Day 6 of the Quarter Finals of the LEN Waterpolo Champions League

Here are five takeaways from the sixth and final day of the Quarter Final Stage in the men’s water polo Champions League.

1. The favourites all delivered on the last day of the Quarter Final Stage – four encounters, four home victories.

On Day 3, in the reverse fixtures, the same teams claimed away wins.

This week’s results cemented the rankings that were already shaped after the previous round – Recco and Ferencvaros finished top, while Novi Beograd and Olympiacos qualified for the Final Four as runners-up.

For Recco, it’s simply business as usual, as the last time they missed the semis was way back in 2014, in the first-ever Final Six.

Since then (losing to Partizan on penalties in the Quarter-Finals), they’ve made the top four in nine consecutive editions.

Novi Beograd have a perfect record, making this stage of the competition three times from three, as they only began their Champions League quest in 2022.

Ferencvaros return to the semis after missing the cut last season, though they reached the medal round in the previous three (including being crowned champions in 2019).

And the wait is over for Olympiacos – the Greek giants went all the way to the final three times in four years between 2016 and 2019, but failed to reach the semis in the last three years.

2. Ferencvaros never ceased to keep their fans on their toes, as all six of their games in the Quarter Final Stage brought sheer excitement.

Not a single victory came easily for the Hungarian champions, as they won four games by two goals – like the last clash with Barceloneta (13-11) – and one by one goal (at home to Brescia 9-8 on Day 5), while their only loss in this stage was an 8-10 defeat in Piraeus.

Defence was the key once more on Day 6 against the Spaniards, though this was the first time that FTC won and conceded goals that reached double digits.

Still, Soma Vogel enjoyed another fine evening in FTC’s cage – his save percentage has been outstanding in the Quarter Finals – and he came up with 11 stops from 22 for 50%.

Among his saves were two penalties, and while other goalies may stop one every two months, for Vogel, blocking penalties has become a bit of a weekly routine.

3. Title-holders Pro Recco arrive to the finals undefeated once more, as the Italians are the only side in the Champions League which is yet to lose a game.

The only time they didn’t bag all three points was in Belgrade when NBG miraculously came back from six goals down to force a shootout – but Recco still won that and sailed away with two points.

On the final day, the Serbs didn’t seem strong enough to keep up with the home side and never showed any sign they could come back again.

In the end, Recco hit 15, the most goals NBG have conceded this season in Europe – which is a pretty strong (and loud and clear) message from the Italians, who are gunning for their fourth straight Champions League title.

4. Olympiacos are returning to the big stage and have the task of facing Recco in the semis.

While Recco will start as the favourites, the Greeks have history of upsetting the Italian giants.

In the last two seasons when the Greeks reached the the top four, they beat Recco on both occasions – in the final in 2018 and in the semis in 2019.

On Day six of the Quarter Final Stage, the Greeks bagged a really easy win against Brescia, and scored 17 against a usually well-organised defence.

However, Brescia were maybe in a bit of a freefall after their recent shocking loss to Savona in the semis of the Italian league.

Before that, they pushed FTC to their limit before losing 9-8 in Budapest – but after failing to get past Savona, in Piraeus they simply crashed.

Brescia conceded 11 goals before half-time, while even on their worse days, this number never exceeded 12-13 goals earlier in the season.

Brescia, who finished top of their group last season (above Novi Beograd and FTC), exit the competition this year following six straight defeats – recording 74 goals against, an average of 12.3 per game.

5. Marseille delivered a fitting farewell to their fans on Day 6, but at the start of the season the French were dreaming big and the wait for a first-ever semi-final appearance continues.

They lost a couple of tight matches at home this season (10-12 to Recco and 13-14 to NGB), which prevented them from taking that Big Step – but at least they could beat Jadran Split home and away.

This last one proved easy, as they cruised to a 17-10 victory.

Indeed, it was always unlikely the Croats would overcome their defensive problems for this last match, where nothing was at stake.

Their number of conceded goals was really telling – 15, 13, 14, 15, 18, 17 – which is not the Croatian way to play water polo and win matches.

Jadran’s goalkeepers had to pick the ball out of their net 92 times, by far the worst in the whole field.

The men’s Champions League Water Polo Final Four will take place on Wednesday 5th June and Friday 7th June 2024 in Malta, and you can follow all the action and results live on the dedicated European Aquatics Champions League website.

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