Brescia Wins Thriller, Olympiacos & Barceloneta Fall At LEN Champions League

Courtesy: LEN

Brescia broke four points clear after winning an epic 29-goal match in Split as Olympiacos’ unbeaten run ended in Kragujevac where Radnicki caused a huge upset by beating the Greeks. Fellow Serbian side Novi Beograd’s 5-0 opening against Barceloneta proved to be decisive despite the Spaniards’ surge in the second half. Since Ferencvaros bagged three more points against Dinamo, the Spaniards now trail by five in the race for the Final Eight.

Group A: Novi Beograd (SRB) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) 11-9, Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 10-8, Jadran Split (CRO) v AN Brescia (ITA) 14-15, FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 16-10

Standings: 1. Brescia 20, 2. Olympiacos 16, 3. Ferencvaros 16, 5. Novi Beograd 14, 4. Barceloneta 11, 7. Radnicki 7, 6. Jadran 6, 8. Dinamo 0

Brescia came back from four goals down in Split to beat Jadran 15-14 in a fantastic game. While two weeks ago it was a defensive battle where despite its missing players the Italians beat the Croats 6-5, now it was an offensive feast. The hosts scored nine goals in 13 minutes – only to face a 0-6 run by Brescia in the following nine. Jadran went all-in in the fourth, but the Italians managed to keep a goal from their advantage.

And they could watch the games staged in Serbia with satisfaction as two big rivals fell over the next two hours. First gone Barceloneta in Belgrade where the hosts responded well to the sudden resignation of their head-coach Vlado Vujasinovic and proved that they are an elite team with a huge potential. They stormed to a 5-0 lead in ten minutes – though in the second half Barceloneta managed to come back to 6-5 but the home side had the answers again and earned a fine win at the end.

Then came the big upset – Radnicki, collecting only four points in the first seven rounds, stunned Olympiacos in a tough battle. Though the Greeks came back from 5-2 to 7-7 but couldn’t take over the lead, then the Serbs scored late in the third and early in the fourth and there was no way back for the 2018 champions. Once Radnicki went 10-8 up, they shut out their rivals in the last four minutes. Lazar Dobozanov had 13 saves, posted a 62% percentage (including stopping Filip Filipovic’s penalty in the fourth), playing a key role in halting Olympiacos’ unbeaten run.

Ferencvaros bagged three more points to have now at least as many wins as draws (four and four, still no losses) – this time the Hungarians had a slow start against Dinamo, but netting 7 in the second period put the game on the expected track.

Recaps

Radnicki v Olympiacos 10-8 

The Greeks had to overcome the problems caused by their travel delay – arrived a day later after a snowfall froze Athens – and they ‘arrived’ into the match also a bit later. This slow start pushed them  into a mission ‘almost impossible’as they fell behind quickly and trailed 4-1 and 5-2 in the first period while the Serbs played really well.

Radnicki earned a couple of great wins (two against fellow Serbian side Novi Beograd in the cup final and in the Adriatic League) and those victories did good to the team’s confidence. Though Konstantinos Mourikis pulled one back 6 seconds from time with his usual centre-goal and Ioannis Fountoulis further reduced the gap early in the second, but the hosts didn’t crack under the pressure. Milos Cuk netted an extra for 6-4, followed by Konstantinos Genidounias’ man-up goal – then the Greeks managed to kill three man-downs, still, Nikola Lukic’s fine action shot gave back the two-goal lead for Radnicki by halftime.

Sadly for the Serbs, their compatriot Filip Filipovic finally joined the party in the third and with a double in 38 seconds (from a penalty and a man-up) he put Olympiacos back on even at 7-7. Lukic missed the hosts’ next 6 on 5, then the Greeks earned one but they couldn’t take a shot. After they were also denied by goalie Lazar Dobozanov in their following possessions, Marko Radulovic’s 6m shot sent Radnicki ahead once more, 17 seconds before the last break.

Fountoulis hit the post from the Greeks’ first man-up in the fourth, and that was crucial since Josip Vrlic managed to score from the centre – so it was 9-7 and not 8-8. Dobozanov stopped Filipovic’s penalty in the next attack and the Greeks needed one more minute before they could score – after a killed man down, Fountoulis found the back of the net from action. Still, Radnicki held on as Aleksa Ukropina beat Marko Bijac in the following 6 on 5 – and the Greeks were unable to score more goals in the last four minutes. Indeed, they couldn’t take a shot in their last two man-ups, and this inevitably led to the end of their unbeaten run.

Novi Beograd v Barceloneta 11-9 

Coaches hate to see their teams conceding goals from counters and the centre – in Belgrade a goal from a counter by Radomir Drasovic and one from the centre by Dusko Pijetlovic kicked off the match, the two arrived in 51 seconds to set the tone. Three minutes later Elvis Fatovic had to call a time-out after Drasko Gogov’s goal from a 6 on 5 counter gave a 4-0 lead to the hosts. It just helped to halt the Serbs’ run, but the Spaniards were still unable to score and when Gogov netted an extra early in the second, Barceloneta faced an enormous mountain to climb at 5-0.

Then Alvaro Granados broke the ice, after five missed 6 on 5s he finally put the Spaniards on the scoreboard. It took 10:49 minutes, but it still didn’t look that nice at halftime at 6-2, even though they managed to defend a bit better. A telling stat was at this stage that the number of total shots stood 16-9, on target went 13-4.

Then in the third two fast goals in 25 seconds fired up the visitors, 64 seconds later Felipe Perrone finished off a counter, so it was match-time again at 6-5. Dusan Mandic stepped up to send his team back to the battlefield, but Miguel de Toro also buried an extra from close. Strahinja Rasovic was on target twice, a penalty and a converted extra helped his team to keep the distance as between the two del Toro scored after a lucky rebound. Perrone was blocked in a man-up and that put the writing on the wall as Vasilje Martinovic’s fine bouncer hit the back of the net for 10-7.

The last period produced a tremendous battle, after three minutes Barceloneta scored first, de Toro netted a man-up again and 40 seconds later Alberto Munarriz buried a penalty – so it stood 10-9 with 4:24 to go. The Spaniards survived back-to-back man-downs, but de Toro’s centre-shot was denied by the post. The Spaniards had more chances to go even, Dani Lopez made a big save in a man-up with 1:15 to go but Pijetlovic also stopped de Toro’s ball. The Serbs earned a man-up 22 seconds before the final whistle, the Spaniards left them 3 on 2 but Angelos Vlachopoulos put an end to the contest with a pinpoint shot, one second from time. Though the change for the second half was mirrored by the same stats mentioned at halftime (total shots: 28-26, on target: 22-19 – 12-17 and 9-15 in the second half) but the first period’s blackout cost too much to the Spaniards.

Jadran v Brescia 14-15 

Two weeks ago, Brescia played the match with literally seven field players, still managed to pull it off by a single goal. Now the Italian team was almost complete, but the Croats also wanted to grab their last chance to stay with the leaders and it ended in a magnificent match – perhaps only the goalies left the pool with bad memories.

Jadran stepped up in the opening period and managed to take a 4-2 lead. The second period began with a shooting parade, six goals arrived in a span of three minutes, only two possessions out of eight didn’t bring a hit at the end – though the gap didn’t change as both sides netted three. Then the Italians froze in front while the hosts carried on and Antonio Duzevic’s nice centre-goal gave them a 9-5 lead with 3:26 remaining till the middle break.

Brescia was in trouble, but the Italians didn’t lose their composure and soon hit the comeback trail. Edoardo di Somma – who was also the saviour of his team on Day 7 – netted a man-up then with some luck his ball slipped in seven seconds from time, so it looked better at halftime (9-7).

The Italian defence tightened, they were more aggressive while the Croats’ level in offence dropped significantly, they couldn’t find the tools to overplay the rival’s defence. Petar Tesanovic also improved a lot in Brescia’s goal, the Montenegrin was 3/12 in the first half while posted 4/5 alone in the third. While Jadran scored nine goals in 12:34 minutes, the hosts remained scoreless in the next 9 minutes and that had a devastating effect on the outcome. Brescia geared up and with four connecting action goals they took over the lead – it was a 0-6 run altogether –, before Duzevic put away an extra. Still, the Italians were on fire, added two more, one from a 6 on 5 and another from action, killed two man-downs to go 10-13 up before the last period.

Though the 1-6 hammering in the third might looked like bad but the Croats came back strong for the fourth. Mate Ancic delivered a couple of saves, Niksa Dobud netted a brilliant goal from the centre and when Marin Delic sent the ball home from a dying extra it became an open game again at 12-13 with 4:50 on the clock. Christian Presciutti’s action goal halted the home side’s run but only temporarily as Konstantin Kharkov’s outside blast halved the distance once again. The next two and a half minutes were thrilling, Jadran had possessions to equalise but the post saved Brescia before Vincenzo Renzuto converted a man-up with a huge shot for 13-15, and only 45 seconds were remaining. However, Kharkov needed only 11 seconds to score again and Jadran had four seconds to save the game to a draw, but Tesanovic could put his hand on Luka Bukic’s shot to secure three really important points for Brescia.

Ferencvaros v Dinamo 16-10 

In Tbilisi, the Hungarians made sure right at the beginning that the Dinamo players should not smell blood at any stage of the game and with a 0-5 start they transformed the match to a calm encounter. Now, missing five members of their starting line-up due to positive tests, they were unable to copy their last performance, at least in the first half. What’s more, after Denes Varga opened the scoring, Dinamo managed to reply with two goals while Marton Vamos missed a penalty, so the visitors led 1-2 after the first period.

Vamos erased the bad memories with an action goal early in the second, followed by a man-up conversion by Szilard Jansik but the gap didn’t grow any bigger. What’s more, Dinamo always found the answers as Ferencvaros’ defence didn’t click at this phase of the game, their young players committed mistakes and the Georgians punished all – and held on for 5-5. Then came Denes Varga with a double, plus a fine goal from the centre by Gabor Lorinc, three goals from as many possessions in 70 seconds and that put the match on the expected track, even though Marko Jelaca pulled one back before the middle break.

The defences didn’t shine in the third either, but it was clear that the Magyars were in control (though Some Vogel had to face 23 shots, compared to the 17 two weeks ago) – still, all credits go to Dinamo as they managed to stay close even during this period and trailed by only three goals (13-10) before the last break. However, they ran out of gas for the fourth, couldn’t score any more while Luca Damonte showed his real class for the first time in the season – he stopped at 5, just like Varga, the Italian was 5/5, a brilliant feat in any match in this competition.

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