Sabadell have won their 6th Champions League title with a narrow 9-8 victory over their fierce Spanish rivals, CN Mataro.
The game promised a really tight affair, especially given all the previous meetings this season. However, to Sabadell’s credit, they were better in every aspect today. In the end, the difference was only one goal, but for large sways of the game Sabadell were far better. Mataro rallied with great spirit in the last quarter, but in the end it simply wasn’t enough.
The big breakaway came in the second period, with classy scores from Judith Forca and Sabrina Van der Sloot. The Blue and Whites, however, performed excellently throughout, and thoroughly deserved their place at the top of women’s club water polo in Europe.
It was one of those days for Mataro. They struggled to really assert themselves in attack, and were too stand-offish in the face of Sabadell’s sharp-shooters. They missed some key chances in the game too, but a lot of credit has to go to Sabadell’s 33-year-old veteran keeper, Laura Ester, who made several stunning saves throughout the contest.
Judith Forca, who perhaps hasn’t been at the levels she was last season, showed why she is the most feared left-hander in the world. Her three goals today really demoralized Mataro. Steffens, Van der Sloot, Ruiz, Garcia, M. Ortiz and Perez were the other Saba scorers. Van de Kraats, Keszthelyi and Cambray netted braces for Mataro.
And so, Sabadell’s latest crown comes off the back of a real period of consistency, appearing at nine Champions League finals in thirteen years, of course, now winning six.
CN Mataro 8 – 9 Astralpool Sabadell (1-1, 1-4, 2-2, 4-2))
Mataro: E. Sanchez, S. Morell, S. Van de Kraats 2, A. Gual, V. Sevenich, R. Keszthelyi-Nagy 2, C. Cambray 2, C. Nogue, S. Avegno 1, Q. Bertran, A. Espar 1, M. Claveria, E. Carmona
Sabadell: L. Ester, M. Ortiz 1, P. Leiton, S. Van der Sloot 1, M. Serrano, M. Steffens 1, E. Ruiz 1 , M. Garcia 1, J. Forca 1, B. Ortiz, N. Perez 1, I. Gonzalez, M. Carrasco
The deafening crowd packed inside Can Llong really gave this encounter between Europe’s top two teams a really captivating atmosphere. Both teams started full-on, and while Mataro probably had the better play, there is no doubt that Sabadell should have been ahead after eight minutes.
Anni Espar initially gave Mataro the lead, with an incisive cross-cage effort past Laura Ester. Ester, however, made a quite unbelievable save shortly after on the 1 on 1 to keep the game at one goal. Sabadell entered the match with a trademark Maggie Steffens rocket from the top; Steffens, however, was then uncharacteristically wasteful from the 5m penalty – her shot only rattling Elena Sanchez’s cross-bar. Both sides had chances to take the lead later in the quarter, but both teams saw wayward efforts hit the woodwork.
If the law of averages means anything, it meant that sooner or later one or both of the sides would start to put away their chances. As it transpired, it was the hosts who found three decisive scores in the second period that put them in a brilliant position.
After Mati Ortiz’s lob, and then Rita Keszthelyi’s reply, the scores were still even at 2-2. Sabadell, however, inspired by a remarkable performance in goal from their veteran keeper Laura Ester, completely disrupted Mataro’s attacking rhythm, and then firmly pressed on the accelerator, grabbing three back-to-back scores. The Maresme invited too much pressure, and afforded Judith Forca (2 goals) and Sabrina Van der Sloot too much time and space to pick their spot. With a half to go, Sabadell were in prime position, with a three score lead (5-2).
The game really looked precarious for Dani Ballart’s side when Judith Forca grabbed her third goal of the game. The Sabadell number 9, oozing with confidence, sent a beautiful lob to the back post, to take her team’s lead to six. Although Van de Kraats launched her game with a powerful shot shortly later, Sabadell were in complete control when Nona Perez finished a quickbreak attack, sinking Mataro once again to a four-goal deficit (7-3). Clara Cambray’s breakaway goal just before the end of the quarter was very timely indeed.
Into the last, it was all or nothing for the Maresme, and while Rita Keszthelyi netted her second of the game via a lob from range, Maica Garcia made her mark on the game emphatically, with a thunderous backshot to restore the three-goal cushion.
Mataro weren’t quite done yet though, and courtesy of some brilliant work on the left-wing by Cambray and the Setterosa’s Silvia Avegno, Dani Ballart’s team were back within a single score (8-7). For the first time in the contest, the comeback looked well and truly on.
Spanish youngster Elena Ruiz, however, dampened the mood for Mataro with a near-post shot drilled past Sanchez. Van de Kraats however was not ready to give up on her European dream, and tucked the ball just under the outstretched arm of Laura Ester to bring the duel back to a one-goal game (9-8).
Sensing perhaps the game was not as comfortable as it should have been, Sabadell slowed the pace down. Elena Sanchez kept the Sabadell offense at bay, but she and her teammates could only admire the goalkeeper at the other end of the pool, who made two crucial saves in the last minute of the game to guarantee the win, and a sixth European title to Can Llong
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