The smallest gap was a four-goal margin in the first leg of the crucial third round qualifiers in the water polo Champions League. The four winning sides are on the verge to reach the Main Round: two Hungarians, Eger and OSC Budapest, Italy’s Brescia and the German newcomer Hannover all seem to sit comfortably in the driving seats.
The summer transformed the power rankings a bit in European water polo: while Primorje Rijeka (CRO), runner-up three years ago, had to opt to field a much younger side for this season, Waspo Hannover (GER) strengthened its line-up and the two Hungarian participants of the qualifications were also busy with contracting a couple of new faces, just as Euro Cup winner Italian AN Brescia.
Rijeka’s weakening was never so visible than in the current battle against Eger (HUN). The Hungarians, making the Final Six in the last two years, simply blew the Croatian side away. The once so feared Kantrida pool rarely witnessed such a bad beating: the visitors were 1-7 up at halftime. The second half was more balanced but the six-goal cushion remained at the end (6-12), making the second leg a formality for Eger.
The other Hungarian team, OSC Budapest played the most balanced tie of the day against Italy’s new super strong club SM Verona. Still, scoring a fast double early in the third put the Magyars 6-3 up and they never looked back. They even led 9-4 and 10-5 but remained scoreless in the last four and a half minutes, but they saved four goals till the end (10-6) and that might be enough to reach the Main Round once more.
Brescia, missing the prelims last season but winning the Euro Cup instead, hit back firmly to Jadran Carine (MNE). The Montenegrins ousted them last season in this same phase but now they could only keep up until halftime. The second half belonged to the Italians, their Montenegrin and Serbian aces, Vjekoslav Paskovic and Sasa Randelovic netted 4 goals apiece while Brescia demolished Jadran with an 11-2 rush in the last two periods for a decisive 14-5 win.
A newcomer is on the verge to join the big boys from November as Waspo Hannover (GER), fielding four great Montenegrin players, simply floored DiGi Oradea (ROU) in the first half. Leading 9-1, the Germans seemed to keep the match under firm control though credits go to the Romanians as they fought on and managed to pull a couple of goals back. They held the Germans on three goals in the entire second half and netted six, the disaster in the first two periods, however, did the damage to the visitors and the 12-7 win of the hosts seems to be good enough to book a berth in prelims.
Champions League, Qualification Round III, 1st leg – Summary
Waspo Hannover (GER) v DiGi Oradea (ROU) 12-7
AN Brescia (ITA) v Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) 14-5
Primorje Rijeka (CRO) v ZF Eger (HUN) 6-12
OSC Budapest (HUN) v SM Verona (ITA) 10-6
The return leg is scheduled to 9 November.
Source and text: LEN Press Release.