Mataro have knocked the reigning champions out at the quarter-final stage with a deserved 15-12 victory in the second leg.
After a 9-11 win in Piraeus, Mataro carried some breathing room into the second leg. But they proved they didn’t need it. Mataro were simply better than the Greeks over sixty-four minutes of water polo.
While the game was an even affair in the first leg and two missed penalties from Olympiacos were the only difference between the two teams, Mataro controlled Olympiacos from the start today.
Olympiacos struggled to deal with the threat posed by Mataro’s centre-forwards, resulting in 16 exclusions compared to Mataro’s seven. Mataro capitalised on their 6 on 5 plays, with Van de Kraats (5), Keszthelyi, (4) and Espar (3) displaying their quality and punishing Olympiacos ruthlessly.
On the other hand, Olympiacos heavily relied on individual brilliance for their goals and failed to spring into life up front. They struggled against Mataro’s strong zone defence, resulting in several shots from the wings that were comfortable for Elena Sanchez in the Mataro goal.
The end of a mini-era has come for Olympiacos, as their hopes of a third consecutive Champions League title have been dashed by Mataro. Despite their strong performances throughout the season, Olympiacos couldn’t match Mataro’s superior play, resulting in their early exit from the competition.
For the first time since 2019, we will see a new champion crowned in the competition. Meanwhile, Mataro has made their way to the final-four for only the second time in their history, with their previous appearance being in 2017.
CN Mataro 15 – 12 Olympiacos (4-4, 5-3, 3-3, 3-2) AGG SCORE: 26-21.
Mataro: E. Sanchez, S. Morell, S. Van de Kraats 5, A. Gual, V. Sevenich, R. Keszthelyi-Nagy 4, C. Cambray, C. Nogue 2, S. Avegno, Q. Bertran 1, A. Espar 3, M. Claveria, E. Carmona Herrera
Olympiacos: C. Diamantopoulou, E. Plevritou 3, I. Chydirioti, N. Eleftheriadou 2, F. Tricha 1, E. Xenaki 2, C. Siouti 1, M. Plevritou, S. Tornarou, V. Plevritou 2, K. Christmas, M. Myriokefalitaki 1, I. Stamatopoulou
The first quarter of the game was a riveting display of energy and intent from both teams. Olympiacos had a promising start, with Eleftheria Plevritou scoring two impressive goals from the right side. However, Mataro quickly regained the lead with three scores in just ninety seconds, including a stunning spinning lob by Espar and two counter-attack goals by Van de Kraats.
As the quarter drew to a close, the excitement continued to build. Plevritou completed her hat-trick for Olympiacos, but Mataro managed to level the score thanks to a precise 6m effort by Cristina Nogue. Despite the frantic pace of the game, neither side was able to gain a clear advantage, leaving the score tied at 4-4 after eight intense minutes.
Olympiacos briefly took the lead in the second quarter thanks to a goal by Vasiliki Plevritou, but Mataro, buoyed by a boisterous crowd, quickly regained control. Van de Kraats converted a penalty to score her third goal, and Olympiacos’ captain Margarita Plevritou was excluded without substitution, allowing Anni Espar to score her second goal of the game and give Mataro a 6-5 lead.
View this post on Instagram
From there, Mataro began to pull away, taking a two-score lead at 7-5 and then extending it to 8-6. The Red-Whites were giving their opponents too many extra-player opportunities, and Mataro capitalised on every chance to build their lead.
At halftime, Mataro held a two-goal advantage, leading 9-7. Although Vasiliki Plevritou narrowed the gap with a penalty, Anni Espar, who had impressed during her time in Australia, scored a powerful 6m foul to keep Mataro’s four-goal aggregate lead intact at 20-16. Mataro’s opportunistic play and Olympiacos’ defensive lapses proved to be the difference in the first half.
The reigning champions showed no signs of surrendering, making it clear that the tie was far from over. Two impressive goals early in the second half by Eleftheriadou from 5m and Siouti off the bar from 6m brought Olympiacos level in the tie. However, Mataro responded with a stunning lob by Rita Keszthelyi, followed by a powerful and precise shot by Van de Kraats at the near post.
Mataro continued to pull away, with Keszthelyi scoring a cheap counter-attack goal to make it 12-9. Although Maria Myriokefalitaki managed to score for Olympiacos, the Greek Champions still needed to win the final quarter by four scores to have any chance of retaining their crown (12-10) with the aggregate score at 23-19.
As the game headed into the final stretch, an early quarter knock-out sunk the reigning champions. Keszthelyi was picked out perfectly at the back-post to secure her third, while once again, Van de Kraats, arguably one of the best penalty-takers in the world, bagged her fifth goal of the match (14-10). Left-handed centre, Eleni Xenaki, pulled two goals back for the Greeks, with two identical lobs to the back-post.
But the final nail in the coffin came for Olympiacos when their defence switched off, with a quick pass from Vivian Sevenich assisting Rita Keszthelyi’s fourth goal of the match to put the game beyond Olympiacos’ reach.
Three remaining Champions League ties take place later today.
Champions League Quarter-finals, 2nd legs
17:00 – Ekipe Orizzonte (14) – (13) ANO Glyfada
17:00 – Dunaujvaros (13) – (9) CE Mediterrani
20:00 – SIS Roma (10) – (15) Astralpool Sabadell
View this post on Instagram
Follow all the action from the Women’s Champions League