Padova crowned Euro Cup champions after sensational victory in Trieste 

Photo: Simone Ferraro / European Aquatics

The all-Italian women’s Euro Cup final lived up to all expectations as Padova edged a thrilling contest with Trieste 10-8. There were jubilant and joyous scenes all around the pool as Padova celebrated a famous victory – inspired by an Alma Yaacobi hat-trick – and got their hands on the prestigious trophy and gold medals. Elsewhere, De Zaan brushed BVSC aside with a powerful performance to win the bronze.

Women’s Euro Cup Final Four
Final Day Results (Sunday, 14th April 2024)
Bronze Medal Game – BVSC-Zuglo (HUN) 8-15 De Zaan (NED)
Gold Medal Game – Antenore Plebiscito PD (ITA) 10-8 Pallanuoto Trieste (ITA)

Photo: Simone Ferraro / European Aquatics

The Bruno Bianchi complex was rocking right from the moment the two sides that would contest the women’s Euro Cup final emerged onto the poolside.

With the stands packed with expectant fans, the noise levels were deafening and the stage was set for a spectacular contest, and the events that followed didn’t disappoint.

Fierce rivals Trieste and Padova know each other very well, especially as their most recent encounter was in the Italian cup semi-finals last week.

Padova triumphed in that clash 8-6 and any hopes Trieste had of gaining some revenge were brutally extinguished by their opponents, who once again proved more clinical in front of goal.

The opening quarter was an expected tight and cagey affair, with both defences working incredibly hard and coming out on top.

Israeli international Alma Yaacobi scored the first goal of the final, then Alessia Casson quickly made it 2-0, as Padova settled the quickest to take an early lead.

Photo: Simone Ferraro / European Aquatics

Trieste looked a little shaky with their first few possessions, but captain Lucrezia Cergol calmed the nerves by firing in with 3:08 remaining in the period for 1-2.

Arianna Gragnolati – the five-goal hero of Trieste’s semi-final – continued her fine form by soon levelling the scores at 2-2 much to the delight of the majority of fans inside the arena. 

Padova’s Emma Bacelle then thought she’d put her side 3-2 ahead at the end of the first, but after arrowing her shot perfectly into the far-left corner, her effort was ruled to have come after the buzzer.

The second quarter was pretty much a carbon copy of the first, with both sides scoring twice and both keepers – Laura Teani for Padova and Fabiana Sparano for Trieste – making a number of sensational saves.

Again it was Padova who took the lead, at 3-2 and 4-3, but twice Trieste pulled level, with their fourth coming from a fast break, which was excellently finished off by Sara Cordovani.

In the third quarter, Padova edged ahead once more (5-4), this time through Carlotta Meggiato, who bamboozled Sparano with an intricate lob that slowly looped into the far corner.

Meggiato’s goal was the start of an impressive three-goal rush that stunned Trieste, as they now trailed 7-4, and were going to have to deliver another late comeback if they were to get their hands on the trophy.

Photo: Simone Ferraro / European Aquatics

Going into the final eight minutes, Padova still led by three (8-5), which was the exact same position Trieste found themselves in against De Zaan on Saturday.

The question was could they produce similar heroics and finish strongly again?

Gragnolati showed her side were up for the challenge after hitting her second and third of the night – both expertly-taken penalties, with each fired into the left corner – as Trieste reduced the deficit to one (8-7) with 4:06 to play.

However, Padova were determined to not make the same mistakes De Zaan did the previous night, and Alessia Millo quickly replied on extra to return their lead to two.

The drama still wasn’t over, though, as Cordovani had Trieste believing again after receiving the ball on 2m and unleashing a ferocious backshot that flew into the top corner for 9-8 with 3:14 remaining.

For a moment, another remarkable fightback looked to be on the cards, and calm heads were needed, but Trieste wasted two glorious opportunities on extra to level.

First – with the clock showing 2:10 – Guya Zizza crashed her shot from the right against the crossbar, then – at 1:37 – Gragnolati slammed her effort from the left against the post. 

With 24 seconds remaining, Padova sealed what was a hard-fought and memorable victory, as Yacoobi completed her hat-trick – scoring the decisive goal on extra to make it 10-8.

It was absolute agony for Trieste, but sheer delight for Padova, whose celebrations will last long into the night after this famous win in the home of their rivals.

Photo: Simone Ferraro / European Aquatics

Earlier, De Zaan clinched third place with a powerful performance against BVSC.

Hungarian teams may have dominated the podium last season – after UVSE beat Ferencvaros to the gold – but the Magyars missed out this time.

After the heartache of throwing away a three-goal lead against Trieste in Saturday’s semi-final, De Zaan delivered the perfect response and were worthy winners of the bronze medal.

The first quarter saw a flurry of goals, eight in total and five for De Zaan, as the Dutch side took charge from the start.

It was captain Lieke Rogge who opened the scoring on extra after 32 seconds, then Takyiwa Sam added another from their next six on five for 0-2.

Forcing exclusions was proving fruitful for De Zaan, as they also scored from their third attempt on extra – this time through Bente Rogge – to make it 1-3.

Photo: Simone Ferraro / European Aquatics

Midway through the first, BVSC were already chasing the game and goals from Lili Urvari and Nikolett Kele briefly brought them level, but two strikes from Kila Van der Veen and Maud Koopman gave De Zaan a 3-5 advantage.

Flora Fekete made it 4-5 early in the second, as BVSC looked to hit back, yet that only prompted De Zaan to step up another gear, putting together four unanswered goals to put them five (4-9) ahead at the turnaround.

Koopman was the standout star in the first half, firing in a brilliant hat-trick, with the pick of the goals being her third.

With BVSC double marking on 2m, De Zaan were finding space on the perimeter and Koopman – in acres of space – launched an unstoppable shot from 6m that flew into the top corner.

The third quarter continued in a similar vein, with the Dutch side again exploiting BVSC’s defensive set-up to find the free player time and time again.

Photo: Simone Ferraro / European Aquatics

Two more successful man-ups for De Zaan were followed by two outstanding action shots – first, Nerida Drewes found herself free down the left and flashed the ball off the water and into the roof of the net for 6-12.

Then, with 37 seconds remaining before the final break, Van der Veen edged forward into space down the right side and converted for 6-13.   

It was simply a masterclass from the Dutch side, who also had Britt Van den Dobbelsteen to thank after a number of fine saves to keep BVSC out.

With a seven-goal lead, the contest was over, and after closing out the final stages 2-2, the celebrations could well and truly begin for a delighted De Zaan.

You can watch replays of all of Sunday’s Final Four games on the European Aquatics YouTube channel and see all the scores from today’s action by clicking here.

Photo: Simone Ferraro / European Aquatics