The semi-finals of the 2017 LEN Champions League will see almost the same matches as the previous year: Pro Recco – Jug and Szolnok – Eger. The only difference compared to previous year is that Szolnok played against Olympiacos in semifinals 2016. 2017 Final Six started in the newly built Danube Arena in Budapest today.
In the first quarter-final, Jug defeated Olympiacos (11-8). The Croat will meet Pro Recco in the semi-finals tomorrow. These two rivals played each other in the semifinals 2016 when Jug beat the Italians and later the Croats won the trophy.
Eger beat Brescia (6-4) in the second quarter-final, so the 2nd semi-final will be the all-Hungarian battle. Eger will play against the technical host Szolnok, which is, as Recco, directly qualified to the semi-finals
QF 1: Jug like storm in 1st half
In the re-match of the last season’s final Olympiacos didn’t take revenge for the defeat in 2016 (4-6). This evening, Jug beat the team from Athens 11-8.
Jug took a flying start. Just 15 seconds after the first whistle Paolo Obradovic scored the first goal in the match. A few minutes later Loren Fatovic ended his solo counter attack with a goal. Maro Jokovic extended the series from an extra for 3-0. In 8th minute the Greeks scored their first goal (Kolomvos).
At the start of 2nd period Felipe Perrone, MVP of 2016 Champions League Final Six, netted twice (both from a penalty shot). So in the 11th-minute Jug already jumped to a 5-1 lead! The Croats ruled the field in the first half and they had a five-goal advantage (7-2) after the first 16 minutes.
In the 3rd period, the Greeks produced an excellent comeback. In a span od 4:17 minutes they scored five goals in a row! Kolomvos netted his 2nd goal of the evening to equalise (3:17 remaining on the clock) – 7:7. But, just after that Vjekoslav Kobescak, Jug’s coach, asked for a time-out. He made a brilliant move because after 1 minute of rest, Jug controlled the match again. Jug Water polo players needed just two and a half minutes to gain a new 3-goal advantage. By the end of the third quarter, they led 10-7.
In the leading roles in the fourth period were goalkeepers: Marko Bijac (Jug), the best goalie of the 2016 F6, and his older countryman Josip Pavic (Olympiacos). The first goal in the last quarter was scored a minute by the end of the match (Genidounias for 8-10). But, it was too late for a new comeback. The final score was set by Pavo Markovic, in the last second- 11-8. Jug reached the semifinals of the Final Six or Final Four for the 11th time in the history (the Croats won trophies 2001, 2006. and 2016).
Jug – Olympiacos 10-8 (3-1, 4-1, 3-5, 1-1)
Referees: Buch, Naumov. Exclusions: Jug 8, Olympiacos 6.
Jug: Bijac (9 saves), Macan, Fatovic 1, Loncar, Jokovic 1, Garcia Gadea 2, Markovic 2, Pavlicevic, Vrlic 2, Perrone Rocha 2, Benic, Obradovic 1, Popadic. Coach: Vjekoslav Kobescak.
Olympiacos: Pavic (4 saves), Mylonakis 1, Delakas, Genidounias 4, Fountulis 1, Buslje, Pontiekas, Ntoskas, Mourikis, Kolomvos 2, Janovic, Espanol, Galanopoulos. Coach: Thodoris Vlachos.
QF 2: Eger broke Brescia in 4th period
The encounter between Eger and Brescia in the second quarter-final was a hard-fought battle, which was decided in the last period. Only six goals were scored in the first half, which ended 3-3. In the 3rd period, both teams paid much attention to their defence, too. Before the 4th quarter score was 4-4.
Till the last period, the lead was constantly changing. (Brescia led 2-1, 3-2, Eger had 1-0 and 4-3).
In the fourth quarter, the Hungarians broke Brescia, with two goals in a span of 1:08 minutes in the middle of the period. Boris Vapenski netted for 5-4, Balazs Harai added one goal more (6-4). Eger had a chance to decide everything in the 30th minute when Croat Petar Muslim (Brescia) got a red card because of brutality (exclusion with substitution after 4 minutes). But, Brescia’s goalkeeper Del Lungo saved Erdely’s penalty shot. However, Eger kept the advantage, Brescia couldn’t do anything with a player less in the field. The Hungarians won 6-4 and advanced to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in the history of the club.
Eger – Brescia 6-4 (2-2, 1-1, 1-1, 2-0)
Referees: Putnikovic, Schwarz. Exclusions: Eger 9, Brescia 9 + 1 exclusion with substitution after 4 minutes. Penalty shots: Eger 1 (0).
Eger: Mitrovic (9 saves), Angyal, Decker, Cuckovic 1, Hosnyanszky, Lorincz, Cuk, Kovacs 1, Erdelyi, Vapenski 1, Bedo, Harai 3, Csiszar. Coach: Norbert Dabrowski.
Brescia: Del Luongo (7 saves), Guerrato, C. Presciutti, Randjelovic, Paskovic 1, Manzi, Muslim 1, Nora 2, N. Presciutti, Bertoli, Ubovic, Napolitano, Morretti. Coach: Alessandro Bovo.
Day 1, 25 May, Thursday
Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) – Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 8-11
ZF Eger (HUN) – AN Brescia (ITA) 6-4
Day 2, 26 May, Friday
For places 5-6
17.30 Olympiacos – Brescia
19.00 Pro Recco (ITA) – Jug (CRO)
20.30 Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) – Eger (HUN)
Day 3, 27 May, Saturday
15.15 Bronze medal match
16.45 Champions League Final
Interesting facts about 2017 Final Six
Nine Olympic champions in Budapest: Three clubs from Serbia have won the European title (Partizan 7, Becej 1, Crvena Zvezda 1). But today Serbian clubs are far away from the European top. None of them will play at the Final Six, but the land of the Olympic champions will have 11 representatives at the tournament in Budapest.
Nine of them are Olympic gold medalists from Rio: Filip Filipovic, Dusko Pijetlovic, Dusan Mandic (all three from Pro Recco), Zivko Gocic, Andrija Prlainovic, Andrija Prlainovic (Szolnok) and Sava Randjelovic (Brescia). Two more Serbs plays at F6: Nemanja Ubovic (Brescia) and Boris Vapenski (Eger). Ubovic will probably replace Slobodan Nikic in the Serbian team because Nikic said goodbye to the national squad after Rio. Vapenski (Eger) has played for Serbia earlier. He has won European bronze and gold in the World League.
The world’s largest pool: The venue of 2017 Final Six is the Danube Arena, that is the world’s largest swimming pool (can accommodate 12.000 spectators). Arena has been built for the 2017 World Championships and F6 is the first competition in the new pool.
Budapest is the host of the final stage of the CHL (earlier Champions Cup and Euroleague) for the fourth time. The capital of Hungary hosted the tournament in 1973. when it was organised on a round–robin system, in 2002 (Final Four) and in 2016 (Final Six).
Pro Recco 4th time at the Final Six: Pro Recco is the only team that has competed in all four editions of Final Six (created in 2014). Recco won the trophy in the 2015 Champions League. The Italians were the fifth one year earlier, and fourth in 2016.
Eger with a negative goal-difference: Eger is the only team, which qualified to the F6 with a negative goal-difference (78-84) since the current system started (in the 2013-14 season). It happens for the second time. Barceloneta came to the F6 with a negative difference, but the Spaniards were fourth in a group, and they arrived at the Final Six as a technical host.