With only nine field players – two juniors among them –, Brescia managed to turn the game in the last period against Jadran to keep its top rank halfway through the main round. Olympiacos is a close second after a fine win over Radnicki, while Ferencvaros rose to third as its close rivals’, Barceloneta’s and Novi Beograd’s brilliant battle ended in a draw. Here the Serbs came back from three goals down in the last period.
Group A: Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 12-12, AN Brescia (ITA) v Jadran Split (CRO) 6-5, Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) 11-7, Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 7-14
Standings: 1. Brescia 17, 2. Olympiacos 16, 3. Ferencvaros 13, 4. Barceloneta 11, 5. Novi Beograd 11, 6. Jadran 6, 7. Radnicki 4, 8. Dinamo 0
Many teams struggled with Covid-infections, but Brescia was hit the hardest – the Italians lost almost half of their standard line-up but they still managed to beat Jadran in a hardly fought battle. The Croats were unable to capitalise on the hosts’ problems, Brescia was unable to score for 16:10 minutes, still, it stood 3-3 before the last period and despite the Croats took a 3-4 lead later, three connecting goals from the Italians secured a heroic win and the first place after the first seven rounds.
Barceloneta and Novi Beograd delivered the 6th draw in Group A as a demonstration of the extremely balanced field – both recorded its second tied game (though still Ferencvaros ‘leads’ this category with four ties). This was the second match in Barceloneta where the hosts led by two goals with little more than two minutes from time (earlier they were 11-8 up) but just like against the Hungarians, they couldn’t hold on. And the final result was the same, 12-12 – Alvaro Granados and Strahinja Rasovic were the respective heroes with five goals apiece; the last one from Rasovic 27 seconds before the end equalled the score.
Olympiacos bagged three points with a convincing performance, though Radnicki put up a brave fight and stayed close for three periods, trailed 7-5 before the last quarter. However, early in the fourth the Greeks floored them with a last-second action goal, a killed man-up and a counter – this chain of events put them 9-5 up in a span of 25 seconds and from there was no way back for the Serbs.
Ferencvaros made no mistake in Tbilisi. The Hungarians dominated the first half, Dinamo could score its lonely goal 17 seconds before the middle break, at 0-5. The following two periods were more balanced, though the 2019 champions’ victory was never in danger. On a sidenote, the game was played with a Georgian referee involved as one of the appointed neutral officials was tested positive prior to the match.
Barceloneta v Novi Beograd 12-12
cvaros with 2:28 remaining – but that game on Day 5 ended in a 12- 12 draw. This Tuesday the Spaniards were 11-8 up early in the fourth and with 2:47 from time they led 12-10 against Novi Beograd but it finished the same way: 12-12. Four precious points dropped at home and that might hit back in this extremely balanced group where the Belgrade-based side enjoys a guaranteed berth as the host of the F8 so this leaves only three spots available for the others.
The first period promised anything but such an action-packed thriller, the first seven minutes ticked down without any goal, then 65 seconds from time Drasko Gogov converted a 6 on 5 to put the Serbs ahead. The hosts needed nine minutes to open their account, Felipe Perrone managed to beat Joao Coimbra from a penalty – the visitors opted to have Barceloneta’s former reserve goalie as their starter in this match. For a while Coimbra did well but once the ice was broken, the Spaniards started to find their rhythm. Though the Serbs responded with two goals for 1-3 but two man-up goals put the sides on level, and soon, after 4-4, Barceloneta led for the first time with a fine action shot from Alberto Munarriz. Still, it was equal again at halftime as Strahinja Rasovic – also spent some memorable time in Barceloneta – sent the ball home from a 6 on 5 for 5-5.
After the first period brought a single goal, then the second nine, the first four minutes of the third didn’t give any task for the score-keeper, both sides missed a man-up and the defences dominated. Then Dusan Mandic broke the deadlock but then Viktor Rasovic missed a crucial shot in a man-up, thus instead of doubling their lead, soon it was 7-7 as Francisco Fernandez netted a nice one from action. When the other Rasovic brother buried a penalty with 1:31 to go in the third, the newly built top Serbian side seemed to be in control but in 37 seconds they fell behind, thanks to Oscar Asensio’s double – and the hosts’ fire was further fuelled by a finely blocked Mandic shot at the end, in man-down.
With some luck, Miguel del Toro netted a rebound in a dying 6 on 5 early in the fourth, then Alvaro Granados made a steal and in 28 seconds he scored for 10-7 and at this stage the Serbs’ situation was anything but promising. Mandic hit one from extra, but Granados netted a penalty for 11-8. In twenty seconds, Barceloneta had a kind of match ball, but they hit the post from their next man-up and that proved to be a turning point. They could have gone four up, instead the Serbs scored twice in 42 seconds, Mandic was on target in a man-up and the elder Rasovic brother added another one from action
for 11-10 – and there was still 4:14 minutes on the clock.
Another missed man-up followed from the Spaniards, then Rasovic hit the post and Granados netted his fifth in the evening – again, Barceloneta enjoyed a two-goal lead but not for long as Rasovic did a fine job once more, and with 2:29 remaining it stood 12-11. A block denied Perrone in a man-up and that was crucial – the Serbs called for a time-out with 65 seconds to go, drew an exclusion at 0:42 and 15 seconds later Rasovic, who else?, tipped the ball in from close range. That was not his usual position but good enough to score his 5th and that earned a point for Novi Beograd as Barceloneta could not create any danger in its final possession.
Brescia v Jadran 6-5
Positive Covid-tests put the home side into an uphill battle as they could enter only ten players – including two youngsters who barely had any Champions League experience. Jadran was also hit hard by the virus, they could field at least eleven field players (but only one goalie) though most of the players lacked proper practice recently.
The match was a somewhat sad demonstration of all these miseries as the first three periods produced only six goals – three apiece – and this was not only the courtesy of great defending, rather the lack of composure in offence for all the understandable reasons.
Edoardo di Somma scored twice in the first period, between the two Konstantin Kharkov netted one from a dying man-up so Brescia was 2-1 up after eight minutes. In the given situation neither side should have been happy what actually happened: six and a half minutes constant swimming as no one was able to put the ball away. Brescia missed one man-up, Jadran had two, then a time-out set them up to convert the third, it was Kharkov again who equalised for 2-2.
The third brought similar scenes, this time almost seven minutes gone without a goal, both teams missed three extras apiece, the third one at the home side was even more painful as they couldn’t convert a 6 on 4. And after Luka Bukic scored from action, the hosts looked a bit devastated. However, Vincenco Dolce brought them back to life as he fought himself to a shooting position and found the back of the net 6 seconds before the last break – and also ended Brescia’s agonisingly long scoreless period after 16:10 minutes.
With an action goal, Jadran went ahead again but soon a penalty – earned together with an exclusion – put Brescia back on track. What’s more, in the middle of the last period two brilliant action goals, from di Somma and Dolce (his back-handed shot was a beauty) earned a 6-4 lead for the hosts and that proved to be a winning 42 seconds in this low-scoring game. The Croats pulled one back 48 seconds from time and they could have saved a point at the end but even though they could earn a man-up, they were unable to set it up within a couple of seconds.
Olympiacos v Radnicki 11-7
For three periods, Radnicki, fresh from a stunning cup triumph over Novi Beograd back home, offered a great resistance. Olympiacos was in control – but could not dominate. The Serbs took the lead twice at the beginning, then the home side hit back with two action goals. Milos Cuk also hammered one from the distance for 3-3 but Konstantinos Mourikis’ trademark centre-shot sent the Greeks ahead 12 seconds from time in the first.
After the action-packed opening quarter, the second saw tighter defending – especially from the 2018 champions. They shut out Radnicki for almost the entire period while netting two man-up goals, both came from the 2m line, the centre-forwards Mourikis and Kolomvos just had to make a final touch to score. The Serbs struggled in front, missed three extras but it was Cuk again whose action shot gave them some hope with 31 seconds remaining from the first half.
The third offered an even more balanced battle. Ioannis Fountoulis scored from a 6 on 5 for 7-4 but later Radnicki had a promising spell, which kept them in the game. Their goalie managed to steal the ball while facing a one-on-one counter, Filip Jankovic’s left-handed blast hit the back of the net from the next extra, then Radnicki killed a man-down so instead of falling four goals behind, they entered the last period with a 7-5 deficit.
However, all the efforts went down the drain in a span of 25 seconds at the beginning of the fourth. Konstantinos Mourikis put away the ball from the centre in the last second of their first possession, then Jankovic sent the ball wide in a man-up after just one pass and Konstantinos Genidounias finished off the ensuing counter for 9-5 – with 7:05 minutes left in the game, Radnicki was done.
They had some desperate attempts but couldn’t recover from this blow. Later another missed 6 on 5 and another counter, this time netted by Fountoulis, sealed the Greeks’ win. Though their two best shooters Fountoulis and Filipovic didn’t have the best match of their careers (the Greek star went 3/11, the Serbian ace was 2/9), but the Greek defence worked well, and Marko Bijac came up with another fine performance, making 11 saves on 18 shots for 61.1%.
Dinamo v Ferencvaros 7-14
The Hungarians came to win, and they sailed away with all three points by doing a clean and professional job in Tbilisi. The game mirrored the current Covid-situation via an unusual scene: one of the referees was a local as one of the originally appointed officials was tested positive prior to the game but Ferencvaros agreed to have a Georgian ref instead of playing the game with one referee.
This fair approach was understandable as the two sides are not on the same level, so the Hungarians didn’t have to be afraid of anything. Indeed, last season’s runner-up set the tone in the first half when they took a 0-5 lead. They did not fly high above the water, did nothing spectacular just had some fine defending and made some of the chances created in front, though not all.
For example, in the first period, they netted three in 2:19 minutes but didn’t add any in the remaining 4:10. In the second, they scored only twice but again, in the back they denied the Georgians and only 17 seconds were missing from completing a shutout in the first half. They came back strongly in the third and quickly scored two more action goals for 1-7 but then the hosts delighted their fans with a better spell as they could net three goals, though the visitors made sure that Dinamo would not come closer than four goals.
Just like in the previous quarters, the last one was devoted to give more chances to the younger ones at both sides (Ferencvaros’ captain and magician Denes Varga was not part of the show at all). A couple of them took the opportunity to prove themselves, though the experienced ones also did their part, Szilard Jansik and Nemanja Ubovic were the frontrunners among the scorers in Ferencvaros with three apiece while Dusan Vasic delivered four for the hosts. At the end of the day, Dinamo did a fine job in the second half, after going 1-5 down in the first, they managed to score three goals in both of the remaining two periods and avoided another rout, unlike in their previous three encounters.
Fixtures for Wednesday
19.00 CN Marseille (FRA) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB) – note: change of starting time 19.00 Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Pro Recco (ITA)
19.00 OSC Budapest (HUN) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)
20.00 Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)
Standings: 1. Recco 18, 2. Marseille 15, 3. Jug 12, 4. OSC 10, 5. Hannover 5, 6. Spandau 4, 8. Steaua 3, 7. Zvezda 3