Both teams from Sicily earned decisive wins in the first leg of the Euro Cup quarterfinals: Ortigia beat title-holder Szolnok by five and Palermo downed Mladost in Zagreb by four. The other two duels, both played in Spain, brought fantastic battles and ended in draws.
Quarter-finals, first leg
CC Ortigia (ITA) v Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) 9-4
HAVK Mladost Zagreb (CRO) v Telimar Palermo (ITA) 7-11
Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) v RN Savona (ITA) 13-13
CN Barcelona (ESP) v BVSC-Zuglo (HUN) 6-6
Second leg: 10 November
None of the four teams dropped from the Champions League qualifications could win in the first leg. Two of them at least could hold on for a tie but Szolnok and Mladost were beaten badly by their respective Italian rivals.
The title-holder Hungarians faced another humiliating defeat in a week: they lost by nine last Wednesday in the CHL qualification play-offs to OSC at home – and now they went down against Ortigia in a similar way, losing their edge in offence. The home side jumped to a 3-1 lead, then Szolnok had a better spell as they shut out the Sicilians for the entire second period – but after 3-2 they conceded four in a row and could never recover after 7-2. Indeed, it was Ortigia’s turn to shut them out for entire fourth period and this put them on the right track to reach the semis.
Fellow Sicilian side Palermo also took the same path by claiming a hard-fought win in Zagreb. Just like Szolnok, Mladost is also going through some serious rebuilding – and the process seems to stand in an initial phase. The Croatian youngsters could keep up with their rivals until 4-4, then conceded three in 1:49 minutes late in the second and were unable to score in the third at all. After 5-9, they came back to 7-9 but in the last 3:37 minutes Palermo could add two to claim a decisive away win.
The games in Catalonia were much more thrilling. Sabadell rushed to a 5-1 lead against Savona but the Italians managed to climb back to even in the second at 5-5. Soon the Italians went ahead before the hosts levelled twice in the action-packed first half which saw 8 goals apiece. Sabadell retook the control in the third and went 10-8 up but Savona needed only 70 seconds to equalise once more. The fourth was like a roulette, the Spaniards hit first but the visitors rushed ahead twice later on, then an action goal levelled the score 45 seconds from time and it did not change till the end. No surprise, one may note: including the Champions League second round tournament and the play-off matches, this was Savona’s 5 th draw in its last 6 matches at the European stage.
An extraordinary clash closed the day a few kilometres away in Barcelona. The home side showed some out-of-this-world defending in the first half, shutting out BVSC in the first two quarters and leading 2-0 in the middle break. The Hungarians needed 19:11 minutes to appear on the scoreboard, but once they got there, they carried on and before the last interval it stood 3-3. What’s more, the visitors jumped to a 4-6 lead with 2:52 to go in a tense, physical and extremely defensive battle where both goalkeepers delivered some outstanding saves. BVSC even had a possession to go three up, instead Barcelona found the way to come back and scored twice in the last 47 seconds to save the game to a draw.