Recco survives a tough test against Marseille
The opening day almost produced the first upset as Marseille was on equal terms with Italian giant Pro Recco but the 8-times winner staged a great finish to clinch all three points. 2018 winner Olympiacos also struggled against Ortigia but secured a fine win while 2016 champion Jug demolished Spandau within two periods.
Champions League, Round 1, Group A –
Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v CC Ortigia (ITA) 6-4, Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 7-13, Pro Recco (ITA) v CN Marseille (FRA) 11-9
In these extraordinary times there are no clear favourites, this was already mirrored by the opening day in Ostia, where the reshaped Champions League returned to the scene with a bubble tournament format.
The opening game showed that even the greatest teams suffer heavily if they cannot play matches. Olympiacos took on newcomer Ortigia – while the Greek league has been suspended, the Sicilian side played some tough matches in the qualification and in the domestic championship and that left its mark on the game. The Greeks, this season without their usually very strong Croatian ‘legion’, struggled to find their rhythm and even if they managed to raise their level after a while, the encounter remained pretty close throughout the end. Finally, an extraman goal from Marios Kapotsis with 4:10 from time secured a hard-fought 6-4 win for Olympiacos.
Next came the 2016 winners and Jug, unlike the other two big teams, didn’t have any headaches against Spandau. The Croats staged a 0-8 rush in the first half, jumping from 1-1 to 1-9 in a span of 10:13 minutes and after that they just cruised in the second half, switching to ‘energy-saving’ mood. The evening match offered much more thrills as 2018 Euro Cup winner Marseille, also a team benefitting from continuous playing at home, stunned Recco with a brilliant first half by taking a 4-6 lead. They were still 4-7 up early in the third but the Italians hit back with a 3-0 march while killed three French man-ups in a row. That was a decisive phase as Recco held for 8-8 at the end of the third, took the lead in the fourth, then a a block and a great save denied the French in back-to-back 6 on 5s and Nicholas Presciutti scored for 10-8 with 2:04 to go. Andrija Prlainovic netted a 6m shot to pull one back but Aaron Younger’s goal from the centre sealed Recco’s win 11 seconds from time. It was a great effort from Marseille, but after 4-7 they lost the remaining 14 minutes 7-2.
The second round is coming on Tuesday in Ostia, while Group B joins the show in Budapest with the opening round in the Duna Arena.
Fixtures, Tuesday Group A – Ostia (ITA)
Round 2 (15 Dec): 15.15 Jug v Marseille, 17.45 Spandau v Olympiacos, 20.15 Ortigia v Recco
Group B – Budapest (HUN)
Round 1: 14.00 Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v AN Brescia (ITA), 16.30 Jadran Herceg Novi (MNE) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN), 19.00 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Zodiac CN Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)