Group favorites dominate in opening rounds of Champion League games
- Jadran Split (CRO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 8-17
- Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Zodiac Barceloneta (ESP) 8-11,
- Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) v Sintez Kazan (RUS) 13-10,
- Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 7-12
Ferencvaros found a bit harder to gear up than expected, needed almost six minutes to score its first goal of the season and by then Hannover was already 0-2 up. Though the Germans managed to keep up for a while, the title-holders netted two in 71 seconds for a 9-6 lead before the break and from that point they managed to keep that 3-4 goal margin till the end. Credits go to the two Montenegrin master shooters of Hannover: Darko Brguljan netted 4 and Aleksandar Radovic had 5 goals but the hosts’ formidable offence came up with a 35-shot siege and that did the damage.
Just half an hour later and some 4km away in Budapest, OSC completed the Hungarian clubs’ victorious march in this opening round (Szolnok also won on Tuesday). Mladost had some better spells during the game but the home side was in control for most of the time, despite missing two penalties. The Croats came back to 7-6 in the middle of the third but OSC responded with two man-up goals and even though Mladost pulled one back from time to time, after 10-8 Andrija Prlainovic’s brilliant double decided the outcome. The Serbian netted 4 in the evening, his compatriot Nemanja Ubovic added a great backhander from the centre for 13-8 and that 3-0 run settled the bill. (Within 2.5 hours, 50 goals were scored in Budapest in two matches.)
Marseille withstood the pressure from Recco, they came back to 4-5 after 1-4 but the Italians produced a 4-0 rush around the middle break. They scored twice in 62 seconds in the last minute of the second and again in 49 seconds at the beginning of the third to go 4-9 up and there was no way back for the Euro Cup winners, though they never collapsed and lost by four goals, a fine performance from a rookie team in the League against the big boys.
Two newcomers clashed in Terrassa and the Spaniards prevailed in a tight, defensive match. The Georgians fought hard, tried to stay close but some fine distance shoot built a safe gap in the third period and the home side never let Dinamo get closer.Jadran Split (CRO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 8-17,
- FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 15-12,
- CN Terrassa (ESP) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 9-5,
- A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN) v HAVK Mladost Zagreb (CRO) 13-10,
- CN Marseille (FRA) v Pro Recco (ITA) 9-13
Olympiacos, winner in 2018, kicked off the season in style and won the opening match in Split with a huge margin. The Greeks rushed a 2-5 lead in the first period but Jadran came back to 7-8 late in the second and in that phase no one saw what was coming after the break. The game turned into a lop-sided battle as the visitors staged a 0-4 rush in the third, all in all they smashed the Croats 1-8 in the second half.
Barceloneta, champion in 2014, had to fight hard to overcome Spandau in Berlin. The Germans had the better start but the Spaniards netted four in the second period to take a 4-6 lead. With 2:47 to go in the third Spandau scored for 6-7 but Alvaro Granados and Milan Aleksic offered back-to-back goals for 6-9 and there was no way back for the home team.
The clash of the Adriatic neighbours lacked the expected tensions, 2016 winner Jug’s defence worked really well, Toni Popadic came up with 13 saves (65%, an outstanding percentage from a goalie) and from the middle of the third period the gap started to grow. The Croats jumped to a 4-9 lead after 4-6 and kept that distance till the end.
Szolnok, gold medallist in 2017 (though building a new team), had some ups and downs against newcomer Sintez. After a balanced opening quarter the Hungarians seemed to gain control in the second as they went 7-4 up only to see the Russians netting two in 56 seconds before the break. And soon it was even, Sintez later held on for 8-8 deep into the third but two action goals pushed the hosts ahead once again for 10-8. That was a turning point as the hosts added three more in the fourth, staging a 5-0 rush, when the Russians could score again after 9:30 minutes, the game was already over.
Photo credit: Vaterpolovesti.com