Sensational Sabadell storm to seventh Champions League title

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara

Sabadell were crowned champions of Europe for the seventh time after a dominant performance in the final. A stunning 7-0 rush in the second half rocketed them to a 15-7 lead against Olympiacos and that helped secure another grand victory for the club. On Spanish soil, they now have six out of six triumphs in the Final Four, and on the all-time list they’re only one win away from tying Orizzonte’s record of eight Champions League titles. Earlier on Sunday, newcomers St Andreu landed the bronze by defeating Mataro 8-7.

Champions League Women Final Four
Sunday, 21st April 2024 Final Results
Gold Medal Game – Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) 16-10 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
Bronze Medal Game – Sant Andreu (ESP) 8-7 Assolim CN Mataro (ESP)

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara

Sabadell staged an early onslaught as the grand final got under way, but Olympiacos, thanks to Ioanna Stamatopoulou’s great saves withstood the pressure.

Though Sofia Giustini put the Spaniards ahead after two minutes on extra, Stamatopoulou came up with a penalty stop, then managed to deny a woman-down and a counter – and Christina Siouti put away the Greeks’ second 6 on 5 for 1-1.

However, Irene Casado’s sneaking shot found its way to the net 41 seconds from time, so the title-holders led 2-1 after eight minutes.

Vasiliki Plevritou’s pinpoint shot from the perimeter put Olympiacos back to even early in the second, then, despite a wasted 6 on 5, they took the lead for the first time as Maria Myriokefalitaki scored from the centre, though only her right hand was above the water.

When Sabadell missed a woman-up, they seemed to be in trouble, but top teams are famous for quick resurrections – and in a span of 59 seconds they scored three action goals to jump to a 5-3 lead.

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara

Giustini’s one-timer after a drive kicked off the show, followed by Maica Garcia’s trademark centre-action and Judith Forca’s counter.

The Greeks lost their composure, their shots flew all over the place and Sabadell soon were 6-3 up as Forca could finish a dying 6 on 5 too.

A time-out and an extra with a brilliant finish by Foteini Tricha halted the Spanish run, but only temporarily as Irene Gonzalez sent the ball home from their next 6 on 5 – and at this stage, the balls were bouncing in from Stamatopoulou’s hands.

Sabadell enjoyed a promising 7-4 lead at half-time, in front of a capacity and supportive crowd, which created a big noise, especially when Sabadell scored five goals from five possessions in the second half of this quarter.

However, it took only 87 seconds for Olympiacos to come back to 7-6 in the third.

Vasiliki Plevritou’s one-timer was a beauty, followed by a cool finish from Ioanna Chydirioti on the 2m line on extra.

The Greeks had another 6 on 5 to go even, but missed it and that was crucial as Gonzalez beat their zone with a magnificent shot to regain some ground for Sabadell.

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara

Though Vasiliki Plevritou fired in another one from a woman-up, Giustini also blasted a big one from the back for 9-7.

And the Greeks missed their next 6 on 5 from close, while Gonzalez’s superb lob from the ensuing counter reset the three-goal gap.

It was soon four, another counter and a penalty, converted by Dutch star Sabrina van der Sloot giving Sabadell an 11-7 lead.

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara

Not even semi-final hero Nikoleta Eleftheriadou could help her team this time, Laura Ester made an easy stop on her shot, then came an exclusion, a time-out, and Giustini hit her fourth for 12-7, and it was hard to see any other outcome than Sabadell lifting the trophy again.

Indeed, Olympiacos’ defence fell apart, Maica Garcia fired in another one – this time from the perimeter (a special moment, indeed).

Then a block denied the Greeks’ 6 on 5 and Sabadell’s 5-0 run after 8-7 did enough damage to turn the final period into a practice session featuring the continent’s top players.

Trends didn’t change much, Van der Sloot buried another penalty, Giustini netted her fifth goal for 15-7 before Despoina Drakotou’s nice lob halted the Greeks’ scoreless run after 6:22 minutes.

Sabadell hit an astonishing seven connecting goals during those minutes and that proved decisive.

Credit to Olympiacos, as they didn’t give in and added a couple of goals to make the scoreline look somewhat better.

Sabadell still got close to their scoring record in the finals, which they set in 2014 when they downed Vouliagmeni 19-10.

Here, they won 16-10, but only the victory mattered and this triumph landed them their 7th title, and now they are only one shy of Orizzonte’s record of eight.

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara

Earlier on Sunday, St Andreu landed the bronze medal after a hard-fought battle against Mataro.

It was a big clash of the defences, with two sisters in the opposite goals as a curiosity.

Martina Terre made a series of stops for St Andreu, while Mariona Terre worked hard in front of the cage of Mataro.

Both did an outstanding job, though one may have noted that Mataro’s stellar offence never clicked as smoothly as in the earlier part of the season.

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara

And, just like in the semis, they had another blackout phase, the second period when they conceded four and only scored one, thus they trailed 5-3 at half-time.

St Andreu made the most of their chances, though a missed penalty late in the third gave more hope for Mataro as they climbed back to 6-5.

After a series of wasted 6 on 5s, Mataro finally equalised with 3:13 to go, still, Paula Crespi’s two cool-headed finishes – both on extra – secured a medal for the F4 newcomers.

Those final few minutes were thrilling, as three goals were scored in a span of 55 seconds, Cristina Nogue put Mataro back to even (7-7) after Crespi’s first extra hit, but no answer came after Crespi’s second, which won the game for St Andreu 46 seconds from time.

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara

Quotes

David Palma, coach, Sabadell

“It was another fantastic performance from my team. Olympiacos are a very tough rival, so it was great to see how well our players did their jobs.

“It was a great team effort and we can usually now deliver that in Final Fours, as we’ve got used to the big occasions and performing well under pressure.

“This is the secret of Sabadell – now, after some time, we may start dreaming of the eighth title to catch up Orizzonte at the top of the all-time list.”

Dimitrios Kravaritis, coach, Olympiacos

“Sabadell are a top team and you need a top performance to have a chance against them.

“We already had some problems in the first half, then we put a lot of energy in coming back, but later in the third period we couldn’t maintain that level.

“We conceded 16 goals, which showed that our defence didn’t work well, but defending begins in attack, and if you don’t make good decisions in offence you will pay for it.

“We committed mistakes in offence and Sabadell penalised us for that.”

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara

Sabrina van der Sloot, player, Sabadell

“We had a lot of injury problems in the season, and yesterday was the first time since the World Championships that we were complete.

“And, you know, whenever the Final Four is coming, the whole team is aware that we need to do our best and we usually are able to give our best, just like yesterday and today.

“We never expected a game like this against Olympiacos, as we thought it was going to be close, but we played really well and we had an easier win than expected.”

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara

Javier Aznar, coach, St Andreu

“Today, a dream came true for our club, as we won a medal here.

“I think yesterday we were a bit nervous, but today we could play with discipline and showed a good character.”

Dani Ballart, coach, Mataro

“We were nowhere in offence, our star players seemed to be worried about the consequences of their actions, putting way too much pressure on themselves.

“I told them to forget that and play as you usually do, but it didn’t help.”

Photo: ©Antonella Mannara