Big wins for Barceloneta and Jug
Barceloneta crashed Olympiacos in its home, the first team to beat the Greeks in Piraeus since April 2017 and the very first team to score 15 goals in their pool. This secured the top spot for the Spaniards while Olympiacos dropped back to third as Jug enjoyed a great evening in Szolnok and moved up to second in the ranks. In the battle at the Adriatic, Jadran Carine downed Jadran Split and this rocketed the Montenegrins to the fourth qualifying place for the first time in the season. Spandau can also eye the fourth berth after a fine win over Sintez.
Group A Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) 9-15, Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 12-16, Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) v Jadran Split (CRO) 14-11, Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Sintez Kazan (RUS) 15-9
Standings: 1. Barceloneta 22, 2. Jug 21, 3. Olympiacos 19, 5. Jadran Carine 13, 5. Szolnok 12, 6. Spandau 11, 7. Jadran Split 4, 8. Sintez 3
The winter break seems to have broken something in Piraeus: while Olympiacos, finalists in the last two seasons, had a 7-game unbeaten run before the European Championships, since the re-start they lost their second game in a row. And just like in Dubrovnik in the previous round, the Greeks already fell badly in the first half against Barceloneta.
The Spaniards did a brilliant job as they rushed to a 2-6 lead by halftime and rolled on in the third to go 2-8 up, a totally unusual scene in the Olympiacos pool. The hosts had a better spell and came back to 6-9 with three connecting goals and had a man-up early in the fourth but missed it and Alvaro Granados scored from the ensuing counter to make it 6-10 (instead of 7-9).
That killed the Greeks’ momentum and they fell apart in defence, Barceloneta stopped at 15 and became the first team to win in Piraeus since Szolnok had achieved that in April 2017. Olympiacos had an unbeaten run of 19 matches in its home but the number of goals the Greeks conceded was even more telling. They got 17 from Recco in 2014 and 13 on two occasions (in Dubrovnik on Day 8 for the second time) and Recco netted 12 in Piraeus five years ago, no other team could go beyond 10 here.
Jug also enjoyed a fine evening in Szolnok, the Croats outplayed the Hungarians in every aspect of the game. The offences were in their prime, the first period already saw four goals apiece then Jug netted three in 2:13 minutes to go 5-8 up and that forced the home side into a chasing game. For a while they could stay close but two crucial man-up misses in the third let Jug build an 8-12 lead. Szolnok came back once more to 10-12 but Luka Loncar and Loren Fatovic both netted a fine action goal for 10-14. It all happened within 37 seconds and the Croats had had it before the last period began. They went even 10-16 up before Szolnok could pull two back but couldn’t avoid another home defeat.
This second loss pushed the 2017 champions to a dogfight for the fourth place – Jadran Carine already passed them as the Montenegrins managed to down the other Jadran in the group. The team from Split had a fine start and held on for a 5-6 lead but then they lost their edge in front while the hosts geared up and deep into the third they were sitting in the driving seat (8-6). The Croats could score after a silence of 8:59 minutes but Jadran Carine had the replies and led 10-8 before the last break. When Uros Vucurovic netted a crucial man-up for 11-8 in the fourth (he scored 5 in the game) it seemed to break their rivals who even missed a penalty and the chance for a comeback.
After a stunning win in Szolnok, Spandau ‘re-confirmed’ its status as a contender for the Final Eight as the Germans left no doubt in the game against Sintez. Quarter by quarter they increased their lead and after making it 9-5 by the end of the third, they added 6 more in the fourth period and manoeuvred themselves in a fine position to have a say in the race for the fourth place.