Strong defence led to a dominating first-half showing by AN Brescia in Kirishi as the Italian runner-up virtually secured a spot in the Euro Cup semifinals on Wednesday. The quarterfinals leg 1 meeting between Brescia and Kinef Kirishi saw the first seven goals of the game being scored by the visitors from Italy before the home side could respond. Although in the second half the deficit was trimmed to six goals in the end, Brescia are in the driver's seat with leg 2 at home coming up in four weeks time. Waspo 98 Hannover suffered a heavy defeat in Szeged where the home team put up a tight defence which held the Germans away from the goal. And with proven shooters such Aleksandar Radovic and Erik Bukowski not on target, the game was a tough one for the visitors. Home side Szeged meanwhile countered away to a quick comfortable lead (4-1) after the opening quarter and held control throughout. Zsolt Varga led the way scoring 4 goals for the Hungarians who will travel to Germany for leg 2 with great confidence knowing the 6-goal difference is a large advantage to build upon, even when playing away in leg 2.
Mornar made a good call by beating CSM Oradea 14-9 at home. The Croats, semifinalists last year, got away from their opponent in the third period taking a 7-4 lead. That proved vital in the remainder as Oradea did managed to score their goals. A number of 6 which would easily have made it as a 'comeback' in most cases, but suffered from their 3-goal deficit as Mornar kept scoring as well and therewith maintained their advantage, and even got it to 5 in the end. That forms an excellent basis with leg 2 in Romania to be played. For CSM Oradea it will be all or nothing at home in 4 weeks time.
Euro Cup 2015-2016 Quarterfinals
Wednesday, 11 November:
Kinef Kirishi (RUS) vs. AN Brescia (ITA) 5-11 (0-3, 1-4, 3-2, 1-2) Kirishi scorers: Kuzmenko 2, Nikolaenko, Eskov, Merkulov.
Also on Wednesday the new-look Euro Cup quarterfinals will get underway with the match-ups in leg 1. New look because just four teams out of the 2-round qualification phase made it to this play-off stage, being joined by the losers of the Champions League 3rd round. Their impact to the tournament could be big and includes a good alternative for the ambitious sides who just failed to make it to the Champions League preliminary stage can go for another European trophy. Three of four qualification teams will start playing at home in what for all will be tough tasks to overcome their opponents in order to advance to the semifinals. Round 2 group winners Mornar and Sintez Kazan could be given an even higher chance of advancing. But for the Croatian squad that will mean knocking off Romanian champion CSM DiGi Oradea. The well-known tough side was a recent familiar face in the Champions League group stage but fell to OSC in the play-offs this time suffering from a 7-9 defeat at home in leg 1. Their balanced roster, full of Romanian international and spearheaded by world champion goalkeeper Gojko Pijetlovic, will prove vital in overcoming leg 1 in Split, Croatia on Wednesday before being the heavy favourite at home in leg 2.
For Sintez Kazan, winners of group A will start their quarterfinals in Marseille facing a hungry French champion who is eager for clinching international success this season. They were close to making it to the Champions League prelims but had no luck in drawing Hungarian champs Szolnok in the play-offs. After their close 6-7 loss to the powerhouse at home in leg 1 the confidence of the team, steamrolling in the domestic league so far, is rising for what could be an international successful season. The Russian opponent however has shown its strength. In round 2 home side FTC and Euro Cup finalist of last year, Acquachiara, were knocked off by the Russian runner-up who only tied with rival Kinef Kirishi 9-9 to claim the top spot in the group. The teams full of Russian international, in action most recently at the 2015 World Championships at home in Kazan while foreigners like Serbian Srdjan Antonijevic and centre forward Jure Marelja complete the balanced squad.
In the other pair of quarterfinal matches the teams coming from the Champions League should enjoy the favourite role. But for German title contender Waspo 98 Hannover, and their sensational playing in the first two qualification rounds of the Champions League, the opposition is fierce also knowing that leg 1 will be played in Szeged, Hungary on Wednesday. The Hungarians finished 2nd in group B in the previous round but only after a narrow 12-11 loss to Mornar in the battle for the top spot. In the domestic league the team currently holds 3rd place in group A having suffered 3 losses in 7 rounds so far, as favourites Szolnok, Eger and more surprisingly, BVSC, have shown too strong in head-to-head duels. The roster includes risting stars such as Tamas Sedlmayer and Krisztian Manhercz while veterans Csaba Kiss, Szolt Varga and Aljosa Kunac bring in the necessary experience. Hannover meanwhile is enjoying the quality that the foreign acquisitions brought in this summer are adding. Especially that of Montenegro shooter Aleksandar Radovic who led the team in recent action which included a tight 10-11 loss to Szolnok in the qualification round 2 at home. Drawing last year's Champions League finalist Primorje though proved to be too much for the Germans who were overpowered 19-6 in Croatia in leg 1 before losing 6-10 in leg 2 at home. Their sight by then was already at the Euro Cup where their international ambition could lead them to success. If Szeged proves unable to get a win at home, they will be up for an almost unsurmountable task of making it to the final four.
The same will go for Kinef Kirishi in their match-up with Italy's runner-up AN Brescia. The previous wild card holder for the Champions League prelims voluntarily made it available during the summer stating to be building up a new competitive team with more youngsters and wanting to see whether they'd be capable of reaching the prelims on their own was utterly close of making it that far. A shocking 14-6 defeat in Herceg Novi in leg 1 of the play-offs however ruined hopes although the Italians came close in even making up for that deficit in leg 2 which was won 12-8 at home. Now they will travel to Kirishi for Wednesday's duel. The Russian teams are well-known for being comfortable when playing at home and in this case will have to exploit their home court advantage in leg 1 to get a good result straight away. Two ties in the previous round got Kirishi to 2nd place in group A, behind rivals Kazan, knocking off FTC thanks to their 8-8 draw on the final day. Now team top scorer Daniil Merkulov and Montenegro centre forward Sasa Misic will face a Brescia side that is steamrolling on offence this season being the most productive side in the Italian league Serie A1 so far having scored a total 105 goals. The quality of players such as Guillermo Molina, Valerio Rizzo, centre forward Nemanja Ubovic and veteran Christian Presciutti will be known, also in Russia. For Kirishi the tough task of stopping Brescia's offence if they want to maintain hopes of making it to the final four.
Euro Cup 2015-2016 Quarterfinals
Leg 1 Wednesday, 11 November:
18.30: Kinef Kirishi (RUS) vs. AN Brescia (ITA) 18.30: Szeged (HUN) vs. Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) 19.30: Mornar BS (CRO) vs. CSM DiGi Oradea (ROU) 20.00: CN Marseille (FRA) vs. Sintez Kazan (RUS)
The Euro Cup tournament is down to its play-off phase. The draw for the new-look quarterfinals was held Thursday at LEN Office in Nyon, Switzerland and paired the four teams coming from the two-round qualification phase with the losers of the Champions League qualification 3rd round play-off. For the Euro Cup contenders coming out of the groups, that means a significant change to the competition as the Champions League play-off losing sides are legtimite title contenders. And so very interesting match-ups can be expected with group C winners Sintez Kazan being draw to face CN Marseille who held Szolnok to a 7-6 loss at home in France in the Champions League qualification play-off leg 1. Mornar, winners of the other group and semifinalists last year, got a tough draw as they will be meeting Romanian champion CSM DiGi Oradea who fell to OSC in their battle for Champions League preliminary phase participation. The other two matches will see Kinef Kirishi, who finished 2nd behind Kazan in the last round, facing Italian runner-up AN Brescia while Szeged, who had a strong showing in the last round, take on Waspo 98 Hannover; the Champions League qualifiers sensation but not strong enough to overcome Primorje in the 3rd qualification round. Another good battle can be expected there, especially with Szeged starting the home-and-away encounter at home. The first legs will be played on Wednesday, 11 November.
LEN Euro Cup 2015-2016 Quarterfinals
Kinef Kirishi (RUS) vs. AN Brescia (ITA) Mornar BS (CRO) vs. CSM DiGi Oradea (ROU) CN Marseille (FRA) vs. Sintez Kazan (RUS) Szeged (HUN) vs. Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)
11 November, 2015 - Leg 1 16 December, 2015 - Leg 2
3 February, 2016 - Leg 1 10 February, 2016 - Leg 2