Only three rounds gone but no side has a perfect record in Group A: after two wins, Olympiacos had to settle for a draw against Ferencvaros in the rematch of the 2019 final. It was the third straight tie for the Hungarians, never before a team started the prelims in such way. Brescia is also undefeated as the Italians claimed a convincing win in Kragujevac while Novi Beograd downed Jadran in Split by netting 17 goals. Barceloneta was no match for Dinamo.
Group A: FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 9-9, Jadran Split (CRO) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 12-17, Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v AN Brescia (ITA) 8-14, Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) 7-20
Standings: 1. Olympiacos 7, 2. Brescia 7, 3. Barceloneta 6, 4. Novi Beograd 6, 5. Ferencvaros 3, 6. Jadran 3, 7. Radnicki 1, 8. Dinamo 0
2019 champion and last season’s runner-up Ferencvaros played its third straight draw, this time shared the points with Olympiacos in a magnificent encounter. The Hungarians were 3-1 up after eight minutes but the Greeks hit back with a 0-5 run, shut out the hosts for almost 15 minutes. But the Magyars found their way back and after scoring a single goal in the middle two periods (and four in the first three), they stunned the Greeks with five in the fourth and Olympiacos needed a great finish the save the game to a tie with 35 seconds to go (back in 2019, their final also ended in a draw, then the Hungarians won the shootout). This means that after the third day there is no team with a perfect record – though both sides remained undefeated.
Brescia also maintained its fine run, the Italians are also yet to lose a game as they did a clean and extremely professional job in Kragujevac to beat Radnicki quite convincingly.
Novi Beograd bounced back from its stunning home defeat against Olympiacos to tear apart Jadran in Split. The Croatian–Serbian derby lacked the real excitements as the visitors dominated the game and whenever Jadran climbed back, they always came up with devastating replies – scoring 17 in an away match showed their tremendous offensive potential.
Barceloneta didn’t make any mistake and tied the group’s scoring record – just as Olympiacos, they netted 20 against Dinamo, though they did that in Tbilisi. Alvaro Granados scored seven in this game, tying this season’s single-match individual scoring record, held by Olympiacos’ Ioannis Fountoulis and Recco’s Gergo Zalanki.
FTC-Telekom v Olympiacos 9-9
It was a brilliant match in every aspect – in front of 2,000 spectators who created a magnificent atmosphere in the good old Komjadi Pool.
Ferencvaros had a great start, after a quick exchange of goals the hosts netted a counter and added a penalty later to go 3-1 up while they managed to keep the Greeks at bay at the other end. The landscape changed dramatically in the second period as the Greeks tightened their defence, Andro Buslje was superior in the 2m defender position (though Ferencvaros had one real centre-forward due to injuries) – the hosts earned their first man-up with a minute remaining from the quarter and Marko Bijac came up with a huge save. Otherwise, the Hungarians couldn’t penetrate the Olympiacos defence – while the Greeks scored three unanswered goals. Konstantinos Genidounias netted a second shot in a 6 on 5, then Filip Filipovic sent a trademark-rocket to the top corner and Konstantinos Mourikis put away another man-up for a 3-4 lead at halftime.
And it continued in the very same way in the third, now Buslje scored from the 2m line from the following man-up and Genidounias blasted one from the distance to make it 3-6. Olympiacos even had a man-up to go up by four but Filipovic was denied and soon Daniil Merkulov halted Ferencvaros bad run – up until that point the Greeks staged a 0-5 rush while shut out their rivals for 14:36 minutes. At this phase, the Russian’s fine one-timer from a counter seemed to be a rare scenario, Olympiacos was so much dominant during the middle two quarters.
Then it changed in the same dramatic way as it had done after the opening period. While the visitors’ defence looked rock solid 6 on 6, now they conceded two early in the fourth, both from counters, Denes Varga and Merkulov hit the back of the net in a span of 50 seconds so it became a wide open match again at 6-6.
And Olympiacos could never regain its dominance. Though Chrysovalantis Crysospathis netted one from the wing for 6-7, an unusually easy one in this huge fight, soon it was even again after Marton Vamos sent the ball home from a 6 on 4. And in a minute the Magyars went ahead as Vamos, playing a kind of emergency centre-forward, surprised Bijac with a wonderful tipping. Mourikis replied immediately from an easy one-on-one man-up, then Szilard Jansik missed a similar one at the other end. The hosts then wasted another 6 on 5 after a time-out but soon they found the way to score – again, from the centre, by a player who just acted as a forward: Gergo Fekete netted a nice one 46 seconds from time for 9-8 (Ferencvaros hit 5 alone in this period, had only four in the first three). The Greeks called a time-out and they magnificently executed the game-plan as Genidounias scored from a great drive just nine seconds later for 9-9. Merkulov had a last try but Bijac managed to put his hand on the ball – so both teams remained undefeated but the Greeks might have been a bit happier as they had two wins on the first two days while Ferencvaros played a third tie in as many rounds.
Jadran v Novi Beograd 12-17
Jadran could hold on till the middle of the second period, thanks to a couple of fantastic centre-shots from Antonio Duzevic and nicely played man-ups. Still, the Serbs were taking over the control step-by step as Jadran didn’t get any support from its goalie – Mate Ancic had to be replaced after he went 0/9. By then the Belgradians were 6-9 up after back-to-back action goals by Strahinja Rasovic (he netted them in 49 seconds), so they had a comfortable lead at halftime.
Jadran had a better spell early in the third, incoming goalie Luka Podrug posted some spectacular saves while Niksa Dobud and Rino Buric netted man-ups. However, after these relatively tumultuous three minutes, the Serbs managed to make order though they needed some luck before Viktor Rasovic scored an easy one after a rebound. Soon their Greek master-shooter Angelos Vlachopoulos set back the three-goal cushion with a brilliant shot from the perimeter and after Duzevic was fouled out, Jadran seemed to face mounting problems at both ends of the pool. Buric pulled one back, but Drasko Gogov’s action goal gave Novi Beograd a 9-12 lead before the last break.
Two man-up goals kept the hosts’ hopes alive till 11-13, but Dusan Mandic’s blast was another blow for 11-14. And another action goal, this time from Strahinja Rasovic put an end to the contest with 4:42 remaining – at 11-15 down, the Croats lost their composure and desire too. Two more action goals arrived from the Serbs, their last four came in 6 on 6, somewhat demonstrating Jadran’s problems in defence – but also the shooting power of the newly shaped team. The Serbs had 34 attempts in this game, 27 were on target, 17 went in, a 50% precision, a great feat indeed.
Radnicki v Brescia 8-14
The opening period was somewhat balanced, though Brescia could already take a 2-4 lead before Nemanja Stanojevic pulled one back shortly before the first break. Then the Italians quickly showed their quality, Edoardo di Somma blasted one from a man-up, 49 seconds later Vincenzo Dolce scored from close, it was a brilliant backhanded tip-in for 3-6. Radnicki could finish a 6 on 5 but Brescia hit back even harder, Christian Presciutti offered a fantastic lob from the distance, Vincenzo Dolce also added an action goal and Vincenzo Renzuto converted a penalty for 4-9. The Serbs fell apart in offence, they were unable to cause real trouble for their rivals, as a painful sign, they wasted a 6 on 4 without taking a shot.
It was hard to see any similar to come which had earned the Serbs a miraculous point against Ferencvaros in the previous round when they came back from 7-11 in the last four minutes. Before the last break they were 5-11 down as they couldn’t find any tools to beat Brescia’s aggressive defending. In the first three periods they could score only from 6 on 5s though they were anything but consistent in that part either, were 5 for 14 before the final period.
Aleksa Ukropina broke the ice from their first possession – it was a bit of a goalie mistake – but Renzuto replied right away from a 6 on 4 for 6-12. Brescia did a professional job, never let the hosts feel they had the slightest chance to win this match.
Dinamo v Barceloneta 7-20
The first home game of Dinamo ended in the same sad way as its first game in this season: a bad defeat while conceding 20 goals. In Piraeus it was 20-9 – now against Barceloneta it was even worse, 7-20. The Spanish stormed through the first period to stop at 2-7 – and never looked back. They were aware that laying back against the Georgian could lead to disturbing scenes – on Day 2 Jadran almost got in trouble after leading by seven after three periods.
The Spaniards didn’t commit the same mistake and kept their focus throughout the match. Indeed, their fast-paced game also tired the players of Dinamo who completely ran out of gas for the fourth quarter where Barceloneta had another 1-6 rush.
Alvaro Granados led the charge by scoring 7 goals, while the number of shots on target was also telling: 14-28 to the Spaniards.
Group B – Saturday
- 14.00 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v OSC Budapest (HUN)
- 19.00 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
- 20.00 Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v CN Marseille (FRA)
- 21.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB)
Standings: 1. Recco 6, 2. OSC 6, 3. Marseille 3, 4. Jug 3, 5. Zvezda 3, 6. Spandau 1, 7. Hannover 1, 8. Steaua 0