Courtesy: LEN Media
Sabadell and Olympiacos will clash for the Euro League trophy on Saturday and replay the 2015 final. The host Spaniards downed newcomer Padova while Olympiacos managed to overcome fellow Greek side Vouliagmeni in the semi-finals. Sabadell seeks its 5th trophy while Olympiacos is going for its second triumph. In fact, the last team to beat Sabadell in regular time was Olympiacos in that 2015 final.
Semi-finals: NC Vouliagmeni (GRE) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 7-8, Plebiscito Padova (ITA) v Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) 5-8
Bronze medal match (11.30): Padova v Vouliagmeni
Final (13.15): Sabadell v Olympiacos
The first semi-final was an all-Greek affair and even though Olympiacos held a 5-1 edge in head-to-head over Vouliagmeni this season, its arch-rival seemed to have more control on the game in the first half. Vouliagmeni took the lead four times but their rivals always found the answers so it stood 4-4 at halftime.
Ioanna Chydirioti put Vouliagmeni ahead once more early in the third but then came the Alkisti Avramidou Show. She netted three brilliant goals in a span of 103 seconds (5-7), including two nice one-timers from the left wing, catching Vouliagmeni’s Olympic champion US goalie Ashleigh Johnson by surprise.
That was a game-changer, the opponent got tense and even though Chydirioti pulled one back, Olympiacos clearly started dominating. Avramidou opened the last period with another great goal for 6-8, it was her 4th in a row, and soon they were set to close down the match but missed a penalty. That could have been a turning point as Vouliagmeni had a 6 on 5 in the following possession to make it 7-8 instead of 6-9, but missed the chance with 6 minutes to go. And that proved to be crucial as their attacks lacked composure, when Eleni Xenaki finally scored, it was too late, 19 seconds from time and Olympiacos kept the ball to make the final.
Favorite Sabadell delivered in the second semi-final though newcomer Padova made the hosts suffer a bit. The Italians did a tremendous job in defense to hold Sabadell’s mighty offensive line on 8 goals – this was the first time in the current season that the Spaniards couldn’t produce double digits in front.
Still, after a balanced first period they were able to hit a hole on the Italian wall with two fast counter-attacks and then they could widen the gap to four (4-8) till the end of the third. US great Maggie Steffens led their charge with 3 goals, though credit went to Padova as they could shut the hosts out for the last 10:43 minutes of the game. However, these efforts burnt all their reserves and they couldn’t do much harm to Sabadell’s defense, thus the home side could celebrate to reach the final for the 7th time in the last 9 editions.
On Saturday, Sabadell will meet Olympiacos in the Euro League final for the second time. Back in 2015 the Greeks won 10-9 to clinch their first – and till date the last – trophy. That was the last game Sabadell lost in regular time in the Euro League, since then they had an unbeaten run in 2016 when they claimed their fourth victory, then they lost by penalties both in 2017 (in the semi-final, against Olympiacos) and in 2018 (in the final, to Kirishi).
LEN offers free live streaming from both the bronze medal match and the final on Saturday.
Theocharis Pavlidis, head coach, Olympiacos:
“It was an extremely hard match as we played against a well-known rival. Meeting them in the Euro League semi-finals made this game very special, here both teams wanted to win badly, perhaps it was more important than the trophy itself. These tensions could be felt in the first half. I think our offence could have been a bit better but our defence worked really well and that brought us the win. In the final we will be able to play without pressure.”
Kyriaki Liosi, assistant coach, Vouliagmeni:
“We made too many mistakes in the second half both in defence and in offence, and that cost us the game. Tomorrow is a new game, the medal is important for us, we will be ready to play for it.”
David Palma, head coach, Sabadell:
“It was a very hard match, Padova played very well and made hard for us to score goals. We were also tense a bit but once we could take a three-goal lead, the players calmed down and kept the game under control. But this was only the first step, we need to focus on the final which is going to be a huge challenge against Olympiacos.”
Stefano Posterivo, head coach, Padova:
“In the first half our offence was OK, and I would say that our defence did a good job but we conceded three counterattack goals and on this level it’s way too much. Those goals made the difference because otherwise we could do what we planned. This is the first time Padova plays in the Final Four, our team is a new team while Sabadell is the best in the world so I think we can be proud of our performance today.”