Courtesy: LEN Media
The first round of the qualifications finished without any major surprise though a series of tight matches showed how balanced the field of the two tournaments was. Crvena Zvezda (SRB) and CN Barcelona (ESP) finished atop in the respective groups but neither of the winning sides’ route was easy.
Group A: 1. Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 15 points, 2. VK Sabac (SRB) 12, 3. Dynamo Moscow (RUS) 9, 4. DiGi Oradea (ROU) 6, 5. Apollon Smyrnis (GRE) 3, 6. Galatasaray (TUR) 0
Group B: 1. CN Barcelona (ESP) 12, 2. Sintez Kazan (RUS) 12, 3. Pays D’Aix Natation (FRA) 9, 4. Steaua Bucharest (ROU) 9, 5. Enka Istanbul (TUR) 3, 6. Banja Luka (BIH) 0
In Sabac, where the two Serbian teams made a 1-2 finish, five equally strong clubs fought for the four qualifying spots and at the end Apollon Smyrnis came short. Though it’s telling that the Greeks had to settle for the fifth place after three single-goal defeat – the most painful among those came against Oradea on Sunday.
Apollon would have needed a two-goal win to force a three-way tie and earn a berth in the next round. In the third they seemed to have it as they led 7-11 but the Romanians had more depth in their team and managed to turn the cards in the fourth. They won 16-15 at the end – Nikola Moskov netted 10 goals for Apollon but even his heroics were not enough to go through.
In Barcelona the host team secured its top spot after four rounds and lost a tough fight against Steaua on the closing day. The Spaniards earned a couple of narrow wins against the other qualifiers, Sintez and Pays D’Aix but here the top four teams safely won their respective matches against the two bottom ranked sides.
The draw for the next round will be held on Monday in Volos (GRE), at the site of the women’s European Junior Water Polo Championships.