Little less than 48 hours after clinching the Super Cup, Recco was back in the pool and offered another overwhelming performance as the title-holders netted 20 goals in Hannover. Marseille downed the other German team Spandau while OSC found its way back onto the winning track in Dubrovnik. Pointless Steaua also claimed a stunning first victory against Crvena Zvezda.
Group B: Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v OSC-Budapest (HUN) 11-12, CN Marseille (FRA) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) 12-7, Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Pro Recco (ITA) 7-20, Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 11-8
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
Group A: Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 8-17
Standings: 1. Brescia 14, 2. Olympiacos 13, 3. Barceloneta 10, 4. Novi Beograd 10, 5. Ferencvaros 106. Jadran 6, 7. Radnicki 4, 8. Dinamo 0
Recco and Marseille didn’t slow down for the last playing day in 2021: especially Recco’s visit to Hannover was more like a Christmas party than a thrilling water polo match. A 0-5 storm in the opening period did the harm to Hannover and after crashing Szolnok on Monday in the Super Cup final, the Italians came up with an even more commanding performance. Netting 20 in Hannover is a fine feat even from Recco.
Marseille also passed the German test, they made it twice in a week – last Wednesday they downed Hannover, now they needed two and a half periods to break Spandau but after 7-5 a 4-0 run put an end to the contest. The French bagged their fifth win in a row.
After suffering back-to-back defeats at home – and both looked bad –, OSC faced a tough challenge in Dubrovnik, but they managed to pull off a stunning victory in a thrilling game. After a series of twists and turns, a 0-3 rush gave a 7-9 lead to the Magyars and even though Jug fought hard, came back to one goal twice after being 7-10 down but the equaliser never came. Erik Csacsovszky was the Hungarians’ hero who hit 5 in the game.
Another stunner came in Bucharest where host Steaua could earn its first win after five straight losses. A bit unexpectedly, it came at the expense of Crvena Zvezda – Serbian sides barely lose to Romanians but it happened this time. It was a crazy match, the visitors came back from 4-1 to 5-5 but Steaua hit three in the last two minutes of the third period and closed out the game two more action goals after 9-7.
One Group A game was played exceptionally on Wednesday, Novi Beograd claimed a K. O. win in Tbilisi as expected so the ranks are as tight as always in this group as the Serbs also have 10 points, like Barceloneta and Ferencvaros.
Jug v OSC 11-12
In the good old days Jug’s home was a cursed place for the visiting teams, the Croats barely lost once in a year, if lost at all. But this Jug is no longer the same which always began the season as a top favourite – and one cannot wonder that they went down in a second Champions League match at home in a couple of weeks, first Marseille beat them soundly and now OSC managed to take all three points back to Budapest.
It was a game of two tired teams, though it still offered great excitements and individual brilliance also played some part to the joy of the water polo fans. The home players were visibly haunted by the demons of their lost cup final to Jadran while the Hungarians played more than 30 matches since September (they went through the whole qualification).
The lead was constantly changing for a while, it stood 3-3 after eight minutes then Jug went ahead after two and a half minutes in the second. OSC needed 4:29min to score again, then they netted two in 61 seconds, only to see Filip Krzic tipping the ball in after a fine action for 5-5. Mate Dala scored from a counter early in the third, but the hosts hit back with back-to-back extraman goals in 35 seconds. At 7-6 they looked to have gained some ground – instead the Magyars came up with a great surge, Krisztian Manhercz’s blast hit the back of the net, then Erik Csacsovszky destroyed the net twice while the visitors’ defence were clicking and this 0-3 surge gave them a 7-9 lead before the last break.
Csacsovszky was on fire, he sent the ball above Toni Popadic’s head right from the first possession, it was his 5th goal in the game – with Manhercz, they sold this type of head-above shot at least five times this evening – and Jug was in deep trouble at 7-10. But their Greeks stepped up, Konstantinos Kakaris
put away an extra, then Stylianos Argyropulos had a fine shot from the perimeter, in 50 seconds their hopes were alive again. Both teams missed a man-up which seemed crucial at this stage, then Manhercz’s rocket from action flew under the bar for 9-11 with 5:05 to go.
Jug tried but they lacked the necessary calmness and precision, blocks denied their next two man-ups, then Kakaris finished off the third one from an unusual play, it stood 10-11 and there were still 1:43 minutes on the clock. However, 72 seconds from time Gergely Burian also buried an extra and that was the killer blow. With some luck – this time the ball bounced in from the blocking hand – Jug got a glimpse of hope with 44 seconds but once they regained the ball, they couldn’t set themselves up and a steal sealed OSC’s fine and really important win.
Marseille v Spandau 12-7
It took a bit longer than one perhaps expected but Marseille bagged three more points by beating its second German rival in a week. Hannover went down last Wednesday, it ended 13-10 – now the Berliners held on for a while, they managed to come back to 4-4 after 4-2 but two fine man-up play put the French 6-4 ahead by halftime. Then the hosts put away a 6 on 4 early in the third for 7-4 but the Germans pulled one back from a penalty. They had a couple of possession to further narrow the gap but couldn’t score and Ugo Crousillat’s action goal put the writing on the wall. Though Spandau managed to kill a man-down but 65 seconds before the last break Ante Vukicevic’s action goal put the match into bed at 9-5.
And there was no way back indeed, two more action goals in 64 seconds gave an 11-5 lead to Marseille and the rest of the game was just a year-ending play, with no more exclusions and three more action goals.
Hannover v Recco 7-20
The title-holders arrived to Hannover with a trophy in their packs – on Monday they thrashed Szolnok in the Super Cup final, then 48 hours later they lined up for another match and beat the Germans even more badly.
It was the usual brutal opening which sets the tone for most of Recco’s matches: a 0-5 rush killed the hosts slimmest hopes in minutes – they managed to climb back to 4-7 in the middle of the second, but the Italians responded with two action goals in 49 seconds to re-establish order.
The second period was somewhat balanced, brought four goals apiece – but the second half offered nothing but disaster for the Germans. Recco won these two periods 2-11 in total and they didn’t stop until 20 goals. Leftie Gergo Zalanki led the champions’ charge with four goals and all but one of their players scored at least one goal, to finish 2021 in style.
Steaua v Crvena Zvezda 11-8
The hosts stunned their rivals during the first eight minutes as they stormed to a 3-0 lead – the Serbs were unable to create any real danger. After 4-0, they started to regain their composure somewhat, two goals in 61 seconds gave back their confidence and soon a third goal meant that it was going to be a thrilling battle.
Steaua could score again after almost eight minutes but after the brilliant start their level in front dropped, of course, the Serbian defence also worked much better and silenced the Romanians for another five minutes, while coming back to equal at 5-5. However, Steaua found the rhythm all of a sudden and three connecting goals put the match back to its original path: a last second hit from Nino Mudrazija sent the hosts 8-5 up.
When Alexandru Gheorghe opened the last period with another great action goal, all seemed to be settled at 9-5. But the Red Star players fought back, with 4:52 remaining it stood 9-7 and it was an open match again. The Serbs pushed hard but inevitably loosened up in the back, but the Romanians missed two golden chances, a 3 on 2, then a penalty which offered a last chance for the visitors but they couldn’t capitalise on the Romanians’ minor panic. And after four minutes of tense battling finally Tudor-Andrei Fulea’s shot at the end of a dying man-up sent away all tensions from Steaua side 63 seconds from time and Levente Vancsik’s counter brought a really happy ending for the match and the year for the Bucharest side while Zvezda’s already weakened chances to play in the Final 8 next to their home in New Belgrade suffered a serious setback.
Dinamo v Novi Beograd 8-17
The Georgians are not in an ideal position as they were drawn into the toughest group the Champions League seen since the introduction of the new format in 2014. They have to face seven extremely strong sides, even those ranked a bit lower have a chance to be in contest for the F8 – so Dinamo’s chances to earn a point have never been so weak as in this season.
Today it was another mission impossible when Novi Beograd visited Tbilisi. The newly shaped Serbian side with its stellar line-up needs some time to really become a formidable team, still, it was hard to see that anything unexpected would happen to them in this match.
Indeed, it went according to ‘plans’, as far as the Serbs were concerned. They quickly jumped to a 0-3 lead and never let the hosts any closer. The gap grew period by period, the Serbs stopped at 17 – again, the number of shots told the story: the total was 24-34, and 16-24 hit the goal, this could only lead another big defeat for Dinamo.
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