CN Sabadell proved that it’s still the team to beat at the European stage – and for the 4th time in six years no opponent could better the Spanish side. This Sunday Hungarian champion UVSE challenged them but had to settle for the second place after a hard-fought battle. The bronze went to Kinef (RUS) while title-holder Olympiacos fell back to the fourth place.
Interestingly, the semifinals brought identical results: both Sabadell and UVSE won 12-11 in the respective matches. The Spanish, playing at home, gained a thee-goal lead over Kinef Kirishi by half-time thanks to a 4-1 storm in the second (6-3). They went 9-5 up with three minutes remaining from the third and looked a sure bet for the final, but the Russians showed their traditional character that they could do something extraordinary when the trouble seemed really big.
Scoring two in a span of 48 seconds still in the third was a huge push and they rolled on in the fourth: with 6:16 to go they caught up Sabadell at 9-9. Olga Domenech halted Kinef’s match with a fine action goal, then the hosts converted two penalties for a 12-10 lead, but Nadezhda Glyzina was on fire, hit her third goal in the last period with 49 seconds remaining on the clock. Sabadell couldn’t score, the Russians had a last possession for 23 seconds but cracked the post at the end, letting the Spaniards take deep breaths of relief.
The other semi mirrored the first one for a while. Olympiacos sat pretty comfortably in the driving seat, the title-holders went 3-7 up deep into the second and despite some fine efforts from UVSE they were still in the lead in the third, jumping to 7-10 from 6-7. What came next, in the final period, was as stunning as anything else: the Hungarians netted four unanswered action goals, the first three in 97 seconds. Connecting man-ups helped the Greeks to come back to life, their Italian player, Roberta Bianconi – the 2015 LEN Award winner – equalised for 11-11 and there were still 4:13 minutes to play. But the Magyars hit back immediately by Hanna Kisteleki and the remaining 3:52 minutes saw only missed man-ups (two by Olympiacos, one by UVSE) but no goals and the Hungarian team managed to make the final on its second try.
The next day brought some consolation for Kinef, as they beat Olympiacos 10-9 for the bronze medal. The Greeks jumped to a 4-1 lead in eight minutes but the Russians started to climb back and in an action-packed last period they managed to the turn the cards. A missed penalty sent the Greeks to a downward spiral, instead of 7-5 soon it was 6-6 and Kinef took control. Glyzina was amazing once more as she scored 6 goals in the game.
The final brought a brilliant battle but Sabadell’s experience prevailed: this was their 5th final in five years and they lost only one (last spring, to Olympiacos in Athens). UVSE started the match with some brave attacks, gained a 3-2 lead but the Spaniards scored three straight goals for 3-5 while the Hungarians missed two 6 on 5s late in the first. The trend continued, missed man-ups at both ends and after 4-5 two action goals gave Sabadell a comfortable 4-7 lead.
UVSE didn’t let it go, hit back for 6-7 in the first part of the third but again, action goals from Domenech and Judith Forca reset the three-goal cushion before the last quarter (6-9). A saved penalty and a goal from an extra gave hope for the Magyars at 7-9, later, at 8-10 they had a man-up with 1:39 to go but lost the ball and Anna Espar’s fine shot decided the outcome 58 seconds from time.
This was Sabadell’s fourth trophy in six years, they became the queens of Europe once more after 2011, 2013 and 2014.
Euro League, Final Four – Sabadell (ESP)
CN Sabadell (ESP) v Kinef Kirishi (RUS) 12-11
UVSE Budapest (HUN) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 12-11
Bronze medal game
Olympiacos v Kinef 9-10
UVSE v Sabadell 8-11