Recco qualifies for F8, Jug recovers from the blow, favourites march in Group B
Recco is the first team to qualify for the Final 8 right after six rounds though the Italians had to go through some tense moments before they could secure a tough win over Marseille. Jug managed to find some ground after the humiliating defeat from Recco on Tuesday and the Croats upended Spandau, and Olympiacos also bounced back to beat Ortigia. In Group B the three favourites all did a clean job, each has 12 points while the other three trail by nine behind them.
Group A, Round 6: CN Marseille (FRA) v Pro Recco (ITA) 8-10, Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) 12-10, CC Ortigia (ITA) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 8-10
Standings: 1. Recco 18, 2. Jug 15, 3. Olympiacos 9, 4. Marseille 4, 5. Spandau 4, 6. Ortigia 3
Group B, Round 5: AN Brescia (ITA) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 19-11, Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 4-11, Jadran Herceg Novi (MNE) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta 9-12
Standings: 1. Barceloneta 12, 2. Brescia 12, 3. Ferencvaros 12, 4. Hannover 3, 5. Jadran 3, 6. Dinamo 3
In less than 17 hours after thrashing arch-rival Jug 18-3, Recco was back for a game with Marseille which was the start of the second half of the prelims. In December Recco had to dig deep to beat the French – it stood 8-8 after three periods but the Italians could make it at the end, a late goal from Aaron Younger secured their 11-9 win. This time the game took a different path as Recco – looking more powerful now than in the winter – rushed to 3-7 lead by halftime. The third brought more fight for a while and a single goal from Marseille up until the last minute when three goals came in the last 44 seconds and Recco held on for 5-9.
However, the final period saw a fine surge from the French while they managed to shut out Recco by killing three man-downs and making three man-ups – and with 2:10 to go it was 8-9. Dejan Lazic was amazing, delivered five saves in a row (he had 11 in total, Marko Bijac in Recco’s goal was less effective this time, he was 5/13), so Marseille had to possessions to go even but could not take a shot from either and 27 seconds from time it was Younger again who secured Recco’s win. It was a strange situation, the shotclock ticked down but the French looked for the counter and left the ball behind – a turnover foul was called and the Aussie could beat Lazovic with ease.
In the next game Jug needed some time to settle in the pool and recover from the huge punch floored them in the previous evening. The Croats took a 2-0 lead against Spandau quickly but the Germans kept their fine level from the previous two matches, came back to 3-3 in the first. What’s more, their Russian rocket Dmitrii Kholod carried on his one-man show in the second, completed a hat-trick to give his side a 3-5 lead. Before getting into bigger trouble again, Jug killed a man-down and halted its scoreless phase after 8:10 minutes. That was an ice-breaker as the Croatians added two more still in the second to go 6-5 ahead.
They finally took control in the third by netting two in 92 seconds after 6-6 and after four minutes of battling they scored again for 9-6 and that gave them the psychological edge. Even though Spandau pushed hard and kept coming back, for 9-8, then for 11-10 after 11-8 but the Croats regained their confidence and calm, thanks to some brilliant goals from Loren Fatovic and Anastasios Papanastasiou – both netted 4. And in this tense moment, at 11- 10, an immediate response arrived from Hrvoje Benic in the form of a fine shot with 2:34 from time and that was more than enough this afternoon.
Winning by two became a common feature by the end of this day in Ostia as Olympiacos also downed Ortigia with this margin. Just like the preceding matches, the evening clash was tense and tight all the way till the end. Though the Italians never led in the match, Olympiacos found it really hard to build a solid lead. The Greeks’ first fine spell occurred in the second period when they jumped to 3-5 from 3-3 while managed to kill two man-downs. Ortigia responded well though, and early in the third they came back to 5-5 – but the Greeks kept on rolling and staged a 3-0 rush in the following five minutes. They converted 3/3 man-ups and led 5-8 despite missing a penalty en route.
The Sicilians could pull one back but Georgios Dervisis opened the fourth with an action goal. Simone Rossi put away an extra with 5:13 remaining for 7-9 and the next three minutes brought a ‘who-scores-first’ scenario. Ortigia had a man-up to really heat up the match but the ball hit the post and Dervisis became the Greeks’ hero by scoring from the ensuing counter for 7-10 to close down the contest. Valentino Gallo’s goal came too late 1:15 from time, so Olympiacos claimed a calming win while the newcomers lost their third straight match in this second tourney.
In Group B in Budapest, Brescia kicked off the ‘Favourites’ Day’ in style by netting 19 against Hannover, a sharp contrast to the Germans game from the previous day when they could maintain their clean sheet for 30:25 minutes against Dinamo. In the first half the Germans did a fine job, though Brescia ruled the game but their rivals kept up and in the last minute before the middle break they had a man-up at 7-5. It was wasted without a shot and Brescia scored from the ensuing counter 6 seconds from time to make it 8-5 (instead of 7-6) and according to the post-game interviews, that was a turning point. Though Hannover could reduce the gap to two twice in the third but after 9-7 Brescia netted three in a row and from 12-7 there was no way back for Hannover – indeed they conceded six more in the final period when the reserve goalie came in.
Ferencvaros’ moral had got a huge boost after their win against Barceloneta – perhaps even surprised themselves on Tuesday – which was bad news for Dinamo whose scoring woes had been painfully visible a day earlier against Hannover. At least the Georgians didn’t have to wait their first one until the very end – could score after 11 minutes but that was the lonely positive happening to them in the first half. It came at 0-5 and the Hungarians offered a pretty effective playing scheme – no rush, earn man-ups with patience, convert them and in the first half that worked well: they had four shots, netted all, plus a penalty and three goals from action to gain a 1-8 lead. After the middle break the title-holders switched back to ‘power-saving’ mood, did not force anything in front, earned two man-ups per period, scored only three in the second half, while Dinamo found some rhythm so the match was a bit more even but lacked the real excitements.
Something similar was expected in the closing session, instead Jadran came up with a heroic effort against Barceloneta and kept the Spaniards under pressure for three periods. Up until halftime the group leader couldn’t find its real speed and precision, beyond that Peter Tesanovic offered some outstanding saves to keep the young Montenegrins in play. It stood 4-4 at halftime, then came a better spell from Barceloneta, at least they could gain a 4-6 lead and shut out their rivals for 8:24 minutes, but captain Marko Petkovic stepped up towards the end of this quarter and with two magnificent shots he brought back Jadran to 6-7 before the last break.
Alvaro Granados’ two fine finishes in back-to-back man-ups and a killed mandown in between gave a calming 6-9 advantage for the Spaniards early in the fourth, but Herceg Novi didn’t gave in. However, the Montenegrins could never get inside two goals as the experienced shooting squad of the Spanish side found the back of the net when it was really necessary.
Thus the top three teams already gained a significant advantage over the other three and will decide the top ranks among each other while the fourth spot will go to Hannover in case the Germans will be able to organise the Final Eight in June – if not, a new battle will begin.
Fixtures for Thursday Group A – Round 7: 15.15 Marseille v Jug, 17.45 Olympiacos v Spandau, 20.15 Recco v Ortigia
Group B – Round 6: 14.00 Brescia v Dinamo, 16.30 Barceloneta v Hannover, 19.00 FTC v Jadran
LEN offers free live streaming from each game – from Ostia, you can listen to Ratko Rudic’s expert commentary during the top matches as the greatest water polo coach in history happily joined us for this tournament!