Marseille upsets OSC, thrillers in Oradea
As a demonstration of how even the fields were in the second phase of the qualification, only one group winner – AN Brescia (ITA) – could win all three games in the weekend. The eight advancing sides represent as many nations, their battles in the play-offs promise further excitements.
As expected, this second round brought a series of heated battles. While the eight advancing teams represent as many nations, it’s notable that both Greek and Croatian entrants failed to pass this tough test.
Mladost (CRO) earned a 6-6 tie against eventual group winner Spartak (RUS), the young Croats couldn’t win the decisive match against Jadran Carine (MNE). Though the hosts trailed by only two early in the fourth period at 7-9, the Montenegrins scored the last three goals of the match for a convincing 7-12 win and a place in the play-offs.
The weekend’s biggest upset happened in Budapest where host OSC already went through after two days while Marseille needed to avoid a 3+ goals defeat against the Hungarians on the closing day after the French had drawn with Canottieri (ITA) earlier. The ‘visitors’ did more than just taking care of their goal-difference, with a 0-4 opening rush they stunned the Hungarians and even though OSC tried desperately to make a comeback, they could narrow the gap to a single goal only ten seconds from time, thus had to settle for the second place and a presumably harder road to the main round.
Brescia (ITA), participant of last May’s Final Six, did a clean job in Sabadell: the Italians were the only ones at this stage who won all of their three matches. Victories over the host Spaniards (12-13) and Mornar (CRO, 8-10) didn’t come easily, but Brescia now is one step from making the prelims once again. Sabadell had a great spell against Mornar while going 8-2 up after 2-2, securing its berth in the third round.
A three-day thriller took shape in Oradea where all four teams stood with a win and a loss after Day 2, with three points apiece. It was clear that the two winners of Day 3 matches would go through and both matches brought sheer excitement. The encounter of Crvena Zvezda (SRB) and Vouliagmeni (GRE) couldn’t have been more balanced, it stood 4-4 after three periods, both teams missed a penalty. The Greeks took the lead four times but the Serbs could keep on and in the fourth they netted two goals in 67 seconds. Vouliagmeni could pull one back only 38 seconds before the end and couldn’t force a tie (6-5). The second match was similarly even, though Oradea (RUS) took a 6-4 lead in the third, Sintez (RUS) levelled the score before the last break and went ahead in the fourth. The Romanians equalised twice but the Russians had the last laugh, the game-winner came with 1:08 to go as the home side couldn’t make the last man-up in the dying seconds.
The draw for the play-offs will be held on Monday, the four top seeded clubs will be paired with the second ranked sides (those playing this weekend in the same group cannot meet each other again in the third round).
Champions League, Qualification Round II
Group E (Zagreb)
- Spartak Volgograd (RUS) 7, 2. Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) 6, 3. HAVK Mladost Zagreb (CRO) 4, 4. ASC Duisburg (GER) 0
Group F (Budapest)
- CN Marseille (FRA) 7, 2. A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN) 6, 3. Canottieri Napoli (ITA) 4, 4. ANC Glyfada (GRE) 0
Group G (Sabadell)
- AN Brescia (ITA) 9, 2. CN Sabadell (ESP) 6, 3. Mornar Split (CRO) 3, 4. UZSC Utrecht (NED) 0
Group H (Oradea)
- Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 6, 2. Sintez Kazan (RUS) 6, 3. NC Vouliagmeni (GRE) 3, 4. DiGi Oradea (ROU) 3