Marseille Shines, Jug Struggles In LEN Champions League Main Round

Courtesy: LEN

While Recco went 4/4 as expected, Marseille ended OSC’s unbeaten run with a brilliant win in  Budapest. Jug almost had a hiccup in Bucharest but could bag three points after some struggles and Hannover claimed its first win in a hard-fought battle in Belgrade.

Group B 

OSC Budapest (HUN) v CN Marseille (FRA) 9-14, Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje  Dubrovnik (CRO) 8-10, Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 12-15, Pro Recco (ITA) v  Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) 14-9

Standings: 1. Recco 12, 2. Marseille 9, 3. Jug 9, 4. OSC 7, 5. Hannover 5, 6. Zvezda 3, 7. Spandau 1, 8.  Steaua 0

As expected, Recco beat Spandau with ease despite the Italians being off their usual pace – still, they  were clearly the better side even in ‘slow-motion’. After two periods ending equally in a 5-3 partial  result, the third saw only a single goal – but what counted was the three points for the title-holders.

After losing at home to Recco in the opening round, Marseille stunned Jug in Dubrovnik, then won  convincingly in Bucharest and now the French made it three in a row on the road as they downed OSC  in a spectacular fashion in Budapest. Marseille kept the game under firm control, the Hungarians,  unbeaten in the previous three rounds, had a couple of better spells early on but faded after 6-8. The  French scored three more in the third to take a commanding 6-11 lead and they maintained that gap till  the end. It was telling that they had 31 shots and 26 were on target, OSC was 31/16 to demonstrate the  difference between the concentration levels and the defences’ efforts.

Unexpectedly, the game in Bucharest – played parallel with the OSC v Marseille contest – saw much  bigger tensions. Here favourite Jug fell back after building a solid 2-6 lead and the Romanians came  back to 6-6 in the third period while the Croats were unable to score for almost 13 minutes. At 7-8, the  hosts missed back-to-back man-ups and that proved to be decisive as their experienced rivals doubled  their lead and never looked back.

Due to the tightening restrictions in Germany, Hannover and Crvena Zvezda exchanged the hosting  rights but the Germans still felt at home in Belgrade – at least they jumped to a 0-3 lead in no time and  cruised comfortably for a while, enjoying a 3-4 goal lead. After they missed two man-ups in the third,  Zvezda smelled blood and shaved off its deficit to a single goal twice. It was 12-13 in the fourth, the  Serbs had a couple of possessions to go even but could not create more danger and two late goals  secured Hannover’s first win in this season.

Recaps 

OSC v Marseille 9-14 

Marseille came up with a brilliant team effort while outplaying OSC in every aspect of the game (that  was reinforced by Hungarian head coach Daniel Varga in the post-match interview). Stats don’t lie: all but one field player scored in this game for Marseille, a rare feat when two strong sides  collide – though this evening the game turned into a lop-sided contest late in the third period. OSC dug itself to a deep hole right at the beginning: a lost ball and a goal from the ensuing counter,  then three missed man-ups in a row, an action goal in between and soon the French made their first  extra to take a 0-3 lead in 3:18 minutes. The Magyars then found some rhythm, put away their fourth 6  on 5, killed a man-down and a pinpoint shot from Ferenc Salamon got them close by the end of the  opening period (2-3).

However, the chasing game restarted in the second, in a similar way, Uros Cuckovic could finish a one on-one counter, then Vladan Spaic added a fine one from action in 61 seconds. To follow the pattern of  the first quarter, the Hungarians came back with two goals in 37 seconds, a man-up and a counter  reduced the gap to one once more. They had a couple of possessions to equalise without luck, then  Romain Vernoux sent the ball home from an extra. OSC defended well in a long French possession at  the end, even killed a man-down in the dying seconds – only to see Salamon putting the ball behind his  back after collecting the rebound, while the goalie jumped out to do the same and the ball sailed to the  empty net. It was a classic own goal though water polo does not recognise that so it was given to the  rival’s player who last touched the ball.

The well-known No 1 rule in team sports is “do not beat yourself” – OSC could not really keep that in  this match. They had one more better spell, but only after Andrija Prlainovic converted a penalty for 4- 8. Again, a double in 53 seconds brought them back to 6-8 but Marseille kept on burying its extras, they  always found a way to finish them, even after minor passing errors. At the same time, OSC seemed to  run out of ideas, their composure in offence, which earned them seven points in the first three rounds,  was in ruins. When Vladan Spaic netted a marvellous shot from the centre with 10 seconds to go in the  third, everyone knew it was over at 6-11.

OSC tried everything in the last period but only few of their plans bore fruits – they even tried a 7 on 6,  conceded a goal to the empty net, but at the end they played an equal period.

Again, worth checking some numbers: while the total number of shots was almost equal (30-31), the  shots on target (16-25) clearly mirrored the difference in concentration level and the defensive efforts – the Hungarians had 15 shots off target, Marseille only 6.

Steaua v Jug 8-10 

Jug took a flying start, after 1-1 they netted two in 30 seconds and by the end of the first they built a 2-5  lead. When Marin Tomasovic added one more early in the second for 2-6, the Croats perhaps thought  that the game was in hand, and it would go the same way till the end.

It did not. In a span of 69 seconds the Romanians hit three from back-to-back possessions for 5-6,  forcing Vjeko Kobescak to call for a time-out. It did not help too much – though Jug didn’t concede  more before halftime but wasted two man-ups, so it stood 5-6 in the middle break.  And it did not go on as planned (thought…) – the Croats were struggling in front, and Vlad-Luca  Georgescu hit his third soon from a man-up, so it was equal with 4:30 to go in the third. Jug missed an  extra, and then Steaua had a chance to take the lead but the shot was well saved and veteran leftie Maro  Jokovic halted Jug’s nightmarish run after an embarrassingly long phase of 12:57 minutes, his man-up  goal gave back the lead to the favourites before the last period.

Steaua equalised from its first possession for 7-7 and again had a chance to take the lead but after a  saved shot Jug launched a counter and Konstantinos Kakaris put it away with ease. Then came a series  of crucial moments as the Romanians missed back-to-back man-ups and that cost them a lot as another  Croatian counter ended in a penalty, Stylianos Argyropoulos buried it to double Jug’s lead. Though the hosts pulled one back soon but Marko Zuvela’s action goal closed down the unexpectedly  close contest at 8-10 as the Romanians didn’t have enough power to cause more trouble in offense.

Zvezda v Hannover 12-15 

Even though the hosting right of the match was exchanged last weekend (the Serbs might have faced  challenges to enter Germany under the newly imposed restrictions), Hannover started the game as if it  had played at home: in 2:25 minutes the visitors took a 0-3 lead and they maintained that gap in the  entire first half. Though the Serbs woke up a bit lately and regained some composure, they were unable  to narrow the distance. The Germans – especially their quality foreigners – kept the proceedings under  control, what’s more, after the hosts netted a man-up early in the second, with a double in 45 seconds  they jumped to a four-goal lead. And they did the same a bit later: after two Serbian goals from extras,  they netted two in 44 seconds this time for a 6-10 lead, and they were three up at the end of the action packed first half.

And they could have had the killer blow early in the third but after failing to convert two 6 on 5s, a nice  centre-goal from Stefan Pjesivac gave hope for the hosts and the stands were full of noise as Ivan  Basara sent the ball home from a man-up for 9-10. After a quick exchange of goals it was 10-11 with  1:34 remaining from the penultimate quarter – but even if the next German man-up seemed to be killed,  the visitors regained the ball amidst some controversy and Darko Brguljan’s action goal in a few  seconds reset the two-goal gap. That was crucial as Hannover hit first in the last period, though the hosts  got on fire once more after a double in 62 seconds. With 4:36 remaining, the game was still open but the  Serbs couldn’t really penetrate the German defence any more and Aleksandar Radovic’s trademark 6m  shot had a real cooling effect. Towards the end, Ivan Nagaev, who had opened the scoring in the first  period, closed down the encounter from a counter to secure Hannover’s first win in this season.

Recco v Spandau 14-9 

As expected, the hosts quickly took a 2-0 lead, however, Spandau reacted well and soon it was 2-2. And  the Germans managed to hold on for a while, they were trailing by two after the first period and with  Dmitri Kholod’s fine action goal they climbed back to 6-4 deep into the second. Then came the first  decisive spell when Recco netted three unanswered goals and went 9-4 up. They had some luck as well  as they had three goals when their first attempt was saved by Spandau’s goalie Laszlo Baksa but the  Italians used their second chance after the rebounds. All in all, Recco led 10-6 at halftime so even  another flood of goals was in sight.

Instead, after two periods ending in the same partial results of 5-3, the third saw a single goal, by Aaron  Younger from Recco’s first possession – and then the offenses ceased to produce more. Missed and  saved shots followed but no more hits in the third.

One more minute gone in the fourth, when Aleksandar Ivovic broke the ice from a man-up and then the  game ‘resumed’ to its normal, in terms of goal-production, three came from each side – thus Recco’s  fourth win was secured while Spandau is yet to claim a victory in this season.

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