Unlike the other group which didn’t stop producing thrillers round by round, here Recco, Marseille and Jug already proved they were a class apart from the others. All three won with ease, and it seems OSC – downed by Recco at home – will have a tough battle with the two Germans, Hannover and Spandau for the fourth qualifying spot.
Group B: OSC Budapest (HUN) v Pro Recco (ITA) 8-14, CN Marseille (FRA) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 13-10, Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 13-19, Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU) 10-8
Standings: 1. Recco 15, 2. Marseille 12, 3. Jug 12, 4. OSC 7, 5. Hannover 5, 6. Spandau 4, 7. Zvezda 3, 8. Steaua 0
After a promising start, OSC suffered its second home defeat in a row. While last time it had been a bit surprising that Marseille was so superior in Budapest, now just the inevitable happened when Recco stormed to another convincing win, making it 5/5.
Marseille was also ‘in the mood’ once more, though Hannover never stopped fighting, as usual, but two, almost 10-minute long blackouts from the Germans left no chance for them to cause serious headaches for the French. They came back from 6-2 to 8-6 but the hosts shut them out for the entire third period again to seal their fourth straight win.
The opening period offered a balanced contest between Crvena Zvezda and Jug, then the Croats started rolling and their 7-goal hammering in the second quarter did the damage. That turned the remaining half into a shooting contest ending in a single-game scoring record of 32 goals. By beating Steaua and gaining its first win, Spandau joined the hunt for the fourth qualifying spot – it’s going to be a long run but a three-horse race seems to unfold between the Germans and OSC as the top three are already sailing away, enjoying a five-point advantage after just five rounds.
OSC v Recco 8-14
Though OSC took the lead with a fine action shot but Recco hit back with three connecting goals and after the Magyars’ first man-up goal they added two more in the last 51 seconds of the first period. This 2-5 opening set the tone and apart from a short surge of OSC late in the second, Recco kept the game under firm control. Then, at 3-6, the home side had a couple of possessions, including a 6 on 5 to come closer but couldn’t really penetrate the Italian defence. The hosts’ hopes diminished once the second half got under way, a man-up, a killed man-down and an action goal 49 seconds later gave Recco a 3-8 lead, so its victory was never in danger any longer. Indeed, the difference between the firepower, the composure of the offence and the level of defending became more and more visible. It was not just poor shooting form but also the well-organised defence which kept OSC’s three best outside shooters Manhercz, Burian and Vigvari on a single goal apiece. Add, that they took 22 shots among them to finish the game 3 for 22 combined, but most of those attempts came under tremendous pressure and Marco del Lungo also enjoyed a better game than Marton Levai at the other end.
Recco’s lead never dropped below four goals and they had more in the tank towards the end, scored two more after 8-12, while OSC couldn’t add any in the last 5:16 minutes so the gap became the widest by the end.
Marseille v Hannover 13-10
It was Marseille all the way, the French offered another fine performance and after three away wins they managed to bag their first victory at home. Hannover had a couple of fine matches in the previous rounds, including a first win in Belgrade two weeks ago and at the beginning the Germans looked strong again. After the hosts went ahead, Waspo replied with two in 55 seconds – however, during the next 9:23 minutes they disappeared from the scene, at least in front. And also had problems in defence, in this first critical phase the French were marching, staged a 5-0 rush, netted extras (3/3) plust two action goals and killed four man-downs. Hannover couldn’t really recover from this blow – they fought on, as always, and climbed back from 6-2 to 8-6.
Marseille couldn’t maintain that outstanding level, but at least their defensive efforts worked as they managed to survive two more man-downs at the beginning of the third when Hannover could have come back to 8-7. But this time the Germans’ level dropped back to where it had been early in the second – indeed they were unable to score in the entire third quarter while the French found the back of the net twice and at 10-6 they had nothing to worry about before the final period. Hannover’s another blackout ended after 9:53 minutes this time, but they never had the chance again to get in ‘visible distance’. Andrija Prlainovic, Ugo Crousillat and Vladan Spaic made the finish easy by netting a series of fine goals to go 13-8 up. Hannover score two lately but left the pool empty-handed.
Zvezda v Jug 13-19
The Serbs took a flying start, led 3-1 in three minutes and soon had a man-up to go three up but a blocking hand denied them and Maro Jokovic put Jug’s next extra away. That geared up the Croats who added two more in quick succession (netted three in 87 seconds) though Stefan Pjesivac scored his third from a man-up (had two from the centre earlier) for 4-4. If anyone hoped for a tight and exciting match, soon had to watch the happenings in disappointment as Jug tore the hosts apart in the following eight minutes. The Croats staged a rout, scored seven, causing irreparable damage to their rivals. It was their 5-0 rush, which killed the Serbs’ chances by halftime – shut them out for 6:21 minutes and built a solid 6-11 lead.
This turned the game into a shooting contest, defending was no longer a serious option, at least neither side was able to keep a higher level, though Jug was a bit more efficient in that regard. In front, the Croats kept on delivering, especially veteran leftie Maro Jokovic who finished the evening with 5/5 but Loren Fatovic also had a fine match (5/6). The mass production stopped at 32 goals, a season-record for a single game (the previous total stood at 30, from the Dinamo Tbilisi v Brescia match in Group A). No doubt, the two sides offered prime time entertainment for water polo lovers but the coaches were less happy, especially Aleksandar Filipovic at the hosts’ bench since conceding 19 goals is anything but typical for a Serbian team at this level.
Spandau v Steaua 10-8
The wait is over, Spandau could also add its first win of the season by taking the upper hand againstpointless Steaua.
The Germans dominated the first half, took a commanding 3-0 lead in the first period while theRomanians needed 11:20 minutes to open the scoring. Though they hit twice then in 56 seconds, butSpandau responded well, an action goal put them 4-2 up again, then in a whirlwind of events, the hosts netted two more in the last 20 seconds so they led 6-2 at halftime.
However, the break broke them down a bit while the visitors had a better spell. After a fine action goaland two killed man-down, a nice centre-shot from Alexandru Gheorghe fired them up and soon it stood7-6. Steaua even had a possession to go even but couldn’t capitalise on it and Nikola Dedovic hit a nice one from the wing at the end of a well-created action.
It was crucial at 8-6 who scored first in the last period, so a huge fight ensued for more than four minutes. The Romanians denied the Germans in two more man-ups but faded a bit physically to be sharper in offence – and Marek Tkac’s goal from another extra was a huge moral-booster for the hosts.
Though Andrei-Tudor Fulea replied immediately from a 6 on 5 but Dmitri Kholod’s blast from the perimeter had a calming effect on the contest with 2:55 to go. Gheorghe hit another one from the centre but only 1:35 minutes were remaining, and the clock ticked down without further damages to the nets at either end.