Apollon Smyrnis is just one small step closer to the trophy in the LEN Challenger Cup than Terrassa after the first leg of the final.
Apollon narrowly defeated Terrassa in Athens – 12:11, so everything is still open. Despite the loss, the Spaniards could be happier than the hosts. They avoided a bigger defeat. In the fourth quarter, Apollon had a 3-goal lead, but Terrassa cut the deficit at the finish. The hosts have what to regret.
2022/23 LEN Challenger Cup, final, 1st leg
Apollon Smyrnis – Terrassa 12:11 (3:2, 3:4, 4:2, 2:3)
Apollon Smyrnis: Galanopoulos, Alamanos, Bogdanovic 4, Mokkas, Goniotakis Korderas, Diplaros, Braimis 1, Chondrokoukis 2, Vickovic, Gardikas 4, Myrilos, Solanakis 1, Kavousanos. Head coach: Deligiannis.
Terrassa: Motos, Wilson, F.Sanchez, Alarcon 3, Flores 3, P.Garcia, Delgado 2, Sabadell, Perez, De Lera 1, Rodriguez, Chicho 2, I.Sanchez. HEad coach: Cobacho.
From the beginning, Apollon had “an extra player”. Fans gave them enormous and noisy support. The Greeks led for most of the match. Nikola Bogdanovic scored an opener in the second minute. Terrassa’s centre-forward Alarcon leveled in the middle of the quarter. In the 7th minute, Apollon earned a 2-goal lead and from then until the finish of the first half, the teams traded goals. The hosts took a two-goal lead two times (4:2, 5:3), but Terrassa halved the deficit on each occasion and leveled at 5:5. In the last minute of the second period, Chondrokoukis scored from an extra player for 6:5, but the finish of the first half belonged to the Spaniards. Just nine seconds before the buzzer, Ruben De Lera scored from a 6 on 5 and leveled at 6:6.
Apollon took a 7:6 lead early in the third. But, Terrassa responded with two back-to-back goals midway through this quarter. Delgado put the visitors in front for the first (and the last time) in the 21st minute – 8:7. However, Bogdanovic equalized immediately. Nikolaos Gardikas netted two goals in the last 72 seconds of the quarter and gave Apollon a 10:8 lead.
The hosts kept the momentum gained in the dying seconds of the third period. In the 26th minute, Nikola Bogdanovic scored from a distance and three goals separated the rivals for the first time – 11:8. After that, the teams exchanged goals. Apollon had a 3-goal lead (12:9) two and a half minutes before the end. Still, experienced players saved Terrassa’s chances. In the 30th minute, Flores made it 10:12. Adrian Delgado set the final score – 11:12 with 37 seconds left on the clock after a quick attack. Apollon lost the ball in its last possession (even though the Greeks had a 6 on 5). Nothing is decided yet. The return leg in Terrassa on April 29 will probably be similar to today’s match.