Croatian final in Belgrade. Jug and Jadran will meet in the Regional League final in the pool “11. April – Vlaho Bata Orlic”.
Both semifinals were thrilling and ended in penalty shootouts.
Jug upset host and reigning champion Novi Beograd. The home side, which arrived at the F4 with 11 wins in as many games, led most of the time. In the dying seconds, both teams had chances to win, but the score after 32 minutes was 11:11. Jug’s goalie Toni Popadic was a hero of the shootout. He blocked two shots, and Jug celebrated a 15:13 victory.
Jadran Split advanced to the final with a 17:15 win over Radnicki Kragujevac. This outcome wasn’t a surprise, because neither of the teams was a favorite.
Radnicki had a 3-goal lead in the third quarter (9:6) and had a man-up for four minutes in that period because of a brutality foul committed by Jadran’s Marino Cagalj. However, the Serbian club didn’t take full advantage of that.. Jadran made a comeback, Radnicki leveled the score at the finish (12:12), but the Split-based side recorded a 17:15 victory after a penalty shootout.
The final Jug – Jadran is scheduled for 18:00 CET tomorrow.
2022/23 Regional League, Final Four
Novi Beograd – Jug 13:15 (3:3, 4:2, 2:3, 2:3, PSO 2:4)
Novi Beograd: Filipovic, S. Rasovic 1, Mandic, Granados 1, Vucinic 1, Pijetlovic 1, Drasovic, Jaksic 3, Petkovic, Vlachopoulos 3, Skoumpakis 1, V.Rasovic, Coimbra, Cetkovic. Head coach: Gocic.
Jug AO: Popadic, Burdjelez, Fatovic 2, Zvono 1, Jokovic, Vukojevic 2, Biljaka, Lazic, 1 Krzic 1, Kakaris 1, Grgurevic, Zuvela 3, Jurisic, Mozara. Head coach: Kobescak.
Scorers in the shootout: Fatovic, Jokovic, Lazic, Kakaris. Novi Beograd: Mandic, Drasovic. Popadic saved shots from S.rasovic and Vlachopoulos.
The Regional League semifinal match was the third encounter between Jug and Novi Beograd this season. In December, the Champions League match in this same pool ended in a 12:12 draw. Novi Beograd beat Jug in Dubrovnik 13:10 in the 4th Regional League tournament.
In the week before the F4, Novi Beograd displayed a very good performance in the Champions League match over Marseille, while Jug surprisingly lost to Sabadell and continued its crisis of the results.
Therefore, few believed that Jug could reach the final.
The first period offered a few turns. Jug started better, and earned a 1:0 and 2:1 advantage. Angelos Vlachopoulos gave Novi Beograd a 3:2 advantage just 34 seconds before the first break. However, it wasn’t the end of the series of goals in the first quarter. Three seconds before the buzzer, Zuvela leveled at 3:3.
The hosts opened the second quarter with two quick goals and two goals separated the rivals for the first time. Jug leveled at 5:5, but the Serbian champion regained a 2-goal lead with two beautiful goals from Nikola Jaksic and Dusko Pijetlovic, both scored after quick actions with precise passes – 7:5.
But, Jug’s defense and, first of all, goalkeeper Toni Popadic didn’t let Novi Beograd build an advantage bigger than two goals. The defense helped Jug to come back. Jug caught up with Novi Beograd in the 20th minute (7:7). The hosts replied with two goals for 9:7. However, Jug halved the deficit. The Dubrovnik-based side had a man-up in the dying seconds of this quarter to level the score, but it failed. So, only one goal separated the rivals before the final period.
Novi Beograd doubled its advantage twice in the fourth period (10:8 and 11:9), but Jug reduced the gap shortly after each goal. A minute and 47 seconds before the end, Strahinja Rasovic hit the back od the net, but the referees canceled the goal because the time for the attack had expired. Jug leveled in its next possession (Vukojevic with a man-up) and the big drama was culminating. Both teams missed great chances to secure a win in the final seconds. Novi Beograd forced a man-up in its last attack, Dusan Mandic took responsibility, but he hit the post with 26 seconds left on the clock. In the dying seconds, Jug’s captain Loren Fatovic found himself alone in front of the hosts’ goal, but goalkeeper Joao Pedro Coimbra saved his shot.
As mentioned, Toni Popadic made the difference in the shootout, by blocking the shots from Strahinja Rasovic and Angelos Vlachopoulos in the third and the fourth round. All other shooters found the net and Jug celebrated a big win.
Jug’s head coach Vjekoslav Kobescak said that his team opened the match very well.
“In the second period, we lost the rhythm because of the immaturity of the team and a lack of players in the rotation. We changed the style of our defense in the third period. We risked, but it paid off. Still, Novi Beograd had more chances to secure the win, but the match entered a shootout. We were psychologically better prepared for the shootout.
Jug will face its biggest rival in the Croatian League, Jadarn.
“Honestly, I didn’t prepare the team for the final. But, we know Jadran’s qualities very well. I hope we will endure after a physically hard semifinal game.”
Zivko Gocic, Novi Beograd’s head coach, congratulated Jug and added:
“There were a lot of mistakes in both teams.We needed better defense in the moments when we had a 2-goal advantage to break the match. In the end, we lost a lot of energy. Maybe Strahinja Rasovic’s canceled goal in the fourth quarter was one of the turning points. After that, we fell and lost energy, and Jug managed to equalize and, to win in a shootout.
Maro Jokovic, Jug’s leftie, said:
“Jug has been in crisis for a while, and we are still looking for a good shape. But, we managed to keep a strong rhythm throughout the game against the team that is stronger than us. We kept calmness, and that was crucial“.
Nikola Jaksic congratulated Jug and said:
„Because of a bad defense in the second half, we didn’t secure a win in the regular time. As for the penalty shootout, I feel sorry for the guys who didn’t score. I know how I felt after the Champions League final last year.
I Neutral referees from the neighboring countries judge the matches of the Final Four. The referees on the first game Jadran – Radnicki, were Adrian Alexandrescu (Romania) and Sinisa Matijasevic (Montenegro). Boris Margeta (Slovenia) and Stanko Ivanovski (Montenegro) were in charge of the encounter between Novi Beograd and Jug.
Both games started with a minute of silence in honor of Dejan Adzic, who passed away two days ago. He was a long-time secretary of the Water Polo Federation of Montenegro and FINA referee. He played water polo in Primorac, Crvena Zvezda, and Becej and was a member of the junior team of Yugoslavia.
Jadran S – Radnicki 17:15 (3:3, 3:4, 3:3, 3:2, 5:3)
Jadran Split: Marcelic, Buric 5, Marinic Kragic 1, Cagalj, Butic 1, Pejkovic 1, Bukic 2, Tomasovic 1, Delic 1, Dobud, Setka, Duzevic, Anic, Zovic. Head coach: Marelja.
Radnicki: Dobozanov, Brankovic, Stanojevic 1, Jankovic 1, Cuk 2, Bogdanovic, Ukropina 3, Kojic 1, Pljevancic, Draskovic 2, Lukic, Vrlic 2, Todorovski, Antic. Head coach: Stevanovic.
Scorers in the shootout- Jadran: Butic, Bukic, Buric, Tomasovic, Delic. Radnicki: Cuk, Ukropina, Jankovic. Anic saved a shot from Draskovic.
Before the Regional League Final Four, Radnicki and Jadran had met three times this season. They shared the points in the Champions League in Splt (10:10). Then, Jadran beat Radncicki twice, in the Champions League and the Regional League, and continued the series today.
Jadran led 2:0 and 3:1 lead. However, Radnicki caught up with the rival in time. At the first break, the sides were tied at 3:3.
In the second quarter, Radnicki started taking control of the match. The Serbs played better and better in defense. Goalkeeper Lazar Dobozanov found his rhythm (he posted eight saves in the first half). Josip Vrlic put Radnicki in front in the 10th minute by converting a man-up for 4:3. Jadran leveled at 4:4 and 5:5. In the middle of the period, Radnikci’s captain Filip Jankovic found the net for 6:5. After the sixth goal, Jadran’s head coach Jure Marelja switched the goalkeepers (Marcelic replaced Anic, who started the match). It didn’t help then, but Marcelic played excellently in the second half. Draskovic doubled the Serbs’ advantage with 01:38 left on the clock (7:5). Luka Bukic closed the first half with a power play goal for 6:7.
The third period started in the same way as the previous one. Josip Vrlic opened the scoring (8:6). Jadran’s troubles began shortly after. In the 18th minute, Marino Cagalj was excluded for brutality and the Split-based side played with a man fewer in the next four minutes. Milos Cuk didn’t convert a penalty awarded because of Cagalj’s foul. In the next possession, Dobozanov saved an excellent shot from Rino Buric, Radnicki started an attack in which Jerko Marinic Kragic, Jadran’s best scorer, committed a penalty foul. It was his third exclusion and the match was finished for him, too. Ukropina scored for 9:6 from a penalty. But, the Kragujevac-based didn’t benefit from having a player more than Jadran in the four minutes. Moreover, Jadran narrowed the distance. Ivan Marcelic posted a few excellent shots (including one from a one-on-one counterattack). Rino Buric netted two goals (one from a great backhander from a disnace) and Jadran came very close, still having five players in the field (8:9). The Croats couldn’t equalize in the third quarter. Radnicki led 10:9 before the final quarter.
Jadran scored two goals early in the fourth quarter (Delic and Butic) and went ahead for the first time after the first quarter – 11:10. In this quarter, Radnicki’s head coach Uros Stevanovic changed goalkeepers (Todorovski replaced Dobozanov).
The team in the blue caps leveled at 11:11. But, midway through the fourth quarter, the player of the match Rino Buric scored his fifth goal for 12:11. The Split-based side kept that advantage for a while. Still, 25 seconds before the end, Ukropina leveled with a man-up. Jadran scored in its last attack, but the shot came after the buzzer, and the match continued in the penalty shootout.
There were no misses in the first three rounds. Before the fourth series of shots, Jadran’s coach Marelja switched goalkeepers again. Anic returned to the water. It turned out to be a good move. Anic saved a shot from Draskovic. In the next round, Delic sent the ball into the net and that was the end.
Four minutes that made difference
Players of both teams agree that the exclusion for brutality was the turning point.
“After we didn’t let Radnicki make a big lead in these four minutes, we got a new stimulus and played better and better. We could even secure the win in the regular time. But, we conceded an easy goal at the finish. However, we made no mistakes in the shootout and went to the final”, Jadran’s goal-getter Luka Bukic said.
Filip Jankovic, Radnicki’s captain, commented:
“During the four minutes after a brutality foul, we played like we had a player less in the water and not a player more. We let Jadran get back into the game. In the period after the four-minute exclusion, they played more aggressive, and took control.