Jug was the winner of the day in Group B, avenging its home-defeat against OSC gave the Croats a comfortable 7-point advantage ahead of the chasers. Recco and Marseille bagged three more points with ease, this duel may be decided only on the last day when they’ll meet in Recco. In Group A, in the big game brought forward Brescia came up with a truly outstanding defensive effort, shut out Olympiacos in the entire first half and beat the Greeks to break seven points clear in the race for the top spot.
Group B: Genesys OSC Budapest (HUN) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 10-15, Pro Recco (ITA) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 18-3, Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v CN Marseille (FRA) 7-13, Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU) 10-10
Standings: 1. Recco 24, 2. Marseille 24, 3. Jug 18, 4. OSC 13, 5. Hannover 11, 6. Spandau 7, 7. Steaua 4, 8. Zvezda 4
Group A: Olympiacos (GRE) v Brescia (ITA) 5-8
Despite minor Covid-problems and lining up only eleven players, title-holder Recco staged a rout against Hannover. They sank the Germans in eight minutes (5-0), led 10-1 at half-time and kept pushing to claim an 18-3 win. Besides the total (34-17), the number of shots on goal told the story (28-8).
Marseille had a similar 5-1 opening in Berlin but the Germans responded well to the initial storm and came back to 5-5 – but in the third the French stroke again and their second rush (0-5) left Spandau stranded. After losing to Recco on the opening day, this was Marseille’s 8th win a row.
OSC stunned Jug in Dubrovnik in late December but the Croats hit back in Budapest. They were already the better side in the first half (5-7) and in the third they demolished the hosts while building a 6-11 lead. Goalie Toni Popadic was instrumental in their win, while he had only 6 saves on 18 shots on Day 6, now he posted 13 on 19 during the first three periods. The win gives Jug some comfort while OSC had to fight hard to see off the Germans’ challenge in the remaining five rounds.
The two bottom-ranked sides shared the points in an exciting encounter in Belgrade – Steaua came back from three goals down and almost won the match, but Crvena Zvezda managed to equalise 24 seconds from time.
In Group A, the top two ranked sides clashed in Piraeus. Brescia faced its toughest test but passed it with flying colours: in a rare or rather never-seen scenario the Italians shut out Olympiacos in the entire first half while taking a 0-3 lead. The 2018 champion needed 17:53 minutes to score its first goal but the Italians went on and soon enjoyed a 1-6 lead. Then Filip Filipovic hit three goals to give the hosts some hope but Stefano Luongo netted his third just seconds after Olympiacos came back to 4-6 and that killed the Greeks’ momentum. Brescia sailed away with a fine win and it’s hard to see them losing the top spot in the remaining rounds.
Olympiacos v Brescia 5-8
Surviving the Covid blast undefeated was a real feat from Brescia – still, what the Italian showed in Piraeus in defending, even in full-strength, was one of the most brilliant efforts this season. Shutting out Olympiacos in the entire first half in its own home was simply amazing, considering the Greeks’ offensive power. The Italians did a splendid job by neutralising the hosts’ strengths, marking Serbian cannon Filip Filipovic quite effectively and their Montenegrin goalie Petar Tesanovic also did a tremendous job.
Brescia’s 40-year-old captain Christian Presciutti opened the scoring after 15 seconds from a penalty and he was the one who finished off a counter six minutes later – in the meantime, the defence worked extremely efficiently. It was really telling when within one possession Tesanovic made three straight saves, denying Fountoulis, Genidounias and Filipovic, one after each other. These three delivered the majority of Olympiacos’ hits in the previous rounds – this game they had a combined efforts of 4 goals from 23 shots (the two Greeks were 1/14…). But those goals were yet to come as Brescia denied four more man-downs in the second while Djordje Lazic netted a fine goal from the centre for 0-3.
Stefano Luongo’s shot from the distance put Brescia 0-4 up when finally Georgios Dervisis could put the hosts on the scoring board – they needed 17:53 minutes to hit their first… Even though the ice was broken but it not melted any further – instead, two more Italian goals came from extras so Brescia led 1- 6 shortly before the last break. Filip Filipovic put away a 6 on 5 15 seconds from time, but it was still an extremely long way to go for the Greeks. A killed man-down and two more Filipovic hits from extras in a span of 55 seconds gave some hope for the hosts with six minutes remaining at 4-6 but Luongo was also on fire and he put the ball away from Brescia’s next extra, killing the Greeks’ momentum. They tried desperately but were unable to penetrate the Italian defence and two minutes later Lazic decided the outcome, his ball just crossed the line in a man-up for 4-8, with 3:27 remaining. Olympiacos pulled one back but could not come any closer – thus Brescia now leads ahead of the Greeks by seven points and well on its way to clinch the top spot in the toughest group of recent editions.
OSC v Jug 10-15
The game was in total contrast to the match played on Day 6 in Dubrovnik. There OSC’s big shooters were on fire and Toni Popadic were unable to stop their balls – nor Jug’s defenders were much of help to their goalie. The Croats had a weaker period back then, but after that they started to regain their strength and momentum and once they upset Recco, they managed to keep their rhythm despite some battles with Covid.
At the same time, OSC’s defence struggled a bit – they escaped defeat in Berlin two weeks ago with a last-grasp goal but this evening they were no match for Jug. Popadic did a brilliant job – while he had finished with a not too delighting 6/18 in Dubrovnik, now he was 13/19 after three periods, by then the game was over as Jug led 6-11.
OSC held on for a while, responded well after Jug went 0-2 up but the Croats regained the lead before the end of the first at 2-3. Then Konstantinos Kakaris netted a great goal from centre and from that point it was a chasing game, Jug doubled its lead three times, OSC managed to halve the gap but never got a real chance to go even. And after Stylianos Argyropoulos buried a penalty for 5-7 and OSC missed its next 6 on 5, it was obvious that Jug took control here.
Another penalty kicked off the third, this time it came after a centre-action, fellow Greek Alexandros Papanastasiou converted it, in 49 seconds Argyropoulos put away an extra for 5-9 – and there OSC was done. Balazs Harai pulled one back, but Marin Tomasovic netted a 6 on 4 and after that the Hungarians’ struggles became painfully visible. They lacked the confidence in offence – this credited the Croats who did an outstanding job in front of their goal. After three periods, the number of shots stood 31-24, however, on target were 17-21, so OSC had 14 missed attempts, while Jug had only 3! As a demonstration, the Greek fiesta continued in front, Papanastasiou scored his third, Argyropoulos added two more early in the fourth. OSC could score again after 6-12 – indeed from 5-6 till 7-12 they managed to find the back of the net once in in 14:40 minutes and this 1-6 run from Jug decided the outcome.
Once the pressure gone, the hosts managed to score a couple of more, but the visitors were also up to the task – Argyropoulos crowned his big match with a 6th hit at the end, to give Jug some comfort for the remaining five rounds as they now enjoy a 7-point advantage ahead of 5th placed Hannover. OSC lost all three home matches against the big ones (Recco, Marseille, Jug), plus three points were gone to
Spandau because of Covid, so the Magyars cannot miss their crucial matches against Hannover, Steaua and Zvezda as they might not have high hopes when they visit Recco and Marseille.
Spandau v Marseille 7-13
Unlike two weeks ago in Belgrade, when the French – out of play over the first weeks of the new year – needed two periods to regain their usual rhythm, this time Marseille came out strong and stormed to a 1- 5 lead. They were dominating the opening eight minutes, it was a quite overwhelming display of offensive power while in the back they denied the Germans with ease.
Sometimes such a dominance might give a team too much comfort and this is especially dangerous against an opponent like Spandau where fighting spirit is always burning with maximum fire. Dimitrios Nikolaides scored from the Germans’ first possession, then a killed man-down and Marko Stamm’s action goal brought them back to the match. What’s more, 1:12 later it was all even at 5-5 as Dmitri Kholod buried a penalty, then netted a dying man-up while Marseille missed another 6 on 5 between the two. Another was wasted soon, not even a time-out helped, so Spandau had a possession to go ahead but couldn’t use it and with 1:42 before the middle break, double Olympic champion Serbian shotmaster Andrija Prlainovic finished off a counter.
Spandau survived another man-down early in the third but failed to put away its next extra and Marseille finally converted one to go 5-7 up. The Germans’ next 6 on 5 was also killed and soon Thomas Vernoux’s fine action goal redirected the game to its original path. Mathias Olivon’s dunking like man-up goal put the writing on the wall and Alexandre Bouet’s double before the last break left no questions to be answered for the final period.
After this 0-5 rush, it was hard to imagine that Spandau would come back once more, and it did not happen indeed. The defences worked a bit better, and even though Kholod scored his third and ended Spandau’s draught after 13 minutes, it was too late and the hosts were still too far. At the end, two goals came apiece and Marseille expanded its winning streak to 8 matches.
Recco v Hannover 18-3
Alessandro Velotto’s double in 1:28 minutes set the tone and after the Italian defence killed two man downs while Gergo Zalanki let his first rocket fly, Recco was 3-0 up only after three minutes. Trends didn’t change much later, two more action goals from the hosts, another denied German man-up – by the end of the first, it was virtually over at 5-0.
Recco was yet to earn an exclusion, when it came, it was put away immediately by Zalanki (it was his third in ten minutes) and soon Recco led 7-0. Hannover’s ice-breaker came after 12 minutes, but that was the only thing they might have been happy about (if at all) as Recco did not stop and built a 10-1 lead.
It was rather a show, much to the joy of the Milano crowd as the game was played in a new facility, as a kind of promotion of the sport and the crowd was very pleased with the title-holders’ performance. The middle break was devoted to honouring a couple of greats like Recco’s living legend Eraldo Pizzo and the greatest coach of all time, Ratko Rudic, who led various national teams to Olympic glory four times (including Italy of course) and lately spent two seasons in charge of Recco.
The hosts took their feet off the gas a bit as after netting five goals per period in the first half they won the third 3-1 but it was visible that they kept their composure in defence throughout the entire game. And for the fourth they returned their ‘old habit’ of scoring five in a period, even young rookie Andrea Nuzzo netted his first-ever goal in the Champions League – so each field-player had a goal in this game. Recco, playing with only eleven players, outshot Hannover 34-17 and especially the shots on goal mirrored the difference: 28-8.
Crvena Zvezda v Steaua 10-10
Since these two sides virtually bowed out from the contest, it was more of a game of prestige – and an important battle to avoid finishing bottom in the group. It was an even game for most of the time, though the Serbs were always in front in the first three periods. They went 3-1 up, after Steaua came back to 3-1, they took the lead three times in the second, led 6-5 at halftime and seemed to have the upper hand in the third when they managed to add two more early in the third. They shut out the Romanians for 7:12 minutes but the visitors weren’t done and in 50 seconds they scored twice and were back into the game. A late extraman shot doubled the Serbs’ lead before the last break though, so it stood 9-7.
And in the fourth it was the Serbs who ran out of ideas in front and the Romanians kept coming back. With 4:18 to go, it was equal again at 9-9, what’s more, Mihnea Gheorghe’s action shot from the perimeter gave Steaua the lead for the first time in the game and only 2:48 remained on the clock. They could have secured a win but couldn’t score from back-to-back man-ups and with 37 seconds remaining, Zvezda earned a man-up and with some luck it finally made it. Milos Vukicevic reacted brilliantly and put the rebound away with a fast move for 10-10. This goal, coming after a silence of 8:25 minutes, saved the match to a draw, which kept the sides on equal points. If it stays like this, it will favour the Romanians as they won the first encounter of the teams in Bucharest.
Fixtures – Group A (Wednesday)
(Tuesday) Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v AN Brescia (ITA) 5-8
19.00 Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)
19.00 Jadran Split (CRO) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN)
19.45 Novi Beograd (SRB) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO)
Standings: 1. Brescia 23, 2. Olympiacos 16, 3. Ferencvaros 16, 5. Novi Beograd 14, 4. Barceloneta 11, 7. Radnicki 7, 6. Jadran 6, 8. Dinamo 0