Last weekend, Vasas, one of the most decorated clubs in the history of water polo, added the only European trophy that was missing from the club’s treasury. It clinched the LEN Euro Cup, becoming the seventh team to win four LEN competitions (Champions League, Cup Winners’, Super Cup and LEN Trophy/Euro Cup). Before Vasas, Mladost, Partizan, Posillipo, Ujpest, Pescara and Ferencvaros achieved that feat.
After an 8:8 draw in the first leg of the final in Savona, everything was open. However, the second game, played in front of the packed stands of the famous Komjadi pool, lacked excitement. Vasas demolished Savona 15:7. The contest was over already in the third quarter. The Hungarian team, coached by the legend of the Serbian water polo Slobodan Nikic, entered the fourth period leading 11:4.
The statistics display that extra player shots made the difference in the second match. Vasas had an incredible percentage. It converted 12 of its 15 man-ups. Savona scored only four power-play goals from 11 opportunities.
Have attacks with a man-up been Vasas’ strongest weapon all season long?
“No, on the contrary. We struggled with man-up attacks throughout the season. In the first match of the final, in Savona, we scored eight power-play goals, but we missed many opportunities and didn’t show our best. Even though we didn’t play as we could in the first match, we had a good result before the game in Budapest”, Slobodan Nikic answers in an interview with Total Waterpolo.
“We prepared very well for the return game. We worked a lot to improve everything that didn’t work well in our play and managed to do it. The conversion of man-up shots was amazing. We brought it to a high level. But we played really well in all aspects of water polo. We displayed excellent and disciplined defensive play. There were a lot of blocks. A good attack starts from a good defense. We played our best game in the season in the most important match.”
Best performance in best possible moment
Vasas had high goals at the start of the season.
“Our objective on the European stage was to play in the Main Round of the Champions League. But, we faced Brescia in the last qualification round and failed to reach the Preliminary Stage. We played two good matches but lost both. It wasn’t easy after we were eliminated. On the other side, we were aware that we lost to an excellent team. Brescia’s results in the Champions League prove their quality.
We got a chance in the LEN Euro Cup. We were one of the favorites in this competition, but we had ups and downs in the season. Sometimes we lacked luck, or we had troubles with injuries For instance, Vasas beat Crvena Zvezda in the eighth-finals by five goals in Budapest and barely saved that advantage in the return match in Belgrade. But, we overcome the crisis. As the end of the season was approaching, we were getting into the better shape.
I am happy because we played the best match when it mattered most.”
The LEN Euro Cup is one of the many trophies that Vasas has won. The Budapest-based club was the Hungarian champion 18 times, it won 15 Hungarian Cups, three Cup Winners’ Cups (1986, 1995, 2002), and one Super Cup (1985)… But, the recent past wasn’t very successful.
„Vasas has a rich tradition. However, the club had waited for a new trophy for long. Twenty-one years passed between the previous European trophy, the Cup Winners’ Cup in 2022, and this season’s LEN Euro Cup. The club hasn’t won a domestic trophy since 2012. Therefore, the LEN Euro Cup means a lot for Vasas. This is a significant step forward and an important moment for the club. Vasas returned to the circle of the best Hungarian and European clubs.
Water polo lovers returned to the stands of the Komjadi pool. We had great support from the fans in the return match of the LEN Euro Cup final. Since I have been at Vasas, we never played in such an atmosphere at home. I hope that we will keep momentum and continue battling for trophies both on the international and the domestic stage.
It’s pleasure being part of Vasas
Slobodan Nikic has been coaching Vasas since the autumn of 2021.
„The LEN Euro Cup is, as I said, very important for the club, but also for me personally. I am still a rookie in a coaching job. This was my first final, and I won the trophy. I hope there will be more”. Nikic, who clinched the LEN Euro Cup playing for Vasas,said.
“It’s a pleasure to be part of this famous club and achieve success with the team, especially because I am at the start of my career, and because of the fact that I am the first foreign head coach in Vasas’ history.”
End and start at Vasas
Slobodan Nikic,who won 29 medals with the national teams of Serbia and Montenegro and Serbia (including the Olympic title and three titles of the world champion), two Champions Leagues and many other trophies, retired as a player in Vasas.
After winning the 2019 Champions League with Ferencvaros, he moved to Vasas but didn’t leave Ferencvaros. According to the agreements between the two clubs, he played for Vasas and worked at Ferencvaros, coaching center-forwards in the senior and youth teams. After the canceled 2019/20 season, he retired as a player and continued working as a coach in Ferencvaros, where he took over the U16 team. He worked in the coaching staff of Serbia’s youth team.
He ended his career at Vasas, and his first coaching job in the senior water polo is at the same club. Still, it wasn’t planned. He was appointed after a procedure that is normal in many professions but isn’t usual in European water polo. Shortly after the start of the 2020/21 season, Vasas’ coach at that time, Lajos Vad, resigned. After Vad left, the club announced a job vacancy.
“Six coaches applied for the job. The club picked me, and that’s how I became Vasas’ coach.
The season hasn’t over yet. Vasas qualified for the playoffs of the Hungarian Championships. On Wednesday, it will play the first semifinal game against OSC Budapest. A team that records three wins will advance to the final. But, OSC already had a big advantage because of the rules of the Hungarian League.
„The results from mutual encounters in the regular season are carried in the semifinals of the playoffs. OSC defeated Vasas twice in the regular season, so it had a 2:0 lead, so we have to win three games in a row to reach the final. It will be difficult, but we will do our best and fight until the end. The win in the LEN Euro Cup was a good overture before the semifinals.“
Vasas’ players started celebrating their victory in the final in the traditional way – pushing the head coach into the water.
Nikic “bathed” twice in Komjadi on Saturday.
The celebration started too early. The referees whistled a foul at almost the same time as the final buzzer sounded, and all from Vasas’ bench started jumping into the water. But, since the game wasn’t over, a penalty shot was awarded for Savona in the last second. All but 14 players of both teams had to leave the field of play. Savona scored from a penalty, and after the final buzzer, the new celebration started, and Nikic was again thrown into the water.
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