Greece, Hungary & Russia Each Advance Two Teams In Women’s Euro League Prelims

Courtesy: LEN

It was a fantastic weekend with outstanding battles but only eight teams remained standing after the preliminary round in the Euro League. In terms of participation and qualifying, two Greek teams out of 4 made the quarters, Hungary was 3/2, Russia 2/2, while Spain and Italy closed somewhat painful days as only one Spanish team out of 4 survived this round, and one Italian out of 3. All four teams from last season’s Final Four made the quarters, the biggest casualty is perhaps Italy’s Orizzonte, the most decorated club in history with 8 titles – the Italians bowed out without a win.

Group E (Sabadell): 1. Astralpool-Sabadell (ESP) 6, 2. Dunaujvarosi Foiskola (HUN) 6, 3. CN Mataro (ESP) 6, 4. FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 0. Three-way tie: Sabadell +2, Dunaujvaros +1, Mataro –3

Group F (Athens): 1. Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 9, 2. Ethnikos Piraeus (GRE) 6, 3. CN Terrassa (ESP) 3, 4. SIS Roma (ITA) 0

Group G (Budapest): 1. UVSE Budapest (HUN) 7, 2. Dynamo Uralochka Zlatoust (RUS) 6, 3. Vouliagmeni NC (GRE) 3, 4. Orizzonte Catania (ITA) 1

Group H (Padova): 1. Plebiscito Padova (ITA) 7, 2. Kinef Kirishi (RUS) 5, 3. CN Mediterrani (ESP) 4, 4. NC Glyfada (GRE) 0

The ‘Spanish-Hungarian’ quartet in Sabadell saw one club from each nation going through though it was open till the last moment which Spanish side would make the cut. Five-time winner Sabadell beat both Hungarian sides with ease in the first two rounds while last season’s runner-up Dunaujvaros offered a brilliant performance while crushing Mataro on the opening day. The Hungarians needed a win against fellow Ferencvaros to secure their place in the best eight which they delivered. Then came the Spanish derby where Mataro needed a four-goal win to oust Sabadell – and even if it looked like a mission impossible, they came close in the third period twice when took a 4-7, then a 6-9 lead. With 3:00 minutes to go, it was still 8-10 but after that only Sabadell scored, once, and that sent them through in the first place.

In Group F the Greek sides advanced ‘hand in hand’: both Piraeus based teams claimed victories on the first two days before title-holder Olympiacos downed Ethnikos on Sunday to finish first. Ethnikos pipped Terrassa for the second place by beating the Spaniards in a thriller. Being down 4-6 late in the third, the Greeks netted three in a row before the last break, though Terrassa equalised in the fourth, Ethnikos managed to score the winner 77 seconds from time.

Group G featured two teams of last season’s Final Four and both UVSE and Uralochka went through at the expense of Vouliagmeni and Orizzonte. The Hungarians won a brilliant match against the Russians, trailed 10-11 before the last period but three unanswered goals secured their first place. Uralochka beat Orizzonte 15-8 in a surprisingly lopsided match, and after the loss to UVSE they had a do-or-die encounter with the Greeks. In the third, Vouliagmeni jumped to a 6-10 lead, and they still were 9-11 up in the fourth but the Russians staged a brilliant 3-0 surge, netting the winner 38 seconds before the end.

Goalie Anna Karnaukh was the hero of LEN Trophy-winner and former champion Kinef Kirishi – she netted the equaliser against Mediterrani 15 seconds from time when the Russians went for a 7 on 6 in their last possession. As it turned out, that sent Kinef through as they also drew with Padova on the last day. Padova saved the day for Italy as they managed to clinch the first place in the group while the other two Italians sides finished the weekend without a win.

The draw for the quarter-finals will be held in Athens on 18 December, on the occasion of the women’s Super Cup final between Olympiacos and Kinef Kirishi. Winners of the QF will play in the Final Four while the losing sides will clash for the LEN Trophy.

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