Champions League, Final Six, Budapest (HUN) – Day 1, summary
Just as last year, Jug Dubrovnik (CRO) managed to overcome Eger (HUN) with a brilliant fourth period in the opening match of Champions League Final Six in Budapest. The outcome was different in the other quarter-final, this time Szolnok (HUN) was clearly the better side against Barceloneta (ESP) and reached the semis for the first time. Saturday is going to see thrilling semis, with Recco (ITA) taking on Jug and Olympiacos (GRE) facing Szolnok.
Jug did it again, last year they beat Eger in the same game 10-8 in Barcelona, now, they bettered the Hungarians 8-6. It was a match of tremendous defending, both goalies did a splendid job but even in the first half Eger’s Branislav Mitrovic seemed to make the bigger saves.
Still, Jug led 3-4 at half-time but in the third Eger caught a fine spell, they scored two connecting goals and took the lead for the first time at 5-4. Soon they had a clear centre shot opportunity for a 6-4 advantage but Marko Bijac made the save and Jug levelled the score with 8.6 seconds remaining from the third.
It was a crucial goal as it turned out at the beginning of the last period as Pavo Markovic put away a 6 on 5 for 5-6 and even if Boris Vapenski scored for 6-6, the remaining 6:19 minutes didn’t see any more goals from Eger. The Croats had more to offer, including a goal from the centre, Luka Loncar did what the hosts could not do earlier in the third and in 1:44min he added one more from a man-up for 6-8 and that decided the outcome. Loncar became the hero of Jug with 4 goals, while Eger tried to rush the finishes in offence but missed all opportunities to come closer. In fact, the difference was also mirrored by the number of saves: Bijac made 11, Mitrovic had 9.
The other quarter brought less excitement, in fact it was Viktor Nagy, the best goalie of the European Championships in Belgrade who stole the show. He made one save after the other, at half-time he stood with 11 catches on 12 shots for an incredible 90.9%. He held Barceloneta on a single goal in the first half while Szolnok took a 3-1 lead. By the third the players of the Hungarian champion calmed down and scored as many goals in eight minutes as in the previous 16 and led 6-2.
Barceloneta had a late surge and came back to 6-4 with 3:54 to go but Denes Varga, top scorer of the prelims made a ‘dunk’ in the following man-up for 7-4. Soon he missed a penalty while on the other end a buried a man-up narrowed the gap (7-5) with 1:48 to go, but the Spaniards couldn’t come any closer. In the dying seconds Nagy made his 16th save to finish the match with a still amazing 76.2% and Szolnok now faces Olympiacos in the semis.
Champions League, Final Six
Day 1, Quarter-finals
ZF Eger (HUN) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 6-8
Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v CNA Barceloneta (ESP) 7-5
Day 2, Fixtures
For places 5-6
17.30 Barceloneta (ESP) v Eger (HUN)
19.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v Jug Dubrovnik (CRO)
20.30 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Szolnok (HUN)