Champions League, Final Six, Budapest (HUN) – Day 3, summary
For the 4th time in the club’s history Jug Dubrovnik (CRO) won the Champions League after an amazing run. Coming to Budapest as placed third in the prelims, they beat host Eger (HUN) in the quarters then hunted down the two group winners, Recco (ITA) in the semis and Olympiacos (GRE) in the final. The Greeks suffered their first defeat of the entire season in the final game, which saw some incredible goaltending from Marko Bijac, best goalie of the F6. Jug’s Felipe Perrone earned the MVP Award.
Szolnok found the better motivation for the bronze medal match, playing in front of a home crowd. Apart from a minor lapse early in the third period when Recco came back from 2-4 to 5-5, the Hungarians kept the game under firm control. The title-holder Italian side seemed to lack the usual backing of their captain, Stefano Tempesti, both as a goalie and a psychological leader (he is recovering from an eye surgery).
Some easy goals helped Szolnok but the Magyar team also scored from counters. The season’s top scorer, Denes Varga produced a couple of brilliant moves while hitting three. Two of those came late in the third period when Szolnok jumped to a 5-8 lead and there was no way back for Recco. For the Italians it was the third in 12 F6/F4 appearances that they didn’t make the final. For Szolnok, this bronze was the best ever result on the European stage.
The final brought a tough defensive game, with only 10 goals – partly because of the two Croatian goalies who did an outstanding job in front of the cages. However, it was Jug’s Marko Bijac who came up really big this evening, he produced an amazing 76.5% saving percentage, making 13 stops on 17 shots. His older team-mate in the national team, Josip Pavic also posted important saves for Olympiacos but the virtual game-deciding shot just slipped in under his hand in the most crucial moment, at 4-4, 5:16 from time. And that shot came from Maro Jokovic who struggled for a while, the great Croatian leftie stood with 0/4 in shots at halftime, just as the other winger, Xavi Garcia. But when it was needed the most, both of them managed to beat Pavic in the second half – even if they finished with 1/6, those goals contributed a lot to Jug’s triumph.
Olympiacos couldn’t produce their usual efficiency in man-ups, they could put away only 2 from their 10 opportunities. At 5-4 they had two 6 on 5s, but Jug’s defence worked well and Bijac made the saves with 2:09, then with 1:06 minutes to go. Jug worked for its luck pretty hard, withstood the pressure inside the last minute as well and earned a penalty after a rebound with 11 seconds to go. And Felipe Perrone, MVP of the tournament (again after 2015), buried it to secure Jug’s win, 10 years after the club’s last victory in the Champions League.
This time the Margaret Island didn’t turn into a golden venue for Olympiacos: they won their only title here in Budapest back in 2002, now they lost in the final and what makes it even more painful that they suffered their vey first defeat in the entire season now, in the very last and perhaps the most important match.
In the meantime, the Croatian players wildly celebrated the club’s 4th Champions League trophy which was a first in one aspect, since Jug won the previous three in finals held in Dubrovnik. Now they made it far from home and repeated Barceloneta’s incredible march from 2014, arriving as a third placed team in the prelims but going all the way in Final Six.
Champions League, Final Six – Day 3
Champions League Final
Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 6-4
Bronze medal game
Pro Recco (ITA) v Szolnoki Dozsa Kozgep (HUN) 7-11
Final rankings and prize money
- Jug € 50.000
- Olympiacos € 40.000
- Szolnok € 33.000
- Recco € 31.000
- Barceloneta € 28.000
- Eger € 27.000
Most Valuable Player: Felipe Perrone (Jug)
Best goalkeeper: Marko Bijac (Jug)
Top scorer: Denes Varga (Szolnok) 33 goals (prelims: 28, F6: 5)