Hosts rule, win six out of six
For the first time in the prelims, all six home teams managed to win – as a result, Pro Recco (ITA) has not only secured its participation in the Final Six but also clinched the top spot in Group A and a place in the semifinals. In Group B Szolnok (HUN) is safely through and virtually both Croatian sides (Primorje, Jug) have reached the Final Six – however, the battle for the first place promises further excitements for the remaining three rounds.
Pro Recco seems as formidable as ever: the Italians simply demolished the title-holder. Barceloneta (ESP) was knocked down right in the first period (5-1) and Recco didn’t stop here, they went on to earn a 17-7 win, scoring 32 goals against the Champions League winner in two matches.
Since second-seeded Eger (HUN) lost to Olympiacos (GRE) in Piraeus, Recco secured finishing first despite three rounds remaining and a spot in the semis in the Final Six. The clash in Greece was a tough one, a 4-0 rush in the second period was decisive: though Eger tried to climb back from 2-6 down, Olympiacos managed to keep the lead until the end, grabbing its last chance to stay in the hunt.
Radnicki (SRB) won its third straight home game, this time they beat Brescia (ITA) and that strengthened the Serbs’ hope to make the Final Six again – but they will need points from the away games where they stand 0/3 so far.
In Group B the Final Six berths have been decided, only Spandau (GER) has a rather slight hope but mathematics don’t score from 6 on 5s when they will face the top three ranked sides in the following match days. The Germans won one of the most exciting encounters of the prelims, full of twists and turns, but finally they downed Galatasaray (TUR).
Primorje Rijeka (CRO) did a professional job against Partizan (SRB): the young visitors held tight for two and a half quarters but then the hosts jumped to a 10-6 lead from 7-6 and the Serbs couldn’t narrow the gap afterwards.
The top spot was at stake in the showdown between Szolnok (HUN) and Jug (CRO). It was a real thriller, the Hungarian-Serbian mix of the hosts stormed to a 4-0 lead but deep into the fourth the Croats equalised at 7-7. Still, they lost after their young player, Ante Viskovic forgot the new rule and threw the ball away upon a free-throw close to his goal inside the last minute – from this season a penalty has to be called for this foul and Milan Aleksic converted it 5 seconds before the end. With this win Szolnok is safely through and had three-point advantage in the race for the first place.
Results, Day 7
Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) vs. AN Brescia (ITA) 13-10
Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) vs. ZF-Eger (HUN) 8-6
Pro Recco (ITA) vs. Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) 17-7
1. Recco 21, 2. Eger 10, 3. Radnicki 9, 4. Barceloneta 8, 5. Olympiacos 7, 6. Brescia 5
Primorje Erste Banka Rijeka (CRO) vs. Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB) 14-8
Spandau Berlin (GER) vs. Galatasaray Istanbul (TUR) 10-9
Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) vs. Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 8-7
1. Szolnok 18, 2. Primorje 15, 3. Jug 15, 4. Partizan 6, 5. Spandau 6, 6. Galatasaray 3
The next round will be played on 8 April.