LEN Women’s Euro League: Dream Final Set With Olympiacos & Sabadell

by SwimSwam 0

April 02nd, 2022 Water Polo

Courtesy: LEN

No upset in the semis, host and title-holder Olympiacos will have another showdown against 5- time champion Sabadell in the Euro League final in Sunday. The Greeks downed UVSE with ease, despite a heroic effort by Rita Keszthelyi who set a new individual scoring record in the Final Fours with 9 goals. Sabadell played a strange match with Padova – the Spaniards seemed to be a safe bet after a 5-0 run in the third period and with a 9-3 lead in hand, only to see the Italians hitting back with a 0-5 rush, but the last goal came a bit late.


Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v UVSE Hunguest Hotels Budapest (HUN) 18-11,

Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) v Plebiscito Padova (ITA) 9-8

Sunday fixtures (all times are local): 15.00 UVSE v Padova (bronze medal), 17.00 Olympiacos v Sabadell (final)

Host Olympiacos didn’t leave any room for doubt in the first semi, the Greeks came up with a commanding performance as they rushed to a 10-5 lead by halftime. The difference in defending was clearly mirrored by the scoreboard and it did not change in the second half either.

The Greeks outshot the Magyars 39-27 (26-18 on target) and held them 3 on 12 in man-ups in the magnificent atmosphere, created by their fantastic fans who filled each square-centimetres of the stands. Olympiacos had a great team-effort, nine players shared the scoring duties while in UVSE Rita Keszthelyi tried to keep up with the Greeks almost single-handedly. Indeed, the world-class Magyar set an incredible Final Four record by netting 9 goals (out of her team’s 11), including a masterpiece barely seen even from the top male players.

The home side will have another showdown with Sabadell – just as in the 2015 and 2019 finals –, though the Spaniards’ road to the final was a bit bumpier. It was clear that Padova had only one chance to keep the game close: if it managed to force a low-scoring encounter by outstanding defending, since outscoring Sabadell, packed with master-shooters, was a mission impossible.

And the Italians did a tremendous job in the first half, allowed only four goals to their rivals and they could have even led, had they converted a penalty at 3-3. They trailed 4-3 instead, and in the third Sabadell broke them with a 5-0 rush. How this quarter unfolded, the fourth promised an easy cruising for the 5-time champion – instead, their concentration level dropped, it was a free fall rather, while Padova halted its scoreless run of 12:13 minutes first, then came closer and closer as the Spanish stars were unable to add any more goals. With 40 seconds to go, Padova scored for 9-8 – it was their 0-5 run now –, but Sabadell forced an exclusion and kept the ball till the end.

This set up the ‘dream final’ between the last two title-winning sides – they clashed for the trophy twice in the past, Olympiacos won in 2015 here in Piraeus, Sabadell won in 2019 in Sabadell – now the Greeks are playing at home again…

Recaps Olympiacos v UVSE 18-11

The coaching staff of UVSE tried to prepare the team, mostly the inexperienced teenage players, by creating a soundtrack from an old Olympiacos game and held a practice where the loud chanting of the Greek supporters was played from four loudspeakers with maximum sound level for one and a half hours. However, what they could not bring to the pool was the team of Olympiacos – and the existing difference in the quality of the sides became visible on the scoreboard early in the game.

After 1-1, two fine shots from the perimeter gave the host side a calming lead, while the Hungarians were unable to find the proper rhythm in attack, missed a series of man-ups, and their defence also crushed under the pressure. Conceding 10 goals in the first half was a true marker of that – they trailed by five at halftime. Olympiacos was very effective at both ends, scored fine action goals and converted a couple of extras.

The Magyars had a better spell at the beginning of the third, netted a 6 on 5 – the VAR helped them out – and a penalty for 10-7, but just when the game seemed to have been heating up, Nikola Eleftheriadou’s ball slipped in, and 55 seconds later – adding a killed man-down to the mix in the meantime – Kyra Christmas also found the back of the net from the perimeter to channel the game’s path back to the original script. With the five-goal gap reset, the title-holders regained their confidence and turned into the last period with a 14-9 lead – though one may note that Rita Keszthelyi scored perhaps the goal of the season when she just gave the goalie’s long ball a wrist-tip while swimming towards the goal to chip it over the netminder.

She kind of staged a one-woman show as she scored her 8th at the beginning of the fourth, but singlehandedly she couldn’t match the Greeks who responded with a double in 44 seconds for 16-10 – so it was still a one-sided contest. Another telling piece of stats was that while nine players scored for the Greeks, besides Keszthelyi – who finished the game with a Final Four record of 9 goals – only two team-mates could net one goal apiece.

In fact, Olympiacos passed the Hungarian test for the second consecutive year: last May they beat UVSE in the semis and Dunaujvaros in the final – now they ousted Dunaujvaros in the quarters and beat UVSE again in the semis, though it was much easier than last time (9-8 was the final score back then).

Sabadell v Padova 9-8 – Lining up Olympic medal winner Spanish stars and quality foreign stars like triple Olympic champion Maggie Steffens and Dutch European champions Catharina van der Sloot and Monika Eggens – Sabadell is definitely the team to beat here in this tournament.

Still, the Italians tried their best and for two periods they offered some tremendous efforts in defending, it was really spectacular how they made the game’s top stars’ lives hell by fine positioning, great blocking and the necessary aggression. Sabadell’s great shooters were visibly struggling to find the inward roads to the net, while the Italians made most of their chances in front. At 3-3, they could have taken the lead, but Laura Barzon’s ball flew out of the pool… And the writing got onto the wall when Judith Forca’s perfect lob ended up in the net with 0:03 to go till the middle break.

Though the Spaniards began the third with a missed 6 on 4, soon they got on track when van der Sloot sent the ball home from the perimeter and 65 seconds later Forca scored another one from action. Once the ice was broken, Sabadell started flying and they added three more in the third, Forca stopped at 6, while Laura Ester delivered a series of saves in the back to keep the rush uninterrupted.

The 5-0 run in the third period did the damage – though Padova kept on going and after Elle Armit could halt their 12:13 minute-long drought, they narrowed the gap step by step. Sabadell’s offence dropped back to the first-half level, or even lower as they were unable to put away the ball (were 0 for 4 in man-up). The Italians smelled blood, and with a double by Sara Centanni in 28 seconds they were trailing 9-7 with 1:37 remaining. With 40 seconds on the clock, they scored from a 6 on 5 after a timeout for 9-8 – but never got the ball back as Sabadell forced an exclusion and kept the ball in the remaining 18 seconds.

Quotes Olympiacos v UVSE 18-11

Alexandar Ciric, coach, Olympiacos “The semi-finals are always the toughest matches and there was no difference this time either. I think what helped us was that we found the right rhythm at the beginning and once we took a two-three-goal lead, we were able to play with the right focus and the necessary power to maintain the gap. I congratulate my players and also the team of UVSE, it was a wonderful match in a fantastic atmosphere, a great promotion of water polo.”

Marton Benczur, coach, UVSE “We made a couple of silly mistakes at the beginning in defence, bad marking, bad positioning, while in offence we messed up our 6 on 5s and also conceded two-three unlucky goals which decided our faith early on. Of course, we played with one of the best teams in the world, to have any chance against them we should have had out-of-the-world goaltending, giant blocks and perfect execution in attack, but it wasn’t the case and I cannot say any bad word to my players. They did their utmost, it was just not enough today. At the same time, let me add, that it’s a tremendous honour to coach such a player as Rita Keszthelyi who is, for me at least, the best player in the world and I just hope she could stay with us till the end of time…”

Rita Keszthelyi-Nagy, UVSE “Perhaps eight was my individual record but I don’t really keep track of my scoring feats since for me always the team comes first. Of course, I’m happy that I played a game like this at this level, but I would be much happier if a couple of team-mates would have joined me with a great performance since mine was way too little to keep up with Olympiacos. Yeah, that goal was nice, I loved it too – indeed I wanted to do that tipping feat for a long time. Our goalie can give brilliant passes so when I was swimming alone, I felt this was the time to try it, especially because this was the day when whatever I touched, went in.”

Sabadell v Padova 9-8

David Palma, coach, Sabadell “It was a hard game as we expected, Padova did a good job but in the third period we managed to perform on our usual level and that was decisive. I think our defence made the difference in the third period when we forced Padova to miss their 6 on 5s but in the fourth they started scoring from them again and that’s how they came back to the game. Now we can prepare against Olympiacos, it’s going to be even harder, for sure.”

Stefano Posterivo, coach, Padova “I think I can be proud of the team, the players gave everything in this match. Of course, the third period was a disaster, we couldn’t defend on the same level as in the first half and after you go 9-3 down against a team like Sabadell, there is no way to come back. Let me add that there were many small things which could have favoured us and which led to this loss. The missed penalty, that last shot in the second period turned out bad, just like a couple of exclusions, especially the last one, did not help either but all in all, it was a great game, and we did really well altogether.”

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