Pre-tournament favorites Szolnoki VSK (Szolnok) earned their first-ever LEN Champions League Final Six title in dominating fashion on Saturday in Budapest. The 10-5 win over defending champion Jug Dubrovnik marked the first for a Hungarian side since 2004, when Domino BHSE Budapest earned the trophy.
Goalie Viktor Nagy energized the crowd of 8,000 fans and his teammates with a standout performance, turning away nearly 70 percent of Jug's shots in dramatic fashion. His efforts led to the tournament's Most Valuable Goalie award. Serbia's Andrija Prlainovic scored three times for his Hungarian club on the way to earning tournament MVP honors.
Szolnok scored first but found themselves down by 3-1 early in the second quarter after Jug once again strung together three unanswered goals, as they have in both their earlier tournament upset wins.
The momentum shifted after Szolnok head coach Sandor Cseh called a timeout with barely a minute passed in the quarter. His plea to the athletes was less tactical than an emotional appeal to history, hinting that this was a career-defining game for them all. Two of the team's stars, Marton Vamos and Denes Varga, will depart the club for rivals Ferencvárosi TC in 2017-18.
Milan Aleksic scored his first of three goals just 28 seconds later, the first of a five-point outburst by the Hungarian side. They finished the first half with a 6-4 advantage, and Jug never recovered, remaining at least two goals inferior for the remainder of the match.
With the loss, Jug continues a streak in which no team has successfully defended a Champions League title since 2007-08, when Pro Recco repeated.
Jug: Bijac, Macan 1, Fatovic, Loncar 1, Jokovic 1, Garcia Gadea, Markovic 2, Pavlicevic, Vrlic, Perrone Rocha, Benic, Obradovic, Popadic.
Szolnok: Nagy (10 saves), Gocic 1, Crousillat, Vamos 2, Jansik, Mezei, Aleksic 3, Younger, Prlainovic 3, De. Varga, Kis, Fulop 1, Kardos.
Bronze Medal Match
Recco 15, Eger 6Earlier, tournament co-favorites Recco demolished newcomer Eger to claim tournament bronze. Aleksandr Ivovic scored four goals, while Sandro Sukno and Francesco Di Fulvio earned cap tricks for the disappointed Italian side. Boris Vapenski led all Eger scorers with two.
Recco were favored to at least compete for their ninth European championship. Those plans were rerouted by peaking Jug Dubrovnik on Friday. The Croatians put Recco in the third-place match with a 10-9 victory.
Eger's symbolic championship match may have come a day earlier when they briefly put a scare in Hungarian rivals Szolnok before falling for the seventh time this season to the newly crowned European champions.
The 2018 Champions League Final Six will be played in Genova, Italy.
Exclusion Fouls: Pro Recco, 6; Eger, 8. Penalty shots: Pro Recco 1 (1), Eger 1 (1).
Pro Recco: Tempesti (8 saves), Di Fulvio 3, Figlioli 1, Molina Rios, Pijetlovic, Sukno 3, Fondelli, Ivovic 4, Filipovic 2, Aicard 1i, Bodegas 1, Volarevic.
Eger: Mitrovic (8 saves), Angyal, Decker, Cuckovic 1, Hosnyanszky 1, Lorincz, Cuk 1, Kovacs, Erdely 1, Vapenski 2, Bedo, Harai, Csiszar (2 saves).