Women’s Euro League, Quarterfinals, 1st leg – summary
Imperia: miraculous comeback against the title-holder
Two duels have been virtually decided in the first leg while two remains wide open in the quarterfinals of the women’s Euro League. Imperia (ITA) stole the show by coming back from 4-8 down against title-holder Sabadell (ESP) in the last five minutes.
Hungary’s new star side UVSE can put back Budapest to the water polo map at club level again. Recently, the once feared Hungarian capital served as a landing airport only for the foreign sides since the dominance shifted to other cities. Now UVSE seems to become a new powerhouse at least in women’s water polo: they were in devastating form in Padova and thrashed the Italians by 6 goals. It was a magnificent team effort from the Hungarians as seven players shared the duties of scoring.
The other seemingly decisive win was earned by Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE), ironically, against the other Hungarian entrant, Szentes. The Greeks dominated the entire match, Alexandra Asimaki and Filio Manolioudaki led the charge, they were 7-3 up early in the third period and managed to maintain that gap until the end. The visitors struggled without their injured centre-forward, Barbara Bujka, who had played for Olympiacos in the previous season. With this 10-6 win the Greeks have a good chance to book their berth in the Euro League Final Four, again after 2011.
In the meantime, the two finalists from last season will face a tough test in the second leg. Runner-up Vouliagmeni (GRE) fell behind at home against Kinef (RUS). These two also met in the QF last year, that time the Greeks prevailed by a single goal, now the Russians – led by Ekaterina Prokofyeva who scored 4 – managed to earn a valuable win in Athens (9-10). Still, their second meeting in March promises sheer excitement as Vouliagmeni is one of the strongest contenders in the field, they reached the Final Four 6 times in the last 7 years.
Sabadell (ESP), the title-holder was part of a tremendous fight in Imperia. It was a game of ups and downs: host Mediterranea (ITA) staged a superb first half, their defence was amazing as they built a 3-1 lead. Then came the Spanish, three-time winners in the last four years, and they produced a 0-5 trouncing in the third. The Italians seemed to have been floored – in fact they weren’t. It was a miraculous comeback, they still trailed 4-8 with five minutes to go but they managed to net four unanswered goals. The last one came with 4 seconds to go, thanks to a 6 on 5 goal by the Hungarian veteran, Mercedes Stieber (who already played in the 1991 World Championships). The 8-8 tie still favours the Spaniards but Mediterranea had some great moments so the return leg is a must-see encounter for the fans.
Euro League, Quarterfinals, 1st leg
Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) vs. Hungerit Szentes (HUN) 10-6
Plebiscito Padova (ITA) vs. UVSE Central (HUN) 7-13
Vouliagmeni (GRE) vs. Kinef Surgutneftegas Kirishi (RUS) 9-10
Mediterranea Imperia (ITA) vs. CN Sabadell (ESP) 8-8
Second leg is due on 11 March