Recco and Novi Beograd with tight wins in win European Aquatics Champions League Men

The finalists of the last two editions of the men’s water polo Champions League were celebrating on Tuesday night after winning their respective away matches in round two of the Quarter Final Stage. Title-holders Recco did a clean job in Split, while Novi Beograd had to dig deep and comeback from three goals down to beat Marseille in an absolute thriller – with the deciding goal coming just 38 seconds from time.

Group A

VK Jadran Split (CRO) 10-13 Pro Recco (ITA)
CN Marseille (FRA) 13-14 VK Novi Beograd (SRB)

In the ‘club-version’ rematch of the World Championships final – both Jadran Split and Recco fielded seven players who were part of the gold medal show in Doha in February – it was the Italians who were dominating from the start.

But it was Recco’s foreign legion that was making the real difference – for example, Ben Hallock opened the scoring with a fine goal from the centre.

The American, alongside Kostantinos Kakaris (of Greece) delivered the exclusions and two were finished from the left wing after some patient play.

Between those goals, the Croats could score their first quite late, 43 seconds before the buzzer, and they trailed 1-3 after eight minutes.

By half-time, Recco doubled their lead – the performance wasn’t stellar, but very much effective, especially in defence.

After a couple of action goals from Gonzalo Echenique and Andrea Fondelli, they killed three man-downs in a row – though Jadran’s struggles were highlighted by a lost ball in one six on four.

Again, Jadran could score very late in the period, but once more an answer came immediately from Recco, with Aleksandar Ivovic hitting one after a nice set-up for 2-6.

When the Montenegrin copied his previous goal early in the third to extend Recco’s lead to five, Jadran seemed to be slipping towards a heavy defeat.

However, the hosts began to show some signs of life, scoring three connecting goals while Recco’s offence suddenly stalled, and with 46 seconds to go it was an open game at 5-7.

Then came Ivovic again, with another brilliant drive and another action goal from close range, with this strike having a calming effect 24 seconds before the last break.

If that halted Jadran’s momentum, then Fondelli’s blast 26 seconds into the fourth killed it at 5-9.

That also triggered an offensive roll at both ends of the pool.

Defences ceased to operate – after 13 goals in three periods, the final quarter produced 10, five apiece, including a fourth action goal from Ivovic, who was a real shining light for Recco this evening.

The clash in Marseille brought the first real epic thriller of the Quarter Final Stage.

Initially, Novi Beograd took control and were in the lead till midway through the second period, though Marseille always managed to level.

After 5-5, the French had the better spell, shutting down two NGB man-ups, then Vladan Spaic’s fine centre shot and Ante Vukicevic’s distant rocket put Marseille 7-5 up at the turnaround.

When Vukicevic sent another one into the net from a six on five early in the third, the Serbs were in trouble at 8-5.

However, they raised their game and bounced back within two and half minutes.

After back-to-back man-up goals from Nikola Jaksic and Filip Filipovic, they killed a man-down and Alvaro Granados soon made it even (8-8) from a quick counter.

Though Krisztian Manhercz’s shot from the perimeter ended Marseille’s struggles in attack, at the other end the French couldn’t handle Granados, whose sparkling shooting skills prevailed in the next two six on fives.

Still, the hosts retook the lead as they could also penetrate NGB’s defence and Spaic’s hit from a nicely played extra made it 11-10 with six seconds to go in the third.

The Serbs’ goaltending problems continued at the start of the fourth, as Lazar Dobozanov – who sat out for a couple of minutes earlier, but was called back in – conceded another one from the perimeter, so the French were up by two at 12-10.

Granados (who else?) kept last season’s runners-up in the match with another pinpoint shot, then Jaksic was set up on 2m in the next six on five, which is plain dunking in his case, and NBG were level again at 12-12.

Marseille captain Ugo Crousillat buried a penalty in the next possession to edge the hosts back in front, but NGB’s Angelos Vlachopoulos’ precise shot on man-up tied the scores once again (13-13), and there was still a lot of time to play.

Either side could have won it, as they each had two man-ups in the remaining frantic 3:36 minutes.

The home fans were left frustrated as their side missed both, while the Serbs scored from their second attempt.

Granados came up with an unmissable assist and veteran Dusko Pijetlovic made no mistake from close range with 0:38 on the clock.

A steal ended Marseille’s final possession – and also their hopes to gain a point or two in this crucial home encounter.
A brilliant first-half performance and Marko Bijac’s fantastic saves gave Olympiacos the necessary edge to end Barceloneta’s winning streak in the men’s water polo Champions League, while the other favourites Ferencvaros struggled, but a great finish – a 0-4 rush in the fourth – landed them another victory.

Group B

Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 10-7 Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP)
AN Brescia (ITA) 9-11 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN)

Olympiacos managed to halt Barceloneta’s unbeaten run in the Champions League with a brilliant first half performance, fuelled by a series of outstanding saves by Marko Bijac.

The world champion Croat returned for this match (after being rested for the opening game following his grand march with the national team) and he enjoyed a truly exceptional evening.

Barceloneta created chances, just as many if not more than Olympiacos, but they were unable to put the ball behind Bijac.

Konstantinos Genidounias also had a night to remember, as his outstanding shooting accuracy also made the difference right away in the first period.

He hit two from the perimeter from action, while the Spaniards missed some great opportunities, including a penalty where Marc Larumbe failed to grab the ball for the shot.

Then a bit later, when they managed to launch a counter, again Bijac made a crucial save and the ensuing ‘re-counter’ ended in a penalty which Genidounias buried with ease – so the Greeks led 4-2 after eight minutes.

And they extended their lead to four in the second while shutting out Barceloneta for the whole period.

A finely played man-up, followed by an outstanding goal by Genidounias made it 6-2 while their rivals missed three more six on fives and Bijac also stopped a penalty.

Before the Greeks were able to get too comfortable, Alberto Munarriz stepped up and his two distant pinpoint shots seemed to have broken the Bijac Magic, and also halved the deficit in a span of 57 seconds.

However, it turned out that Barceloneta’s surge was short-lived, as Dimitrios Dimou came up with two brilliant shots of his own to reset the four-goal gap before the final quarter – and again, the Greek defence killed three man-downs.

Barceloneta started the fourth in a similar way, with Anthony Pavillard and Munarriz managing to heat up the match once more with distant blasts for 8-6, but again, the Greeks could find a way to reply.

They forced a penatly and Marton Vamos sent it home, so it was 9-6 with 4:18 to go.

Olympiacos didn’t want to take any further risks while keeping up a fine level of defending, including a couple more stops from Bijac, who finished the evening with a brilliant 63.2% save percentage.

The Spaniards could pull one back only 1:17 from time, as Felipe Perrone finally buried a penalty, however, Genidounias closed the match with another action goal, it was his fifth, securing a crucial victory for Olympiacos.

It truly was a sensational performance from the home team captain and you could see from the way he celebrated in the pool what this result meant to him and his side.

Brescia also looked up to the task in the other encounter, with Max Irving making it seem so easy by putting away two man-ups, first from the left, then from the right, to make it 2-0 in a matter of 90 seconds.

The Hungarians settled soon, though, as Adam Nagy’s shot just crept over the line in the dying seconds of a man-up, then Vendel Vigvari had a clean finish from a counter for 2-2.

Francesco Faraglia’s pinpoint shot gave the lead back to the hosts, but a second attempt from a late six on five by Gergo Fekete brought the sides level again.

After an action-packed opening period, the goals dried up in the second, with Brescia missing two extras before Alessandro Balzarini netted an action goal from a fine drive.

Ferencvaros were finding the Italians’ hard defending difficult to penetrate, but they still equalised from Dusan Mandic’s blast 46 seconds before the half-time buzzer.

Irving buried a penalty for 5-4 in the third, then Brescia missed the chance to double their lead on man-up, while Nagy’s one-timer in FTC’s six on five was good for a goal in the middle of the quarter.

Zoltan Pohl then stepped up on extra to give the Magyars the lead for the first time in the match at 5-6.

And Soma Vogel’s tremendous save in another man-down prevented the hosts from levelling the scores just before the last break.

The goal to tie the game came early in the fourth, though, as Irving broke Brescia’s silence with a spectacular distant shot, but Toni Nemet put away an extra immediately for 6-7.

Balzarini could also put one away, after three missed man-ups, then he made it again with 4:39 to go to regain the advantage for the Italians at 8-7.

Erik Molnar then collected a loose ball and fired in a precious action goal in a dying possession, and after Vogel’s big stop from a centre shot, Mandic sent the ball home from a man-up for 8-9 with 3:27 left to play.

Brescia wasted a crucial six on five and the Hungarians then had a ‘match ball’ – a man-up with 1:15 on the clock.

They made it, as Stylianos Argyropoulos’ first shot was saved by Tesanovic, but the second was impossible to catch.

Brescia called a time-out with 0:50 on the clock, went for a seven on five, missed it and Fekete closed down the contest with a 26m shot to the empty net.

This completed a 0-4 run for Ferencvaros to maintain their unbeaten streak across all competitions – a late penalty goal from Brescia only shaped the very same scoreline, 9-11, what FTC also produced while beating Olympiacos in the opening round.

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