Water Polo Champions League Women: Final Four edges closer for Sabadell, Mataro and Olympiacos

Credit: Jordi Vilas

Last season’s finalists Sabadell and Mataro both landed expected wins on day four, and need just one point in their last two matches to return to the Final Four. A third Spanish side is also on the way, as either St Andreu or Terrassa will join the two giants in the next round. There will also be one Greek team – Olympiacos, after winning a thriller, are the favourites to make the cut, though Vouliagmeni still have a chance in Group D.

Group A: CN Terrassa (ESP) v SIS Roma (ITA) 13-10, CN Sant Andreu (ESP) v Ekipe Orizzonte (ITA)13-9. Standings: 1. St. Andreu 11, 2. Terrassa 9, 3. Orizzonte 3, 4. Roma 1

The Spanish sides won their duel with the Italians with a KO – two more victories for them mean only St Andreu or Terrassa can make the Final Four, with eight-time champions Orizzonte and Roma now just making up the numbers.

Isabel Piralkova and Paula Camus led Terrassa’s charge against Roma, they scored 10 combined (Piralkova netted six) as the hosts managed to bag three points in a thrilling match.

After the opening period’s excitements, 3-0 then 3-3, a 10-goal second quarter followed, and Terrassa took a 9-7 lead.

The Spaniards added three more in the third for a 12-7 lead and there was no way back for their rivals.

Elsewhere in Group A, after a close first half, St Andreu’s offence reached top gear in the third and scored seven goals in eight minutes for an 11-6 lead, which was more than enough to down Orizzonte.

St Andreu are now in pole position to reach a historical first-ever F4 – but the following round, scheduled for March, may be decisive as they visit second-placed Terrassa.

Group B: Dunaujvaros (HUN) v Alimos NAC Betsson (GRE) 11-12, Mulhouse WP (FRA) v Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) 10-19. Standings: 1. Sabadell 12, 2. Alimos 6, 3. Mulhouse 5, 4. Dunaujvaros 1

Dunaujvaros lost another thriller at home – after an 8-9 defeat from title-holder Sabadell, this time Alimos came away with a single-goal win.

It was a game of twists and turns where the Hungarians led 4-2 early in the second, the Greeks then scored three in a row, but the hosts responded well, so it stood 6-6 at halftime.

Alimos had a better spell in the third and went into the last quarter with a 7-9 lead.

Still, Dunaujvaros equalised, first for 9-9, then for 10-10, but two six on five goals secured the Greeks’ win, with the last penalty goal coming too late for the home side.

Elsewhere, Sabadell made no mistake in Mulhouse – the title-holders hit six right away in the opening eight minutes and soon they were 3-8 up in the second, and led 4-9 at halftime.

Three more in the third for 4-12 seemed to have decided the contest, though the French hit four action goals in the last three minutes of the third, a bit out of the blue, though still trailed 9-13 with eight minutes remaining.

To avoid any further embarrassment – or become part of another anxious finish as happened on Day 3 in Dunaujvaros – the Spaniards quickly scored three early in the fourth for 9-16 and sailed away.

This fourth victory virtually sent Sabadell to the F4 – the only scenario where the Spanish wouldn’t qualify requires them to lose both their remaining matches, including a 7+ goal-defeat against Alimos, a rather unrealistic chain of events.

Group C: Assolim Mataro (ESP) v Tigra ZF Eger (HUN) 18-6, FTC-Telekom (HUN) v Ethnikos Piraeus (GRE) 12-11. Standings: 1. Mataro 12, 2. FTC 6, 3. Ethnikos 4, 4. Eger 2

Mataro showed no mercy to Hungarian champions Eger – they thrashed them 18-5 on Day 1 and almost reproduced the same scoreline, only conceding one more to win 18-6 in an absolutely lopsided match.

In theory, Mataro still need a point, though the Spaniards have practically reached the Final Four (just like Sabadell), as they beat FTC by eight goals on day two, and the Hungarians are the only other team that have a mathematical chance to catch up the Spanish giants, but not even they are hoping for a nine-goal victory in the next round in March.

Elsewhere in Group C, Ferencvaros beat Ethnikos in brilliant encounter.

At halftime it stood 7-7, and at that point it was a Greta Gurisatti versus the Greeks battle as she had scored six for the hosts.

Ethnikos then rallied to a 7-10 lead in the third and seemed to be sitting comfortably in the driving seat, but the Magyars staged a great comeback.

By scoring two in 57 seconds early in the fourth, they equalised for 10-10, then again for 11-11, and after a long end-to-end tussle they managed to score another through Dora Toth-Csabai.

That turned out to be the winner as the Greeks were unable to reply, remaining scoreless in the last six minutes – this was the only win for a Hungarian team in the three HUN v GRE duels in this round (with each decided by a single goal).

Group D: UVSE Budapest (HUN) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 6-7, CE Mediterrani (ESP) v Vouliagmeni NC (GRE) 10-11. Standings: 1. Olympiacos 12, 2. Vouliagmeni 9, 3. UVSE 3, 4. Mediterrani 0

Both Greek sides edged out their respective rivals with last-gasp goals, so in the spring, Olympiacos and Vouliagmeni shall battle for the top spot and a place in the Final Four.

Olympiacos’ visit to Budapest ended up being a great drama – worthy of a Greek team – as UVSE were 4-2 ahead early in the third, but the 2021 and 2022 champions managed to score three in a row to turn the tide at the start of the fourth.

Still, the hosts could equalise twice, then Alda Magyari stopped a second penalty in the game, with 56 seconds remaining.

UVSE’s possession didn’t bring any fruit, while the Greeks earned a six on five and Vasiliki Plevritou sent the ball to the net with 0:01 on the clock.

Something similar happened on Saturday, though Vouliagmeni’s match in Barcelona, at the home of Mediterrani, was a bit different.

Here, the Greeks jumped to a 4-7 lead early in the third, but Daniela Moreno’s spirited efforts fuelled a brilliant 4-0 rush, and with 2:36 to go, Mediterrani led 8-7

Next came something extraordinary – six goals in the remaining 156 seconds and four came from the visiting side.

Though Moreno put the hosts ahead twice (she scored six in total), Vouliagmeni’s finish was tremendous.

Trailing 10-9 with 1:01 to go, Brigitte Sleeking hit her sixth from a penalty 46 seconds from time for 10-10, and fellow Dutchwoman Kitty Joustra buried a six on five with 0:03 on the clock.