Courtesy: LEN Media
Jug took revenge for its December defeat in Piraeus: with a brilliant 6-0 run in the first half the Croats built a commanding lead against Olympiacos and bagged a great win at the end. It benefitted Barceloneta which took over the Greeks and jumped atop after a hard-fought victory over Jadran Split. The top three teams will have a great battle for the first place while the next three are to have a thrilling race for the fourth berth. Here Spandau managed to earn a stunning win in Szolnok and Jadran Carine staged a big 0-5 run in Kazan to set up a really tight hunt for the following rounds.
Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 13-9, Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) 7-8, Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Jadran Split (CRO) 16-12, Sintez Kazan (RUS) v Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) 11-15
Standings: 1. Barceloneta 19, 2. Olympiacos 19, 2. Jug 18, 4. Szolnok 12, 5. Jadran Carine 10, 5. Spandau 8, 7. Jadran Split 4, 8. Sintez 3
The top match of the day in Dubrovnik was played under reduced lights as the stormy winds hitting the city damaged the local power plants and only back-up generators could supply the necessary electricity in the pool.
Olympiacos took a promising start by jumping to a 1-3 lead but Jug geared up soon and netted three in a row to go 4-3 up in the first period. Soon it turned out that the Greeks had a complete blackout – while the hosts netted three more goals, Olympiacos missed five man-ups in a row (including a 6 on 4) and that 11:12 minute-long ‘outage’ cost them the match. Jug’s 6-0 run was decisive as no team could come back in this pool from 9-4 down at halftime.
Olympiacos tried it but never got closer than three goals – the Croats kept the game under tight control, their goalie Toni Popadic delivered 13 saves, a brilliant feat in wake of the fact that he could not train for almost a week before the match. This was the Greeks’ first loss in the season – interestingly, before this one, their last defeat in regular time had also occurred in Dubrovnik, in January 2019, since then – until now – they were never beaten in 4×8 minutes (lost the final in a shootout last May).
Barceloneta prevailed at the end against Jadran but it wasn’t an easy ride. The Croats arrived with a new coach and their strongest line-up (back in December they missed three key players when they were beaten badly, 5-13). It was a brilliant match with a lot of actions and some fine individual feats (Alvaro Granados netted 5, Michael Bodegas was 4/4) and even though the hosts were in front most of the time, they could never really break their rivals. With 4:58 remaining, Nathan Power sent the ball home from an extra so only a single goal separated the two sides at 12-11.
Blai Mallarach’s fine 6m shot reset the two-goal cushion, then the Croats missed a crucial man-up while Felipe Perrone put away one for the Spaniards and that was the killer blow. Power pulled one back but two late action goals secured Barceloneta’s win which eventually placed them atop thanks to their better goal difference as Olympiacos fell in Dubrovnik.
Szolnok won in Berlin with ease in December as they netted 14 goals. Stunningly, now they could score only half of that at home which led to a shocking defeat against Spandau. For a while the hosts seemed to gain control and many thought it was just a question of time for them to build the necessary gap. But it never happened, even though the Hungarians led 3-1 in
the first, then 5-3 in the second, the visitors kept coming back. It stood 5-4 at halftime, then Spandau managed to level the score and did it twice more in the third. Szolnok lacked the precision in front, and Laszlo Baksa – a native from Hungary – also did a great job in Spandau’s goal, he even stopped a penalty.
The last period started from 7-7 and no one thought that Szolnok would not be able to score a single goal but indeed they remained scoreless in the last 9:10 minutes – while Maurice Juengling buried a 6 on 5 at the other end with 4:07 to go. It turned out to be a winner as the hosts missed their last two man-ups thus blowing away their comfortable 5-point lead in the race for the fourth F8 berth.
Jadran Carine came within ‘visible distance’ thanks to its nice win in Kazan. It was an interesting game: for most of the time in the first half it was an even battle but a double in 44 seconds gave the Montenegrins a 7-10 lead for halftime. However, Sintez hit back in the third with a 3-0 run and at 10-10 it was an open encounter once more. Then Jadran could end its scoreless struggle of 12:06 minutes, netted two in back-to-back possessions and that froze back the Russians. In the middle of the last period three more Montenegrin goals came in 2:03 minutes, and that 0-5 rush secured their third win in a row.