Water Polo Challenger Cup Women: Zvezda and Izmir to go for gold

Credit: Domagoj Biondic

ZVK Crvena Zvezda and Izmir Buyuksehir will clash for the title on Sunday in the first edition of the Challenger Cup Women. Group A saw a three-way tie where a single goal helped the Serbian team to reach the final.

Group A: Sport Lisboa e Benfica (POR) v VK Jadran Split (CRO) 12-8, VK Jadran Split v ZVK Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 9-7. Final rankings: 1. Zvezda 3, 2. Benfica 3, 3. Jadran 3 – ranks are according to the three-way tie rule

Group B: ZAVK Mladost Zagreb (CRO) v Clube Fluvial Portuense (POR) 17-9, Clube Fluvial Portuense v Izmir Buyuksehir SK (TUR) 8-18. Final rankings: 1. Izmir 6, 2. Mladost 3, 3. Portuense 0

Sunday fixtures. Final, 13.30: Zvezda v Izmir. Bronze medal, 11.30: Benfica v Mladost. For 5th place, 10.00: Jadran v Portuense.

Crvena Zvezda almost blew it, but at the end the three-way tie favoured the Serbs who will play for the title against Izmir, which claimed another convincing win in the group.

In the morning session, Benfica and Jadran came up with a brilliant clash.

The Croats rushed to a 1-5 lead, but the Portuguese came back to even by halftime (5-5), then in the third they netted three more after 6-6 to lead 9-6 (indeed, after 1-5 they had an 8-1 run).

Jadran climbed back to 10-8, then Benfica scored two more to win by four.

Then in the evening, Jadran copied Benfica’s feat, Zvezda led 3-6 deep into the third when the Croats started hitting back.

Two goals before the last break, two more after it, and they were 7-6 up, then, after 7-7, they scored two more to win the match.

The two-goal defeat still favoured the Serbs, who scored a single goal in the last 12 minutes and had a nervous finish as Jadran’s last hit came 41 seconds from time, but they could keep the ball as they could force an exclusion.

The other group lacked similar excitements.

Mladost gained the consolation after a big win over Portuense, however, Izmir didn’t have any problems either to thrash the Portuguese – an 1-8 opening and a 1-15 lead at halftime showed the huge difference between the sides.

This sent Izmir to the final and they can become the first Turkish club ever to lift a European trophy in the history of the continental club competitions.

Also, this can be a first for a Serbian women’s team – though obviously not for Serbian clubs, indeed, Zvezda’s men won the Champions League in 2013.