Men’s Euro Cup Quarter Finalists confirmed after dramatic night of action

Photo: Daniel Remes / European Aquatics

An outstanding and entertaining night of water polo unfolded across Europe on Saturday night as the men’s Euro Cup Quarter Final line-up was confirmed in sensational fashion. Penalties were needed to separate Steau Bucharest and Panionios GSS, while BVK Crvena Zvezda narrowly edged past BVSC-Zuglo, and title holders Vasas were eliminated by Jug.

Eight Finals Fixtures 2nd Legs
(First-leg results in brackets, overall winners in bold)

A-Hid Vasas Plaket (HUN) 8-9 Jug Adriatic Osiguranje (CRO) (11-12)
BVK Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 12-9 BVSC-Zuglo (HUN) (11-13)
CC Ortigia (ITA) 12-14 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) (8-8)
EN Tourcoing (FRA) 12-15 Astralpool CN Sabadell (ESP) (11-18)
CSA Steaua Bucharest (ROU) 20-18 (P) Panionios GSS (GRE) (11-12)
WPC Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 15-20 Primorje Erste Bank (CRO) (7-8)
Jadran Herceg Novi (MNE) 13-12 Rari Nantes Savona (ITA) (10-16)
Vouliagmeni NC (GRE) 10-6 CN Barcelona (ESP) (17-13)

Photo: Daniel Remes / European Aquatics

The game of the night was most certainly in Romania, where Steau Bucharest played out an epic clash with Panionios GSS and penalties were eventually needed to separate the two sides.

After six successive defeats in the Champions League group stage and a narrow 12-11 loss in the first leg of the Eight Finals, Steau could be forgiven for wondering where their first win in Europe this season was going to come from.

At home in their Bucharest pool, they believed it was their time, and that belief started to grow as the game progressed.

Following a cagey 2-2 first quarter, Steau hit two unanswered goals at the end of the second to take a 5-4 lead.

Two more goals followed early in the third and at 7-4, that elusive win looked to be finally on its way, but back came the Greeks.

The Romanians may have managed a 4-0 streak to edge in front, but anything they could do, so could Panionois, who responded expertly with a 5-0 rush of their own that ended midway through the fourth for 7-9.

Now it looked as if the dreaded losing curse was back and Steau were in serious danger of leaving with nothing to show for their efforts once more.

Vlad-Luca Georgescu had other ideas, though, firing in twice to level on the night for 9-9 with 2:55 remaining.

Alexandros Evgenios Gounas restored the lead (9-10) for Panionios with just over a minute left on the clock and Steau were on the brink of being eliminated.

But there was still time for more heroics from the home side, as Filip Klikovac hammered in from 2m for 10-10.

Then, with just two seconds on the clock, the home crowd erupted when Raducu Alex Dinca scored to make it 11-10 and level the tie 22-22.

After eight perfect penalties each in what was an incredibly tense and dramatic shootout, Panionois’ Grigorios Kapetanakis was the unfortunate one, who saw his effort rebound off the post.

That miss gifted Steau the chance to progess to the Quarter Finals and David-Joan Bota cooly made no mistake, and sealed a sensational 20-18 shootout victory.

Photo: Daniel Remes / European Aquatics

As well as the heroics in Bucharest, there were similar scenes in Belgrade as  BVK Crvena Zvezda overturned a two goal deficit from the first-leg to edge past BVSC.

Trailing 13-11 going into the game, the Serbian side got off to the perfect start against BVSC, levelling the tie within two minutes at 2-0.

It was a lead that didn’t last, though, as the Hungarians soon made it 2-2 and it was 4-4 at the end of the first.

The second quarter carried on along a similar path, but the hosts were starting to take the upper hand and led 7-6 at the turnaround.

By the end of the third,  Crvena Zvezda had got back to where they were in the first, as they were 10-8 up and the tie appeared to be heading to a shootout.

Nerves were on show in the fourth, with both sides fluffing their lines in attack, but when Balazs Tamas Gyarfas scored to make it 10-9, it seemed BVSC were set to progress once more.

However, Dusan Vasic soon levelled on extra, with 1:32 on the clock, and at that point it did look like penalties would be needed to decide a winner.

Vasic was a man on a mission, though, and with four seconds remaining he arrowed in a perfect shot from outside 6m that nestled in the bottom left corner to spark wild scenes of celebration.

Photo: Marko Jelovac / European Aquatics

One of the big questions posed before the second-legs was could Dinamo Tbilisi finally win in Europe this season?

After six successive defeats in the Champions League, and a narrow 8-7 loss in their Eight Finals first-leg away to Primorje, the Georgians were confident they could overturn the one-goal deficit and book their place in the Quarter Finals.

Entertainment-wise, the second-leg was full of drama and saw 35 goals scored, but unfortunately for the home side, they failed to build any real momentum and were mainly chasing the game throughout.

Dinamo did level the aggregate scores midway through the first quarter, when they edged 3-2 ahead, but their lead only lasted for for a mere 31 seconds.

It was then that the Croatians started to turn the screw by taking a 4-6 lead inside the opening eight minutes.

The advantage was still two at half-time (7-9), but by the end of the third it was five (10-15) and Dinamo’s dream of progressing was fading fast.

Another 10-goal feast was played out in the final eight minutes, but with both sides scoring five, the win was never in doubt for Primorje, who completed a professional job.

Kas Te Riele did most of the damage for the visitors, top scoring with five, while Darko Brguljan and Tin Brubnjak both hit four.

Photo: Irakli Tkemaladze / European Aquatics

In Italy, Ortigia left themselves with a huge mountain to climb after a disastrous first half against Spandau, and this time there was no miraculous comeback, even if they did give it an almighty try in the final eight minutes.

With the scores locked at 8-8 after the first leg, the Germans raced into a 3-9 lead by half-time and it looked as if the Italians were dead and buried.

But after the hosts’ last-day heroics in the group stage, Spandau were well aware their lead didn’t mean that much, especially in Ortigia’s backyard.

With that warning in their minds, Spandau extended their lead to seven (5-12) by the end of the third and it was only then they took their foot off the gas.

Oritigia were still dreaming, though, and refused to lie down, cutting the deficit to two late on, but ultimately they ran out of time and were eliminated after a 12-14 loss.

In Budapest, title holders Vasas were aiming to overturn an 11-12 loss from the first-leg to Jug, but got off to a terrible start, as the visitors took a 1-4 first quarter lead.

It was a deficit they could never pull back, though, so it ended up being a relatively comfortable evening for the Croatian giants, who defended superbly throughout to keep the hosts at arm’s length.

Even when Vasas got within one goal, twice, Jug were able to soon pull away again, and by the time Gergely Burian made it 8-9, there was only one second left on the clock and Jug were already home and dry.

The result means last season’s champions crash out and that there will be a new name engraved on the men’s Euro Cup trophy this year.

Photo: Vasas SC / European Aquatics

The remaining three games were ones where miracles were needed to turn the ties around.

Tourcoing were hunting for seven or more goals against Sabadell after losing the first leg 11-18 in Spain.

It was always unlikely, and so it proved, as Sabadell won on the night 12-15.

The win sees the 2022 champions progress to the Quarter Finals and they will surely be one of the sides most teams will want to avoid in next week’s draw.

Elsewhere, Vouliagmeni also put in a professional shift at home to Barcelona as they easily defended their 17-13 first-leg lead.

Any hopes of a shock result were quickly defused as the Greeks took a 5-3 lead by half-time.

The Spaniards never really stood a chance, and at 8-4 at the end of the third, the game fizzled out to its predicted conclusion as Vouliagmeni triumphed 10-6.

In Montenegro, Herceg Novi were the other side half dreaming of a miraculous comeback at home after their 16-10 first leg loss away to Savona.

The six-goal lead on aggregate, however, was never in danger of being overturned, and despite losing 13-12 in the second leg, last season’s Euro Cup runners-up march on.

You can watch all the Men’s Euro Cup water polo action live on the European Aquatics YouTube channel and follow all the results by clicking here.

Photo: Vuk Ilic / European Aquatics