Champions League, Prelims, Day 5 Summary
Recco comes back from 0-5 down, wins 5 out of 5
Recco (ITA) got into a situation never experienced in recent past, falling 0-5 behind at home, but the title-holders staged a magnificent comeback against Hungarian champion Szolnok and captured their 5th win in Group B. In Group A the four strongest sides all earned points with Primorje (CRO) and Barceloneta (ESP) producing the usual tie. The battle for the F6 spots cannot be any more exciting and we are only at the halfway mark in the prelims!
A quick look at the standings tells the story of this round: the second half of the prelims promises a never-seen battle for the Final Six berths. Even Eger, enjoying automatic qualification as the host of the F6, pushes really hard to earn the top spot in the group they beat Spandau this time. The Germans proved their strength by capturing points against Olympiacos and Primorje but this time they couldnt find the tools against the Magyars who netted a series of fine action goals (10-7).
Olympiacos overcame a minor scare in the middle of the game against Jadran. The Greeks jumped to a 4-0 lead but the Montenegrins hit back and seemed to have a chance for something bigger at 5-4. However, the last 12 minutes saw only Greek goals in fact Ioannis Fountoulis made the difference, he scored 6 (10-4) and this win propelled Olympiacos to the top of the group.
And not even this round has passed without a tie: Primorje and Barceloneta drew after a thrilling match. The Croats were always in the lead, were 4-1 up, then 6-3 (in the second) but the Spaniards kept coming back. They equalised deep into the fourth at 7-7 but Primorje managed to rebuild the two-goal cushion in a span of 48 seconds. Still, Barceloneta wasnt done and answered with two, they achieved their double in 34 seconds (9-9).
1. Olympiacos 9, 2. Barceloneta 8, 3. Eger 8, 4. Primorje 8, 5. Spandau 3, 6. Jadran 0.
Recco proved again that its team is the one to beat Szolnok led 0-5 after 4:30 minutes in the home of the title-holder but at the end the Hungarian champion succumbed under the enormous pressure. It was a truly fantastic game though no one wondered that: the contest featured 13 medallists from the European Championships finished just days earlier in Belgrade, including seven freshly crowned Serbian champions (four in Recco, three in Szolnok).
Recco woke up in time and climbed back to 5-7 by halftime, still, Szolnok was 6-9 up in the middle of the third. Then came a breath-taking demonstration of power from Recco as their Serbian-Croatian mix produced a 6-0 rush which decided the outcome. At the end they reached their usual level in scoring (14-11), with Dusan Mandic netting 5 goals. 2015 LEN Award winner Dusko Pijetlovic hit three, just as Milan Aleksic and Aaron Younger for Szolnok. Good news for the water polo fans that the two giants will clash again next week in Hungary.
Host sides won with ease in the other two matches, Jug beat the youngsters of Partizan without any headache. The Serbs missed a penalty at the beginning and soon they found themselves on a downhill slide, it stood 6-1 at half-time and 10-4 after three periods. Pavo Markovic led the Croatian charge with 4 goals (12-4).
A similar pattern was followed in Budapest where OSC clinched its first win by downing Galatasaray. The Magyars managed to hold Galatas key Serbian players on a single goal, that turned the contest into a one-sided battle which saw Bence Batori netting a game-high 4 goals, equalling the team-efforts of the Turks single-handedly (13-4).
1. Recco 15, 2. Jug 12, 3. Szolnok 9, 4. Partizan 6, 5. OSC 3, 6. Galatasaray 0
Next round is due on next Wednesday, 10 February.
Euro Cup, semi-finals, 1st leg
The first leg of the semi-finals offered as much thrills as the best Champions League battles the question is wide open which teams reach the final of this competition.
Szeged (HUN) offered some extraordinary goal-tending for a while and held a 2-3 goals lead in Brescia (ITA) for the surprise of many. But the Italians favourites to win the title for the fourth time after 2002, 2003 and 2006 produced a brilliant last period. With that 3-0 rush they came back into the match and earned a single goal advantage for the return leg (9-8).
Mornar (CRO), semi-finalist last year, was entangled into a brilliant battle with Sintez (RUS). For most of the time the Croats were ahead but the Russians never let them go to far at the end only two goals separated the sides so the second leg is going to be as exciting as the first one was.
Semi-finals, first leg
AN Brescia (ITA) v Diapolo-Szeged (HUN) 9-8
Mornar Brodospas Split (CRO) v Sintez Kazan (RUS) 9-7
Second leg is due on next Wednesday, 10 February.