Recco edge Belgrade thriller, Marseille triumph in Split

Photo: Miodrag Todorovic / European Aquatics

Three missed penalties in regular time almost cost Recco the game in Belgrade – but they buried all five in the shootout to take at least two points. Novi Beograd came back from six goals down and had the ball to win the match in the fourth, but couldn’t complete the miracle. Marseille had the better finish in Split and stay in the hunt, while Jadran’s campaign is all but over.

Champions League Men Quarter Final Stage
Results Day Three – Group A

VK Jadran Split (CRO) 12-14 CN Marseille (FRA)
VK Novi Beograd (SRB) 14-15* Pro Recco (ITA)
(*after penalty shootout)
Standings: 1. Recco (8pts), 2. NBG (7pts), 3. Marseille (3pts), 4. Jadran (0pts)

Photo: Miodrag Todorovic / European Aquatics

Novi Beograd and Recco met twice before this Tuesday – on both occasions the trophy was at stake.

The 2022 final went to a shootout, while last year it was Recco all the way, they even survived a four-minute ejection in the middle of the match.

This time, the first half reminded many of the last encounter as Recco were dominating, especially the second period.

The Italians took the upper hand right away, though it wasn’t mirrored by the scoreboard as it showed 1-1, however, it was visible the title-holders’ game was more fluid.

At 0-1, Gergo Zalanki missed a penalty – he dropped the ball before shooting – and Nikola Jaksic managed to equalise after a man-up, but following the break, Recco really started rolling.

Two blasts from Giacomo Cannella, and a man-up hit between the two by Gonzalo Echenique gave the visitors a 1-4 lead in a span of 2:49 minutes.

Andrea Fondelli sent the ball home from a penalty and Aaron Younger’s bouncer from the perimeter to the goalie’s right inflicted more damage.

Recco were on a 0-5 run, and even though Alvaro Granados pulled one back 19 seconds before the middle break, there was still enough time for another goal, Konstantinos Kakaris netted from the centre for a substantial 2-7 lead.

It looked like the perfect storm was forming – and most probably the Recco players started to sit too comfortably in the driving seat.

Especially after Francesco Condemi’s fine shot from a 6 on 4 which made it 2-8.

A somewhat lucky goal by Vasilje Martinovic, who had regained the ball after a block, then a killed man-down and buried 6 on 5 by Dimitrios Skoumpakis gave some hope for NBG.

In 51 seconds, they halved the distance, though they couldn’t come closer before the final period.

A great extra-man shot at both ends, by Francesco di Fulvio, then Nikola Jaksic, kept the four-goal gap, and at 5-9 it was hard to see Recco getting in trouble.

Photo: Miodrag Todorovic / European Aquatics

But the tide began to change, in 49 seconds in fact, as it quickly became 7-9 at the start of the fourth, after Skoumpakis and Filip Filipovic fired in rockets from 6m, while Fondelli hit the post from a penalty in between.

Cannella was more precise from the 5m line to make it 7-10 with 4:35 to go, but Filipovic kept his calm to finish off a man-up for 8-10.

And Recco’s miseries continued with their penalties as Cannella’s effort was well saved by Francesco de Michelis, and even though Granados wasn’t at his best this evening, there’s often a second chance if his shot is blocked, with Dorde Vucinic benefiting this time for 9-10 and there was still just under three minutes to play.

De Michelis made another crucial save on Kakaris’ centre shot and Skoumpakis’ blast from the distance brought NBG back to even 1:47 from time.

Aaron Younger missed a 6 on 5, so the Serbs had the ball to take the lead.

They couldn’t set up a clean shot, but after Recco wasted their last possession, they had 17 seconds, their second try wasn’t sharp enough either.

Penalties were needed to separate the two giants – and Recco’s aces proved their class in the shootout.

All three Recco players who missed in regular time were on target now and Marco del Lungo made a brilliant stop on Vucinic’s shot, which proved decisive, as Francesco Di Fulvio scored to secure two points for the Italians.

Photo: Paun Paunović / European Aquatics

In the other match, Jadran and Marseille played to retain some hope after back-to-back defeats against the two favourites.

It was a match of twists and turns, with Marseille having a decisive spell deep in the third which gave them a two-goal lead before the last period.

Jadran levelled the score immediately, then Daniel Angyal’s double in 81 seconds reset the two-goal gap at 9-11.

The Croats buried a 6 on 4, then came crazy scenes in the last 75 seconds, which saw five goals.

It was a showdown-like shooting contest from the wild west, where Andrija Prlainovic added his fourth and fifth of the evening to secure Marseille’s first win in the Quarter Final Stage – while Jadran are more or less heading for the exit door following three straight defeats.

Photo: Paun Paunović / European Aquatics

Champions League Men Quarter Final Stage
Fixtures for Wednesday, Group B
(CET times shown)
19.30 Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) v FTC Telekom Budapest (HUN)
20.00 AN Brescia (ITA) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
Standings: 1. FTC (6pts), 2. Olympiacos (3pts), 3. Barceloneta (3pts), 4. Brescia (0pts)

Follow all the Champions League Men’s Water Polo Quarter Final Stage action and results live on the dedicated European Aquatics Champions League website.

Photo: Paun Paunović / European Aquatics