Szolnok breaks Olympiacos’s unbeaten run
Szolnok (HUN) books its place in the Final Six semis after beating Olympiacos (GRE) in Piraeus and earning the top spot in Group A. While the battle for the third berth is yet to be decided between Brescia (ITA) and OSC (HUN), in Group B the hunt is over as Eger (HUN) came home ahead of Barceloneta (ESP) and even had a chance to catch Jug in the ranks after the Croats went down against Recco (ITA).
The big match in Piraeus in Group A brought a bit surprising result as Szolnok broke the Greeks’ unbeaten home run and managed to pull off a fine 4-6 win. Olympiacos, sweeping all its home matches in the past two years, was never ahead in the entire game. Szolnok jumped to a 0-2 lead before the hosts scored their first after 11:37 minutes, a kind of proof for how well the Hungarians’ defence worked. Though Olympiacos came back to 3-3 early in the third, they were unable to cause much damage in man-ups, blowing three in a row while Szolnok netted two for a 3-5 lead before the last period. The Hungarians missed two 6 on 5s, too, soon the Greeks broke another long scoreless period, lasting 11:17 minutes, to come closer with 2:50 to go. However, they could not equalise once more, instead Denes Varga’s penalty put an end to the contest with 72 seconds from time (4-6) and secured the top place for Szolnok, thus a direct berth in the Final Six semis.
In the other two encounters the teams seeking the third available F6 spot prevailed. Brescia came through some tough moments before sailing away in the last two minutes of the third period. Spandau climbed back from 4-7 down and levelled the score at 10-10 in the third but the last 121 seconds saw four connecting goals from Brescia and that decided the outcome (10-14). After the action packed third period (4-7 was the partial result) the last one didn’t see any goals, still, the Italians kept their two-point lead ahead of OSC (HUN). The Hungarians also had some struggles as they couldn’t build a convincing gap against Nice (FRA) in the whole match. The French came back from time to time, even after going 10-7 down in the fourth they netted two and trailed only 10-9 with 72 seconds to go but the hosts had the last laugh and reserved a slim hope to make the F6 this year.
The third Hungarian club Eger has already qualified from Group B, for the third straight occasion. They needed a win against Partizan (SRB) and they delivered. It wasn’t an easy ride, though, as the young Serbs fought hard and were 2-3 up at halftime. Eger geared up for the third period, managed to take the lead and even though the visitors levelled once more at 4-4, the remaining 10 minutes belonged to the Hungarians. Eger scored twice in 70 seconds to go 6-4 up before the last break and added two more early in the fourth. They shut out Partizan for the last 10:43 minutes while earning an 8-4 win.
Eger can even have a shot for the second place in the group as Jug lost to Recco in a tight match. The title-holders held on for most of the time, with 6:11 to go they were only two goals behind (7-5) but couldn’t score any more while the Italians, already having secured the top spot, netted two in 46 seconds towards the end of the fourth and maintained their clean sheet. This means that Jug now has a two-point lead ahead of Eger but will play in their rival’s home on Day 10.
In the third match Barceloneta (ESP) earned the compulsory win over Hannover (GER), the devastating first period (6-2) determined the rest of the match. However, this wasn’t enough as Eger collected all three points against Partizan, and that meant the end of the Spaniards’ quest for a fifth straight F6 appearance: Barceloneta will miss the last stage for the first time since 2013.
Champions League, Preliminaries, Day 9
Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) 4-6
Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v AN Brescia (ITA) 10-14
A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN) v Olympic Nice (FRA) 11-9
- Szolnok 25, 2. Olympiacos 22, 3. Brescia 14, 3. OSC 12, 5. Spandau 4, 6. Nice 0
ZF Eger (HUN) v Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB) 8-4
Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 12-10
Pro Recco (ITA) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 9-5
- Recco 27, 2. Jug 17, 3. Eger 15, 4. Barceloneta 11, 6. Partizan 4, 5. Hannover 3
Day 10 is scheduled for 26 April.
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