Rijeka silenced as Jug crowned Euro Cup champions

Photo: Sandro Donda

Jug delivered a second successive flawless performance in Rijeka as they crushed Primorje 6-12 to win Euro Cup gold. Earlier, Sabadell celebrated taking the bronze after a commanding 2-9 victory against Spandau.

Euro Cup 2024 Final Four Results
Bronze Medal Game

Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) 2-9 Astralpool CN Sabadell (ESP)
Gold Medal Game
Primorje Erste Bank (CRO) 6-12 Jug Adriatic Osiguranje (CRO)  

Photo: Sandro Donda

Primorje arrived in the final with an incredible record – nine wins from nine in their home pool in Europe this season – but their fairy-tale run was brutally ended by compatriots Jug on Saturday as they took the gold in style, winning 6-12.

It was a second successive dominant display in Rijeka for Jug, who brushed Sabadell aside (7-11) on Friday in the semi-finals.

“Primorje had a few opportunities in the beginning, but we saved our first four man downs and after that, psychologically, we took one step forward, while they were a little bit shaky,” said triumphant Jug coach Vjekoslav Kobescak after the medal ceremony.

“They took the game in a physical direction, which is totally justified because of the balance in the quality – they needed to go that way – and if we had been a little weaker in defence at the start, then this game would have been much, much tougher.

“In the third period, we managed goal by goal to open up the gap and then at the start of the fourth, the game was basically over.

”I’m satisfied with the way we performed throughout the whole Euro Cup, and also in many of the Champions League games.

“Our European road to this trophy was not easy, but after we fell from the Champions League, we we took this competition very seriously.

“It was not an easy task to win, but throughout the Eight Finals, the Quarter Finals, the Semi Finals, and now the Final, I think we really showed we are the best team in the Euro Cup this season.”

In the final, 2024 world champion Rino Buric opened the scoring for Jug after two minutes of play, as he found himself free on the left and fired past Mauro Cubranic.

After Sergi Cabanas scored on extra for 0-2, Primorje head coach Igor Hinic had seen enough and called a time-out with 2:06 left in the first.

Photo: Sandro Donda

His words worked, as Tin Brubnjak responded instantly for 1-2, but it was Hannes Daube who had the final say of the quarter.

The USA star was given time on the perimeter and unleashed an unstoppable shot that skimmed off the water and into the back of the net for 1-3.

The second quarter was end to end, and frantic at times, but neither side looked like they would add to their total.

That was until there was 1:37 left in the half, as Jasa Kadivec crept forward down the left, stopped, then arrowed a fierce shot into the far right corner for 2-3.

Photo: Sandro Donda

Kadivec celebrated like it was a winner, punching the air with both fists, and the crowd were back on their feet, and the drums were being beaten even louder.

Jug remained calm though and swiftly responded through Franko Lazic on extra to regain their two-goal lead (2-4) at the turnaround.

In the third, Daube hammered in on extra, then Cabanas also added his second of the final to give Jug a four-goal lead.

5:36 was on the clock and Hinic decided another time-out was needed.

Again it worked, as Primorje forced a penalty during a man-up and Brubnjak smashed it home for 3-6.

Jug coach Kobescak was preserving his time-outs, but he was prowling the poolside urging his players forward at every opportunity.

Photo: Sandro Donda

He didn’t need to stop the action as the high-tempo his team were playing was gradually wearing their opponents down.

Daube completed his hat-trick, and while Lovro Paparic scored for Primorje, a late 0-3 surge for Jug – with two goals from Marko Zuvela and one from Filip Krzic – gave them an unassailable 4-10 lead.

Primorje may have history of fighting back in games this season, but this time the task proved too difficult as Jug expertly closed the game out to win the prestigious trophy 6-12.

In the final period, Primorje’s dream may have been ending, but the drums still kept beating and the crowd remained cheering, as their fans showed their appreciation for everything their young team has achieved this season.

For Jug, the players all dived in the pool, draped their flag on the Rijeka goal frame and celebrated a famous victory in the home of their rivals.

Photo: Sandro Donda

It was coach Kobescak’s 20th trophy success with Jug and the club’s 71st in total.

“Jug showed they’re a great team – they have many international players – and they were better than us in almost everything tonight,” said Primorje’s silver medal winning coach Hinic.

“They didn’t give us much of a chance, but we fought as much as we could and I’m happy and proud of my players.

“I’m happy as a club and as a coach to have led this group of players on this fantastic journey to the final and we will consider this as a step forward for the future.

“We know where we are and what we have to do.”

Photo: Sandro Donda

After the disappointments of yesterday, Sabadell and Spandau met earlier on Saturday to contest the bronze medal.

The Spaniards maybe learnt a few lessons from their semi-final clash with Jug, as this time they delivered a defensive masterclass.

Sabadell closed down the Germans throughout, restricting them to just two goals, and continually caused problems on the counter as they cruised to 2-9 win.

“We played an amazing defence,” said Sabadell coach Quim Colet after his side secured third place.

“We stopped Spandau right from the start and carried that on throughout, which allowed us to win the game.

“For us, the defence was important, but Spandau are such a strong side, with big physical players, so it was important we kept swimming and hitting them on the counter.”

Photo: Sandro Donda

In the game, there were early problems for Spandau as sharpshooter Denis Strelezkij was excluded twice in the opening couple of minutes.

Another concern for them was the frame of the Sabadell goal, as three times their shots cannoned back off the post or bar.

After five and a half minutes, it was the Spaniards who eventually broke the deadlock, with Stefan Vidovic firing in from distance.

It was the only successful shot of the first quarter, as Spandau fluffed all four of their efforts, while Sabadell were marginally better, scoring one from five.

The second quarter also lacked attacking quality, with just three goals, but again Sabadell came out on top – through Jose Javier Bustos on extra and a Fran Valera penalty – as they opened up a 1-3 lead at the turnaround.

In the third, both defences remained on top, and the goalkeepers – Laszlo Baksa for Spandau and Eduardo Lorrio for Sabadell – were also enjoying fine evenings.

Lorrio, in particular, continued his fine form from yesterday’s semi-final against Jug (where he recorded 13 saves), as he rose expertly to block Marin Tomasovic’s penalty.

That miss proved pivotal, as a quick double from Alberto Barroso, and one from Kanstantsin Averka, moved the score to 1-6.

Photo: Sandro Donda

Spandau were running out of ideas as they drew another blank quarter and the chances of a late revival became slimmer when Strelezkij committed his third major of the night.

At the start of the fourth, and trailing by five, Spandau eventually found a way through, as Marko Stamm fired in on extra.

The goal failed to spark any momentum though, as Sabadell replied with three more goals for 2-9 and Spandau coach Vladimir Markovic was just left looking dejected on the poolside.

“We practically didn’t have an attack, and we failed to do all the things we agreed to do before the match,” he said afterwards.

Photo: Sandro Donda

“This result is unfortunately really bad, we just couldn’t stop Sabadell today.”

In contrast, a jubilant Fran Valera commented, “We are so happy to win this medal and our defence did an especially good job.

“This wasn’t the final we wanted to play, but we are still so pleased to get this victory.”

Spandau were mainly restricted to speculative shots from distance, which failed to trouble the remarkable Lorrio, who wasn’t too far off keeping a clean sheet.

“Lorrio is one of the best goalkeepers in the world,” added Valera. “We are so lucky to have him.”

Photo: Sandro Donda

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