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.
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.
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.