Sabadell will play Olympiacos in the Final of the Euro League after beating a really impressive Plebiscito side, but not without a bit of a late scare. The game looked over after a big gap opened up after the third, but Sabadell really looked weak in the last moments of the game as Plebiscito Padova found big energy to nearly cause a huge upset, winning the last quarter 0-5.
Looking for what would be their 6th European title, Sabadell are through and will face the hosts, Olympiacos. While David Palma will be happy with the result, but he will be concerned how close the contest was and how much energy it took for his side to overcome Padova.
Judith Forca was once again the main woman for Sabadell. She netted 6 goals and looked unstoppable at times on the right for the Spaniards. Sara Centanni put a hat-trick away for Padova, while Elle Armit made a really good double contribution from the post position.
Massive credit has to go to Padova, who many wrote off before this weekend. They pushed one of the best ever assembled teams to a really tough game, and matched them for three quarters. Dare we say it, if the game had lasted another two minutes, Padova would have probably won.
Going into the game, Sabadell were clearly the big favourites, but Plebiscito started the game in a really good way, limited Sabadell to very little, and being ruthlessly clinical on their extra-player situations.
The trend of the game was that Sabadell dictated the play and created a lot of opportunities that they failed to convert. They did, however, lead going into half-time, with the Italians missing a penalty that would have given them a lead.
Its always simply to say a team has a bad quarter, but in this case Plebiscito simply had a horrid third quarter. Sabadell didn’t really improve, rather they just started making the most of their opportunities. Sabadell won the period 5-0, and what was a close game became a huge uphill battle for the Italians.
The last quarter was very static with lots of exclusions. Plebiscito found a groove that worked for them a little and really played without fear. They played some excellent attacking water polo in the last period, but could not make up enough ground to account for the third period.
Plebiscito will face UVSE tomorrow in the 3rd/4th play off
Astralpool Sabadell 9-8 Plebiscito Padova 9:8 (2-2, 2-1, 5-0, 0-5)
Sabadell: L. Ester, M. Ortiz, B. Games, S. Van der Sloot 1, M. Serrano, M. Steffens 1, G. Sohi, M. Garcia Godoy, J. Forca Ariza 6, M. Eggens, N. Perez 1, I. Gonzalez, P. Carilla
Padova: L. Teani, L. Barzon 1, M. Gottardo 1, M. Borisova, E. Queirolo, A. Casson 1, A. Millo, S. Dario, E. Armit 2, C. Meggiato, S. Centanni 3, A. Grigolon, C. Giacon
Officials: Ursula Wengenroth (SUI), Andrej Franulovic (CRO)
Both keepers (both Laura’s) were busy early on. Laura Teani in the Plebiscito goal kept out a Irene Gonzalez shot from the top, while Laura Ester stopped Mariia Borisova from scoring a tame backshot.
It was Plebiscito who took the lead via a really wonderfully worked man-up. Maggie Steffens was excluded, and Sara Centanni’s delicate pass found Martina Gottardo on the post, who, despite fumbling the ball, placed the ball into the net.
However, the Italian goal scorer gave Sabadell an easy way back moments later by giving away a penalty – which was converted by the ever-lethal Judith Forca Ariza.
Then, on the counter, arguably Sabadell’s player of the season converted on the right; after a long swim, Ariza picked the ball up and bounced a low shot under the arms of Laura Teani for her second of the game.
But with forty seconds left, Padova’s best scorer, Laura Barzon, equalised for the Italians. Monika Eggens was dismissed, and Barzon fired a shot from distance past Laura Ester.
The majority of the quarter was as even as the scoreline suggested. For all of Sabadell’s class, the chance creation was not that high. Plebiscito Padova had two man-ups and converted them both.
Plebiscito were under pressure right from the start of the second period but stayed resolute; firstly from Judith Forca’s shot that was blocked off the line, and then Sabrina Van der Sloot’s cross-cage shot that was saved well by Laura Teani.
However, eventually the pressured took its toll, as Elisa Queirolo was excluded, and Judith Forca bagged her third of the game from a delicious Irene Gonzalez pass.
Sabadell continued to dominate the play without converting – Gonzalez, Forca Ariza and Steffens all had wayward shots, while Maica Garcia Godoy was reversed twice from centre.
Then, following the trend of the game, Plebiscito scored from nothing really. Sara Centanni looked largely unthreatening on 6m, but off balance, pulled out a sublime lob to catch Laura Ester unawares.
Then, with a minute to go, Plebiscito Padova had a golden opportunity to go ahead in the game from the penalty mark, but Laura Barzon put her shot against the cross bar. In a game where they needed to take every chance they got, it was a big opportunity wasted.
Towards the end of the quarter, there was a bit of a scrap between the two centre-forwards, Maica Garcia and Mariia Borisova that resulted in them both getting excluded. In the aftermath, there was some confusion, but with three second left in the quarter, Judith Forca sent a beautiful spinning lob into the back of the Padova net. Clipping in off the post, the goal gave the Spaniards a narrow 4-3 lead at half-time.
Into the third, Plebiscito started to look like they could be in trouble with regards to how many exclusions they were getting. Sabadell somehow missed a double man-up when Sara Dario and Martina Gottardo were excluded.
However, eventually Sabadell did have their fifth goal, and it was Sabrina Van der Sloot who beat Laura Teani. On the right, she had time and space, and almost exactly how Keszthelyi scored earlier, Van der Sloot leant over to the left, and rattled the ball in off the post.
Then it was 6-3 to Sabadell, as Judith Forca netted her fifth goal of the game. Van der Sloot found the pass, and Forca faked a cross-cage shot, but smashed the ball down the near-side to give her team a three-goal cushion.
David Palma was quick to call a timeout from Elle Armit’s exclusion, and it was well worth it, as Forca Ariza, who had just been subbed out, was back in to grab a 6th goal to open up a 7-3 lead for Sabadell.
It finally seemed like the chance creation level was finally catching up to Plebiscito, who were now not as clinical in front of goal. Elle Armit had her improvised attempt on the post saved, before Elisa Queirolo had two half-chances from range denied by the experienced Spanish international, Laura Ester.
Sabadell then pulled away. From a good bit of Sabadell screening, Maggie Steffens waiting to find the young Nona Perez, who managed to cleverly bounce a shot past the Plebiscito keeper to make it 8. In a team of superstars, you could see it meant a lot to her and the team for her to get on the scoresheet. Then, Maggie Steffens turned from provider to goal scorer. She found herself in the pit, and as the ball came in, she scooped the ball under Laura Teani’s arms to make it 5 for the quarter and 9 for the game.
Plebiscito then had a bit of spell in front of the Sabadell goal, but Laura Ester was equal to the challenge, saving shots from Borisova and Queirolo.
Plebiscito got off the mark first in the first quarter via Elle Armit. She tried slashing a ball off the post earlier without any success, but it worked well on this occasion, diverting Laura Barzon’s pass into the Sabadell goal.
Before long, Plebiscito scored the same goal again, via Elle Armit. They moved the ball well, and Alessia Millo put a ball to the far post for the Aussie Stinger to put away for her 2nd score of the game.
The game got scrappy, and there were exclusions everywhere. Mariia Borisova, Laura Barzon and Sara Dario. Plebiscito’s best players, were all ejected. Maggie Steffens, Nona Perez and Brigitta Games were all also wrapped on three exclusions.
Again, however, Plebiscito never stopped believing and pulled the game within three goals. Sara Centanni scored a delicate little lob to really put her side back in the mix.
And it seemed inevitable that Padova may score again, as Centanni scored from the centre with a extravagant scoop shot. With the score at 9-7, with a minute to go, was it possible for a shock comeback?
Maica Garcia, who had a bit of an off day, was wrapped, and Stefano Posterivo called the timeout, leading a Alessia Casson to put Padova within 1.
However, with 20 seconds to go, Elisa Queirolo was excluded, and Sabadell held the ball for the victory.