A few very important matches were played on Day 4 of the Europa Cup preliminaries (that are also the qualifications for the World League Final Eight). Italy hosted Montenegro in Palermo in the derby of Group C. Spain visited Piraeus to face Greece (group B), while Germany and Hungary clashed in Dresden.
Hungary had to fight hard to defeat Germany. The best team of the 2018 year, by FINA, took only 2 points, as it beat Germany after a penalty shootout.
The Hungarians led for most of the time, they jumped to a 3-goal lead (9:6) in the 2nd minute of the 3rd period. It seems that it was a crucial moment, the Germans “got angry”. The hosts were able to come back. Germany scored four goals in a span of 2:57 minutes(!) and went in front (10:9). From that point on, the sides fought a close battle. Germany had a 12:11 advantage in the last minute, while Balazs Harai secured a penalty shootout, by a goal scored 18 seconds from the end.
All five Hungarian players found the net in the penalty shootout. On the other side, four Germans scored, but Reibel hit the post in the 5th series, and Hungary won 17:16.
The close battle and the Hungarians’ slim win aren’t a big surprise. Don’t forget, Germany defeated Hungary (12:10) at the World Cup in Berlin in September.
Russia had no mercy against Malta in Ruza. In the middle of the second period, the hosts led 10:3. After that,the Russians scored nine unanswered goals (19:3). The Maltese scored for 19:4 in the 28th minute. Russia didn’t slow down in the finish and posted a 23:4 win. The MVP of the match was Ivan Nagaev, who found the net 7 times.
Hungary has qualified for the Europa Cup final tournaments (two teams from each group go through), while Russia and Germany are in the hunt for the second ticket from Group A. The Russians have 4 points more than Germany, but they will have two hard exams in the remaining two rounds. They will travel to Germany and Hungary.
Spain took revenge for the defeat in the match against Greece played in Barcelona in October (5:7). The Spaniards caught up the Greeks in points and climbed into the first place, because of a better goal difference. After the first quarter, Greece had a slim advantage (2:1). Everything soon turned around. The visitors, led by a 20-years-old Alvaro Ortega Granados, who scored 5 goals in Piraeus, produced a 5:1 rush by the middle of the last period for a 6:3 lead. Both sides netted a goal apiece in the last three minutes. Spain recorded an important 7:4 victory. The jury had no hard task in choosing the MVP of the game. Of course, Granados was awarded.
In other match in this Group, the Netherlands easily beat Ukraine (15:5)
The encounter between Italy and Montenegro in Palermo was the highlight of the day. The two big teams were in epic battle, with a lot of twists and turns. Italy was 4:2 up before the second period. Title-holders Montenegrins struck back. With five straight goals, they took a 7:4 lead early in the 20th minute. The hosts answered with three goals and after the third period, it stood 7:7.
Montenegro had a 9:8 advantage early in the last quarter, but in the following minutes, the reigning champions missed a few nice chances including two man-ups. Italy turned around a slim deficit to a 10:9 lead. Vladan Spaic equalized (10:10) 116 seconds before the final buzzer, but in the next possession, Nicholas Presciutti hit the back of the net for the final score. Italy won 11:10 and took the first place in the table. On Day 1 Montenegro defeated Italy at home, but after a penalty shootout, so the difference between two sides is 2 points.
The match in Palermo was also a clash of two great goal-getters. Francesco di Fulvio (Italy) and Aleksandar Ivovic (Montenegro) netted 5 goals each.
Croatia defeated Romania 12:8 in Izvorani. This (expected) outcome sent Romania out of the race for the Final Eight. Croatia and Serbia secured their places at the Europa Cup final tournament, which will be held in Zagreb (April 5th – 7th).
The Romanians played without their captain Cosmin Radu, but they managed to keep up with the favorites for more than two quarters. Early in the third period, the teams were tied (4:4). The world champions didn’t let the hosts go further. After just 29 seconds of play in the 4th period, Loren Fatovic scored his 3rd of 4 this evening’s goals and Croatia earned its first 3-goal lead (8:5). The visitors controlled the match until the end (11:7). Fatovic was voted the best player of the game.
On Day 5, Romania will travel to Serbia. Croatia and Serbia, in their match on the Croats’ ground, will decide the battle for the 1st place in the group.
EUROPA CUP GROUP STAGE (EUROPEAN WORLD LEAGUE PRELIMINARIES), DAY 4
Russia 23:4 Malta
(6:1, 5:2, 6:0, 6:1)
Russia: Nagaev 7, Zakirov 4, Kholod 2, Krug 2, Vasilev 2, Kiselev, Dereviankin, Kharkov, Koptsev, Shepelev, Suchkov..
Malta: Muskat, Plumpton, Galea, J. Camilleri.
Germany Hungary 16:17
(1:2, 5:5, 4:4, 2:1, 4:5-pso)
Germany: Real 4 (1 pso), Strelezkij 3 (1), Stamm 3 (1), Shutze 2, Eidner 2, Restovic 1. Preuss 1 (1)
Hungary: Vamos 4 (1), Harai 3, Sedlmayer 3 (1), Batori 2 (1), Manhercz 2 (1), Sz. Jansik 1, D. Jansik 1, Erdelyi 1 (1)
1 Hungary 4 – 11
2 Russia 4 – 9
3 Germany 4 – 4
4 Malta 4 – 0
Greece 4:7 Spain
(2:1, 0:2, 1:2, 1:2)
Greece: Fountoulis 2, Gounas, Vlachopoulos.
Spain: Granados 5, Barrosso, Tahull.
Ukraine 5:15 Netherlands
(1:3, 1:5, 1:1, 2:6)
Ukraine: Apostol 2, Gryshchuk, Alieksieiev, Voitenko.
Netherlands: Lindhout 5, De Mey 2, Nispeling 2, M. Filipovic 2, Gbadamassi, Van Ijperen, Muller, Janssen
1 Greece 4 – 9
2 Spain 4 – 9
3 Netherlands 4 – 6
4 Ukraine 4 – 0
Italy 11:10 Montenegro
(4:2, 0:3, 3:2, 4:3)
Italy: F. Di Fulvio 5, Figlioli 3, Echenique, N. Presciutti, Bodegas.
Montenegro: Ivovic 5, Dr. Brguljan, Petkovic, Popadic, Spaic, Draskovic.
1 Italy 3 – 7
2 Montenegro 3 – 5
3 France 2 – 0
Romania 7:11 Croatia
(2:2, 0:2, 3:3, 2:4)
Romania: Negrean 2, Gheogrhe 2, Georgescu 2, Antipa.
Croatia: Fatovic 4, Viskovic 2, Lozina 2, Buljubasic 2, Loncar.
1 Croatia 3 – 7
2 Serbia 2 – 4
3 Romania 3 – 0