The trophy returns to Hungary
The favourite Hungarian teams reached the final with ease: both OSC and Szolnok ticked the semi-finals by winning both home and away, setting up an all-Magyar final for the second time after 1997.
Semi-finals, 2nd leg:
Vouliagmeni (GRE) v OSC Budapest (HUN) 9-11, aggregate: 16-21.
Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 15-8, agg: 35- 20
Final to be played on 24 April and 8 May.
Since Szolnok demolished Zvezda a week ago in Belgrade, only Vouliagmeni could have prevented an in-house final between the Hungarian clubs. The Greeks had posted a couple of outstanding results in the previous rounds as they had ousted Novi Beograd (SRB) and Mladost Zagreb (CRO) – but they ran out of miracles against OSC.
The Greeks faced an uphill battle as they lost by three goals in Budapest – by far the toughest challenge for them as they had a tie in the eight-finals and trailed by one in the quarters before playing the return legs at home. To have at least a tiny chance for another upset, Vouliagmeni should have went two goals ahead at one stage but they could never lead by two in the entire match.
The tense opening period saw three goals apiece and a double red card in the last minute in order to calm the nerves down in the pool. The Magyars staged a fine second period where they shut out the Greeks for 7:09 minutes, while taking the lead at 4-5. Andrija Basic levelled the score 4 seconds before the middle break but the home side couldn’t get any closer by halftime.
Another key moment came early in the third as Vouliagmeni netted an action goal but OSC replied with two in 32 seconds for 6-7 and from that point the Hungarians never let the hosts lead again. In fact, they managed to turn into the last period being 8-9 up – was ahead by four in aggregate – and even though Vouliagmeni equalised from its first possession, they were unable to score any more in the remaining 6:48 minutes. At the other end OSC added two more to secure its first European final since 1979 when their great side won a second European Champions Cup (now Champions League).
The other semi lacked the same tensions as the first leg already decided the finalist. Szolnok won 20-12 in Belgrade so a comfortable cruising awaited them this evening. The 2017 Champions League winners opened the return match with a 4-0 rush to set the tone and continued the contest in a ‘safety-first, avoid-injuries’ mood. Still, they pushed enough to gain another fine win to advance to the final.
The trophy shall bear a new name as neither side could won this competition earlier – now the cup returns to Hungary after Ferencvaros won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018 (France’s Marseille won it for the last time in 2019). Also, this will be the second time that two Hungarians meet for the cup, back in 1997 Ujpest and Ferencvaros had a showdown with Ujpest prevailing at the end.