro Cup – Semi-finals, 2nd leg CC Ortigia (ITA) v DiGi Oradea (ROU) 13-8 Aggregate: 23-12 ZF Eger (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA) postponed (first leg: 3-6)
Jug and Barceloneta made it 3/3 since the re-start of the European Championships, while Olympiacos managed to get back onto the winning track after two defeats. The three favourites managed to build a bigger gap by halftime in the respective matches so all they needed in the second halves was to maintain their lead which they did without any headaches.
Though Jadran Carine enjoyed showed great performances in the previous rounds, this time they couldn’t withstand the pressure in Barceloneta. The Spaniards vibrant defence and the ensuing counterattacks did the damage in the second period when the hosts jumped to a 6-2 lead with three goals in succession. It stood 7-3 at halftime and Jadran could never get closer than four in the second half. This victory has sent Barceloneta to the Final Eight already four rounds before the end of the prelims (first team to make the cut ‘on the field’, Recco is qualified automatically as the host of the event).
Jug also did a clean job in Kazan. Though the Russians played a “nothing-tolose” style game with 31 shots but Jug’s defence worked well in the first three periods. Sintez trailed by two at 5-7 in the middle of the third but Loren Fatovic’s double in 64 seconds (he netted 5 altogether) brought some calm for Jug before the last break (5-9). The final eight minutes was a wild westlike showdown with 5 goals apiece but the Croats’ win was never in danger.
Olympiacos faced a tough challenge in Berlin as the Greeks were defeated heavily in Dubrovnik and then at home by Barceloneta while Spandau earned back-to-back wins and looked ready to go for more.
However, the Greeks proved their class and staged a 0-3 rush after 3-3 in the second period and that proved to be the killer blow. The Germans fought on as always but they couldn’t put their rivals under bigger pressure, Olympiacos always scored in crucial moments to go four goals up while Spandau never came closer than three. However, they still have a strong chance to clinch an F8 spot since Jadran Carine and Szolnok also lost in this round (the latter one fell in Split a bit surprisingly on Tuesday) – and only a single point separate these three teams.
Champions League action is set to resume in one month, soon after the Olympic Qualification Tournament ends.
Elsewhere, in the Euro Cup semi-final, Ortigia enjoyed an easy cruise against Oradea in the return leg too. Gaining a 6-goal advantage in the away game meant that the Italian side had virtually advanced to the final – with another fine win they just sealed this. This will be the men’s team first-ever European final (the women won a record 8 titles in the Euro League).
It’s yet to be seen if there will be another all-Italian title bout but for safety reasons the other semi between Eger and Brescia has been postponed. Brescia won 6-3 in the first leg