Primorje are this year’s Champions League first finalists. An expected close and tough battle versus fellow Croatians Jug Dubrovnik was won 9-10 in Barcelona on Friday to claim their 2nd finals berth after 2012 and the bronze medal last year. Led by Sandro Sukno (4 goals) and Petar Muslim (3) Primorje withstood a 4th quarter surge by Jug who came to within a single-goal distance at 8-9 and 9-10 but thanks to an important goal by standout Sukno and a fumble by Jug’s lefthander Ante Viskovic late in the game on extra man for the Dubrovnik based side, the team from Rijeka managed to hold on for the victory and start celebrating reaching the final.
Jug had led the score for over a half as they looked determine to finally gain a victory over their domestic rivals in a big game this season after defeats in the Regional league final, Croatian play-offs finals and leaving the prelims group B top spot to Primorje. The turning point in the score came in the third period at the hands of Sukno and Muslim who both scores, Sukno even twice, and saw Primorje 5-6 and 7-8 advantages. When centre-forward Cosmin Radu put his team up 7-9, it looked a major blow to Jug, especially as Miho Boskovic had just received his 3rd personal foul and was done for the game. But Marko Macan, and later Nikola Janovic on a beautiful shot from the left wing on man-up, held Jug in the game. It proved not enough, though as Primorje held on to the slim lead in the final minutes to claim their spot in the big Champions League final where the winner of the Barceloneta vs. Pro Recco semifinal will be the opponent for the title.
The second semifinal went on to become a true spectacle. Home side Barceloneta got off to great start imposing its play and outplaying favourite Pro Recco but the Italian champion stayed calm and gradually, led by an incredible Filip Filipovic who took off for 5 goals after a quiet start, got back into the game. Only to struck when it counted the most. After a welcomed exclusion in the game’s hectic final phase, the man-up possession was played out as quickly, calm and beautiful as you ever see with Dusko Pijetlovic on the finish in front of goal to score the winning 11-12 goal for Recco with just 6 seconds remaining. That proved enough to break the ongoing resistance of the Final Six hosts who released a desperate shot from their own half in the final seconds but had to settle for the a bitter defeat in a match where they firmly believed to be on their way of upsetting the heavy title-favourites. Thanks to a great first half in which their dynamic play and fast swimming led to a quick 2-0 lead and still 7-5 score at half-time, Barceloneta looked well underway of keeping Recco in trouble in the second half. Here however the patiently playing Italian side got into it and continuously managed to draw level in response of an ongoing surge by Barceloneta who kept taking slim leads.
But as Recco remained close and even leveled, the inevitable turnaround came in the game’s final phase. Alex Giorgetti surprised the Barceloneta defence and once more excelling goalkeeper Daniel Lopez by shooting quickly on man-up with just over 2 minutes remaining to give Recco its first lead of the game at 10-11. But Barceloneta was not done or broken, at all. Just half a minute later Marc Minguell netted a beautiful shot of the right win on man-up for the hosts to tie the showdown at 11-11. A nervous finish tot he game was what followed. Lopez made another huge save when denying Recco centre-forward Dusko Pijetlovic scoring from 5 meters out with 26 seconds later. But disaster still struck for Barceloneta. Their top scorer Felipe Perrone was excluded with just 14 seconds remaining and Recco did not hesitate one second. They quickly played around the ball and from the right wing saw Pijetlovic free to tip in, right in front of Lopez who could not block Pijetlovic’ close-range attempt as he netted the game winner with 6 seconds remaining silencing the home crowd, after they initially were screaming even more in disgrace of Perrone’s exclusion. But disappointment took over just seconds after as Barceloneta could not produce a miracle in the final seconds and Pro Recco made it to the finals by edging Barceloneta 11-12 in what is the game of the tournament thus far. The final will be a replay of the 2012 Euro League edition when Recco, also with foreigners Ivovic, Pijetlovic and Prlainovic in the line-up defeated Primorje 11-8 in Oradea, Romania.
ZF-Eger have taken 5th place at the Champions League Final Six in Barcelona on Friday beating fellow Hungarians Szolnok 8-7 on a winning goal from Norbert Hosnyanszky with 1.35 remaining. The encounter became a close one despite Eger’s better start. They quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Szolnok tightened up their defence and Eger started to have more and more difficulties to find the opposing net. Still they managed to stay in front in the score but saw Szolnok, clearly not in the form one would expect from the recent crowned Hungarian champions, simply hanging on. It was Denes Varga who carried his team scoring 4 goals including a 4th-quarter equaliser from the penalty spot early in the period as the score was leveled 7-7. A close finish was expected, and did occur but without any goals, until the final two minutes. After losing both centre-backs Uros Cuckovic and Daniel Angyal with 3 personal fouls each, it was Norbert Hosnyanszky who scored the winning goal despite being excluded half a minute later and seeing two attempts of Stefan Mitrovic not hitting the target. Eger held on to defeat their Hungarian rivals 8-7 and therewith took 5th place. Szolnok, who came in as title-favourites, but were eliminated on penalties by hosts Barceloneta on Thursday, concluded their Final Six tournament by finishing 6th and last.
Final Six schedule
Thursday, 28 May
ZF-Eger (HUN) vs. Jug CO Dubrovnik (CRO) 8-10 (1-2, 2-2, 2-3, 3-3)
Eger scorers: Marton Szivos 2, Boris Vapenski 2, Peter Biros, Uros Cuckovic, Norbert Hosnyanszky, Milos Cuk.
Jug scorers: Andro Buslje 3, Paulo Obradovic 2, Miho Boskovic, Nikola Janovic, Aaron Younger, Marko Ivankovic, Nicolas Constantin-Bicari.
C.N. Atletic-Barceloneta (ESP) vs. Szolnoki VSK (HUN) 10-9 (2-1, 2-1, 2-1, 0-3; penalties: 4-3)
Barceloneta scorers: Felipe Perrone, Marc Minguell, Marc Roca, Gonzalo Echenique, Roger Tahull.
Szolnok scorers: Norbert Madaras 3, Marton Vamos, Milan Aleksic.
Friday, 29 May
ZF-Eger vs. Szolnki VSK 8-7 (3-1, 1-3, 3-2, 1-1)
Eger scorers: Norbert Hosnyanszky 2, Marton Szivos 2, Boris Vapenski 2, Daniel Angyal, Peter Biros.
Szolnok scorers: Denes Varga 4, Marton Vamos, David Jansik, Daniel Varga.
Jug CO Dubrovnik (CRO) vs. Primorje EB Rijeka (CRO) 9-10 (2-2, 3-2, 2-4, 2-2)
Jug scorers: Nikola Janovic 3, Marko Ivankovic 2, Marko Macan. Miho Boskovic, Aaron Younger, Andro Buslje.
Primorje scorers: Sandro Sukno 4, Petar Muslim 3, Cosmin Radu, Andelo Setka, Xavi Garcia.
C.N. Atletic-Barceloneta (ESP) vs. Pro Recco (ITA) 11-12 (3-2, 4-3, 3-5, 1-2)
Barceloneta scorers: Felipe Perrone 4, Gonzalo Echenique 2, Nemanja Ubovic 2, Marc Minguell, Francisco Fernandez, Roger Tahull.
Pro Recco scorers: Filip Filipovic 5, Dusko Pijetlovic 3, Alex Giorgetti 2, Maro Jokovic, Pietro Figlioli.
Saturday, 30 May
18.00: Jug CO Dubrovnik (Loser SF1) vs. C.N. Atletic-Barceloneta (Loser SF2) – 3rd/4th place
19.30: Primorje EB Rijeka (Winner SF1) vs. Pro Recco (Winner SF2) – Final
N.b.: time mentioned is local time.