Savona for the fourth time or Vasas’ first trophy?
Tomorrow, the first leg of the 2023 LEN Euro Cup will be played in Savona will welcome Vasas, which will debut in the final of this competition.
If Savona wins the trophy, it will become only the second team to win the LEN Euro Cup four times, equaling Brescia’s record.
I The first match of the LEN Euro Cup final will start tomorrow at 19:00. The return leg in Budapest is scheduled for April 29
Both teams waited for a long to play in the final of the LEN competition.
Vasas has won two Champions Leagues (1980, 1985), three Cup Winners’ Cups (1986, 1995, 2002), and one Super Cup (1985). Until this season, Vasas’ biggest successes in the LEN Euro Cup/LEN Trophy were three semifinals (the last one in 2001).
The Budapest-based team hadn’t played in the final since the last edition of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 2003, when it failed to defend the trophy in the duels with Posillipo (10:10 in Budapest and 3:4 in Naples).
Savona’s previous appearance in the LEN final was the match for the LEN Super Cup in 2012. It was beaten by Pro Recco at home (7:14). Before that, Savona won three LEN Euro Cups/LEN Trophies – 2005, 2011 and 2012, and lost in two matches for the Super Cup.
6+3 Vasas has won 6, and Savona 3 trophies in LEN competitions
Clash in Split
These two teams have already faced off this season. It happened in the Champions League Qualification Round 2 in a very challenging group in Split. Their encounter was decisive in the battle for 2nd place. Vasas led 7:1. Savona started coming back. The Italians cut the deficit to one but only in the dying seconds. Vasas emerged as a winner – 9:8 and finished 2nd in the group to qualify for Round 3, while Savona went to the LEN Euro Cup. The Hungarians lost to Brescia in Round 3 and got a new chance in the LEN Euro Cup.
Vasas and Savona have met only twice in official games in the past 15 years. Vasas defeated Savona 13:9 in the tournament of the second qualification round of the 2012 Champions League in Zagreb. Due to that defeat, Savona was eliminated from the Champions League but continued the season in the LEN Euro Cup and won the trophy. Vasas reached the Final Four that season and won 4th place.
The second encounter was this season’s duel in Split and Vasas’ 9:8 win.
Many things have changed since the start of the season. Both teams have improved their shape. Still, they have had ups and downs throughout the season.
Since the beginning of March, Savona has played eight matches, and its record in the past six weeks is two wins, one draw and five losses. Late in March, it beat Trieste in the return leg of the Euro Cup semis (13:12, goalkeeper Gianmarco Nicosia scored a winner two seconds before the end). After that, it was defeated in three domestic matches (including a shocking 8:11 home loss to Anzio). Last weekend, Savona, guided by ended its lousy run with an 11:5 victory over Posillipo.
As for Vasas, the Hungarians have kept a solid shape in the last month and a half. They played nine matches in that period and won seven games. They narrowly lost to Panionios in the first match of the LEN Euro Cup semis (8:9). Two days ago, Vasas hosted Ferencvaros. The domestic derby against “Fradi” wasn’t a good overture before the Euro Cup final. Ferencvaros, led by Denes Varga, ran over Vasas in the first half and beat its big rival by six goals (15:9). However, that loss can be a wake-up alarm for the team coached by Slobodan Nikic.
3 A Hungarian and an Italian club faced each other in the LEN Trophy/Euro Cup finals three times. In the first edition of the competition, in 1993, Ujpest was better than Pro Recco. In 1996, Pescara won the trophy ahead of Szeged. After that, there were no Hungarian-Italian finals for a long time – until 2018 when Ferencvaros won its second LEN Euro Cup after beating Sport Management in both games.
Slobodan Nikic, one of the most decorated players in water polo history, was appointed as Vasas’ head coach in October 2021, shortly after he retired as a player in the same club. Nikic won the LEN Euro Cup as a player with Ferencvaros in 2018.
Savona has been guided by head coach Alberto Angelini since 2014. Between 1991 and 2008, Angelini played 421 games for the national team of Italy. Angelini lifted two LEN Euro Cups during his playing career, both with Savona (2011 and 2012).
Both teams have excellent players on their rosters.
Savona renovated the team last summer. Two national squad members, Andrea Fondelli and Matteo Iocchi Gratta, were among the players who left the club (both went to Pro Recco). An experienced Guillermo Molina departed from Savona to join Quinto.
The most significant reinforcements were the goalie of the Italian national team Gianmarco Nicosia and Montenegrin Bogdan Djurdjic, the team’s best scorer this season (he is the only foreigner on Savona’s roster this season). Some key players are captain Valerio Rizzo, who returns to the team after two months and a half of absence due to injury, defender Lorenzo Bruni (the silver medalists from the 2022 World Championships)…
The pillars of Vasas‘ defense are Olympic champions, goalkeeper Branislav Mitrovic and center-back Sava Randjelovic.
The attack is led by Russian leftie Ivan Nagaev (the best scorer in the Hungarian league this season), captain Bence Batori, then Balazs Erdely, Akos Konarik, etc. Tamas Mezei is in the center-forward position. Besides Mitrovic, Randjelovic and Nagaev, Vasas’ foreigner is the former captain of Montenegro Drasko Brguljan, who is, at the age of 38, one of the key players of the Budapest-based team.
All in all, there is no favorite -as usual in big finals. Both teams have excellent players and both have chances to clinch the trophy. We’ll see whose dreams will come true.
Road to the final
Both teams started their European journeys this season in the first round of the LEN Champions League qualifications.
As for the LEN Euro Cup games, Savona’s biggest challenges were against the Italian rivals Ortigia and Trieste. Both encounters were open until the dying seconds. One goal was decisive in the aggregate scores in both matches.
Vasas was convincing against Sabac in the quarterfinals and against Panionios in the semis. Still, it had troubles in the eight-finals. It barely saved a 5-goal advantage earned in the first leg against Crvena Zvezda.
Champions League – Qualification Round 1 (Group B, Oradea), 2nd place: Galatasaray 10:6, ASA Tel Aviv 12:3, Oradea 7:10; Qualification Round 3 (Group A, Split), 3rd place: Sabac 10:8, Jadran S 5:13, Steaua 15:5, Vasas 8:9.
Euro Cup – Qualification round 2 (Group B, Strasbourg), 1st place: ZV de Zaan 14:10, Strasbourg 6:6, Partizan 14:10. Eighth finals: Ortigia 7:2 & 9:13. Quarterfinals: Tourcoing 8:5 & 13:10. Semifinals: Trieste 9:9 & 13:12
Champions League – Qualification Round 1 (Group A, Het Ravijn), 1st place: Primorac 13:10, ZP Het Ravijn 15:6, Steaua 10:3, Invictum Sarajevo 37:2, Qualification Round 2 (Group A, Split), 2nd place: Sabac 13:4, Jadran S 11:13, Steaua 18:13, Savona 9:8. Qualification Round 3: Brescia 10:12 & 8:11.
Euro Cup – Eighth finals: Crvena Zvezda 15:10 & 7:11. Quarterfinals: Sabac 10:4 & 9:6. Semifinals: Panionios 8:9 & 12:6
LEN TROPHY – 1992/93: Ujpest Budapest (HUN), 1993/94: Racing Rome (ITA), 1994/95: Barcelona (ESP), 1995/96: Pescara (ITA), 1996/97: Ujpest Budapest (HUN),, 1997/98: Partizan Beograd (YUG), 1998/99: Ujpest Budapest (HUN), 1999/00: Jug Dubrovnik (CRO), 2000/01: Mladost Zagreb (CRO), 2001/02: Brescia (ITA), 2002/03: Brescia (ITA), 2003/04: Barcelona (ESP), 2004/05: Savona (ITA), 2005/06: Brescia (ITA), 2006/07: Sintez Kazan (RUS), 2007/08: Shturm Chekhov (RUS), 2008/09: Szeged (HUN), 2009/10: Cattaro Kotor (MNE), 2010/11: Savona (ITA)
LEN EURO CUP – 2011/12: Savona (ITA), 2012/13: Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB), 2013/14: Spartak Volgograd (RUS), 2014/15: Posillipo Naples (ITA), 2015/16: Brescia (ITA), 2016/17: Ferencvaros (HUN), 2017/18: Ferencvaros (HUN), 2018/19: Marseille (FRA), 2019/20: season canceled, 2020/21: Szolnok (HUN), 2021/22 Sabadell (ESP).