Water Polo Euro Cup Men: Honved stun holders Vasas in Budapest shootout thriller  

Credit to: Attila Vasas

Reigning champions Vasas missed out on the chance to become the first team to qualify for the Euro Cup Eight Finals after losing a dramatic and thrilling shootout with local rivals Honved in Budapest on Thursday. The holders battled back from 8-12 down to force penalties, but it was their neighbours who held their nerve to clinch a sensational and memorable victory. Vasas remain top of their group, but Italy’s Savona can overtake them next week if they beat the Hungarians in their own pool. Elsewhere, there was heartbreak for Apollon and Trieste, who both tasted defeat, bringing an end to their hopes of reaching the knockout stage.

Group A: Tourcoing (FRA) v Solaris (CRO) 10-10 (7-8 shootout), Barcelona (ESP) v Telimar (ITA) 11-3

Standings: 1. Barcelona 9, 2. Tourcoing 7, 3.Telimar 6, 4. Solaris 2

Group B: Vasas (HUN) v Honved (HUN) 15-15 (1-4 shootout), Savona (ITA) v Apollon (GRE) 13-10

Standings: 1. Vasas 10, 2. Savona 9, 3. Honved 5, 4. Apollon 0

Group C: Primorje (CRO) v Sabac (SRB) 15-10, Waspo 98 (GER) v BVSC (HUN) 12-17

Standings: 1. BVSC 9, 2. Primorje 6, 3. Sabac 6,  4. Waspo 98 3

Group D: Trieste (ITA) v Primorac (MNE) 10-12, Panionios (GRE) v Ortigia (ITA) 13-10

Standings: 1. Primorac 9, 2. Panionios 8, 3. Ortigia 6, 4. Trieste 1

An epic encounter unfolded on Thursday night in Budapest as reigning champions Vasas were stunned at home by local rivals Honved. The holders brushed their neighbours aside 3-11 on day one and were cruising at 4-1 after the opening eight minutes.

Everything suggested another comfortable win for Vasas and a ticket to the Eight Finals was firmly within their grasp, but the visitors weren’t ready to lie down. Honved regrouped and hit back fiercely with a 4-0 blast in the second to take a shock 4-5 lead.

The hosts were reeling and powerless to stop a further flurry of goals that stretched Honved’s lead to 8-12 at the end of the third.

In the fourth, Vasas began to rediscover their rhythm as they hit a 3-0 rush, and at 11-12, the momentum appeared to be swinging back their way. However, Honved continued to give everything and took a 13-15 lead with just 53 seconds remaining.

Somehow there was still time for Vasas to score twice, with the last coming on extra, as Gergely Burian fired in from the right side in the final second to send the home crowd wild.

But it was Honved who had the last laugh, winning the shootout 1-4, which keeps their dreams of making the knockout stages alive for now, while Vasas will have another chance to secure qualification next week at Savona.

Earlier in Group B, last season’s runners-up Savona condemned Apollon to their fourth successive defeat, running out comfortable 13-10 winners, with Pietro Figlioli and Bogdan Durdic top scoring for the Italians with four each.

Savona were 4-1 up after the first, then 7-4 ahead at the turnaround. The Greeks briefly reduced the deficit to two (10-8) late in the third, but a comeback never really looked on, and the score means Apollon will miss out on a top-two finish.

The result also sets up next week’s top-of-the-table clash in Italy between Savona and Vasas nicely. If the hosts can avenge their day two loss (18-17) to the Hungarians they’ll leapfrog their rivals at the summit.

On Wednesday night, Solaris took on Tourcoing in Group A. After three straight defeats, the Croatians knew they needed a win to keep any faint hope of qualification alive.

Tourcoing edged the reverse fixture on day one (8-9) in Sibenik with a dramatic last-minute winner, and this encounter proved to be just as tight, with both sides trading goals throughout. The scores were locked at 2-2 at the end of the first, then 5-5 after the second.

In the third, Solaris fired in three without reply to open up a two-goal lead (6-8), but the hosts hit back with a 3-0 of their own in the fourth, and Adam Furman’s strike to make it 10-9 with 11 seconds remaining looked like the winner.

Antonio Petkovic had other ideas though, and three seconds from time he silenced the home support by scoring his fifth of the match to force a shootout. Solaris keeper Ante Lacmanovic proved to be the hero, saving Tourcoing’s eighth penalty, which allowed Petkovic to rifle in his shot and secure victory.

However, three points had been essential for Solaris to continue in the tournament and two for a shootout victory saw their involvement end.

Group A’s other match saw Barcelona host Telimar on Thursday night. The visitors may have been bolstered by the return of American Pan-Am Games champions Quinn Woodhead and Johnny Hooper, but they got off to a dreadful start and soon trailed 3-0.

Telimar responded in the second, scoring three, but that was the only time the visitors made it past the hosts’ stubborn and well-organised defence, as a second-half shutout (5-0), ensured a commanding 11-3 victory.
In Group C, Hungary’s BVSC took a step closer to confirming their place in the Eight Finals with a powerful 12-17 win against Waspo 98 in Germany.

A dominant second quarter (2-5) swung the match in their favour, and after opening up a six-goal (7-13) lead with just over two minutes left in the third, the result was never in doubt.

Elsewhere in Group C, Primorje beat Sabac 15-10 to move second in the table, while the Serbians slip from first to third. The hosts took an early 4-2 lead and it was an advantage they never gave up, as they were 8-4 up at the end of the second and 12-7 after the third.

In Group D, Panionios were worthy 13-10 victors against Ortigia. The Greeks were narrowly beaten 13-12 in the corresponding fixture on day one, and it appeared they were using that painful memory as motivation when they raced into a 3-0 lead in Athens.

Ortigia responded superbly and fought back to level the scores at 6-6 in the third, but that only seemed to inspire the hosts further, who then hammered in a 4-0 blast to regain control and close out the game. The win sees Panionios move above Ortigia by two points into second with two games to play.

Trieste, meanwhile, saw their chances of making the top two in Group D vanish as they were beaten 10-12 at home by Primorac.

The Italians were desperate to claim all the points and looked to be on course for a dramatic victory when they went 10-9 up late in the fourth.

But it was the visitors who finished up celebrating after firing in two late goals in the final minute, including the winner with just one second remaining, to ensure they went home with all the points.