Recco and Novi Beograd wins set up final day decide

Photo: David Damjanovic

The race between Recco and Novi Beograd for top spot in Group A will go down to the wire. Both sides delivered expected home wins on Saturday, with the title-holders even setting a new single-game scoring record in the Quarter Final Stage by hitting 18 against Jadran. Novi Beograd had to overcome some tough resistance by Marseille, but a 5-0 rush after being 6-8 down solved their problems. The stage is now set for the final day, when Novi Beograd will take on Recco in Italy to decide first place.

Champions League Men’s Water Polo Quarter Final Stage
Results, Day 5
Group A (Saturday, 4th May 2024)
Pro Recco (ITA) 18-9 Jadran Split (CRO)
VK Novi Beograd (FRA) 13-10 CN Marseille (FRA)
Standings: 1. Recco 14, 2. Novi Beograd 13, 3. Marseille 3, 4. Jadran 0

Photo: Federico Schenone

Under the stunning blue skies lining the spectacular Ligurian coast, Recco went all-out for three more points, as they comfortably moved a step closer to securing the top spot in Group A.

The title holders’ encounter with Jadran Split was a special showcase itself as the game was played in such a picturesque setting.

By May, the Mediterranean weather is perfect for playing water polo outdoors and there are few pools in the world that offer such breathtaking views.

There were other things to watch, of course, at least from 6pm when the match kicked off.

Jadran were level with the hosts early on, and they could have even taken the lead in the opening eight minutes, had they used their man-up opportunities better.

Indeed, they were unable to put away any despite earning five in the first quarter.

They scored two from action, but Recco equalized both times, so it stood at 2-2.

Photo: Federico Schenone

In the second, Konstantinos Kakaris put Recco ahead for the first time from the perimeter, followed by a double by Francesco Condemi, and within 85 seconds the Italians had stormed into a 5-2 lead.

Zvonimir Butic then pulled one back – Jadran’s first success on extra – but Recco were also up to the task in their 6 on 5s and Matteo Iocchi Grata muscled himself into shooting range to make it 7-3.

This last one kicked off a wild-west like shooting contest, as four goals were scored in a span of just 86 seconds, in four straight possessions to make it 8-5 at half-time.

Recco remained in a high gear for the third, hitting six more, just as they had in the second quarter.

Jadran were powerless to stop the Italians now – but it seems inevitable that some key players were perhaps showing signs of fatigue, as many were instrumental in Croatia’s magnificent run at the Europeans and later at the Worlds back in January and February.

Photo: Federico Schenone

Those silver and gold medals seem to have taken their toll, though – as this was the third Quarter Final game for Jadran where they’ve conceded 15 or more goals, and their defense didn’t click in the other two either (13 and 14 ).

Here, their offense also ran out of gas in the second half, and Tommaso Negri was given a fairly comfortable evening after taking over in Recco’s goal from Marco del Lungo.

The fourth period was played amid a festival atmosphere, as the crowd got really loud when Recco’s 17 year-old rookie Stefano Scarmi buried a penalty – his first ever Champions League goal.

This was the hosts’ 17th of the night – with the previous one, by Giacomo Canella, setting a new single-game scoring record for the Quarter Final Stage, as so far 15 was the most a team had scored in one match.

In the end, Recco stopped at 18, and the number of shots highlighted the difference – 34-23 was the total and 26-17 on target.

Photo: Federico Schenone

Recco’s win put Novi Beograd under some pressure, as they had to win in order to keep their chances of finishing top alive (although to achieve that they would need a huge victory in Italy in the last round).

Marseille didn’t seem to give way for the Serbs as they never let the game go, although they had already been eliminated.

After Radomir Drasovic opened the scoring for the hosts, the French responded with a double, though Nikola Lukic also hit two a bit later to secure a 3-2 lead for NBG after the first period.

Just over two minutes into the second quarter, Marseille had scored two to regain the lead, but came back the home side again with two of their own.

Filip Filipovic netted on extra, then Alvaro Granados converted a penalty for 5-4.

Photo: David Damjanovic

Marseille missed back-to-back 6 on 5s, then earned a penalty with their next attempt and Andrija Prlainovic made no mistake to level the scores.

The reply also came from the 5m line, Granados buried NBG’s penalty to take back the lead, 6-5 at half-time.

Ugo Crousillat kicked off the third with a blast from the perimeter, then Marseille forced two more penalties, one on a counter, then one after a lucky rebound, and deep into this quarter the Serbs were in trouble at 6-8.

Coach Zivko Gocic felt the same, as he called a time-out and that helped. A lot.

The hosts hit three connecting goals from as many possessions, in a span of 1:41 minutes.

Filipovic’s action goal from the wing was a trademark shot from the legendary leftie, Nikola Jaksic’s dunking from practically the goalline in a man-up was also business as usual, just like Granados’ one-on-one counter after a killed man-down.

Photo: David Damjanovic

With 0:49 to play in the third, Jaksic hit a one-timer from the left and this 4-0 run knocked the French firmly off their stride.

In the fourth quarter, Marseille wasted another 6 on 5, unlike the home side, as Miroslav Perkovic finished off NBG’s extra for 11-8, which was kind of decisive.

Crousillat then sent the ball home from a penalty and in the next three minutes they had some chances to come closer, but couldn’t beat the Serbian defense.

And Alvaro Granados closed down the contest with a fine action goal, then a minute later he also buried an extra to finish the match with five goals to further strengthen his No. 1. position on the top scorers’ list.

Thomas Vernoux added a late consolation for 13-10, but by then the damage was done and Marseille were returning to France empty-handed.

Novi Beograd, meanwhile, add three more points to their tally and will now look to replace Recco at the summit on Day 6 when they travel to Italy.

The Champions League Quarter Final Stage will conclude on Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th May, and you can follow all the action and results live on the dedicated European Aquatics Champions League website.

And stream every game live, or watch the replays, by clicking here.

Photo: David Damjanovic
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