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Pro Recco overcome Olympiacos for first spot in Champions League final

Pro Recco's Adam Younger fires at goal against Olympiacos. Photo: Timmy Cutugno



(after penalties)

(3-0, 1-2, 3-3, 2-4)

Penalty sequence: Di Fulvio- PR (scored); Vamos – O (scored); Zalanki (scored); Genidounias (scored); Younger (scored); Dimou (missed); Condemi (scored); Gkillas (missed).

PRO RECCO M. Del Lungo, F. Di Fulvio 2, G. Zalanki 1, G. Cannella 1, A. Younger 2, A. Fondelli, N. Presciutti, G. Echenique 1, A. Ivovic, K. Kakaris, F. Condemi 1, B. Hallock 1, T. Negri.

OLYMPIACOS M. Bijac, L. Loncar, M. Vamos 2, K. Genidounias 1, I. Fountoulis 2,  K. Gouvis, N. Gkillas, A. Buslje, I. Alafragkis 2, D. Dimou 1, D. Nikoladis, A. Papanastasiou 1, E. Zerdevas.

Referees A. Alexandrescu, S. Dervieux.

Champions League holders Pro Recco were finally able to end their dreadful record against Olympiacos in a thrilling semi-final on Wednesday at the National Pool. The Greek champions were the last team to bring Pro Recco down in the Champions League finals when they eliminated the Italians in 2019 and won the final in 2018. This time, the Italian got the upper hand in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

The scene was set for an unforgettable evening at Tal-Qroqq with a collection of world-class stars and a sizeable crowd. With the passion for waterpolo on the Maltese islands making an indelible impression on the visiting reporters, as well as players and coaches, the Final Four tournament unfolded into a spectacle.

When Pro Recco’s players lined up for the presentation of the first semi-final against Olympiacos, Aaron Younger and Aleksandar Ivovic received the biggest applause given their past involvement with San Ġiljan and Neptunes respectively.

As expected, Pro Recco burst out of the blocks. Oscar Gonzalo Echenique, Giacomo Cannella and Francesco Condemi gave them a head start as Olympiacos custodian Marko Bijac distinguished himself with a top-draw save to keep his side’s head above water.

In the second session, the Greeks, backed by vivacious supporters, stood their ground. Having weathered the Italians’ early pressure, they drew level on 4-4 midway through the third session with Alexandros Papanastasiou. At this point, it was tit-for-tat with Benjamin Hallock putting the Italians back in front and Konstantinos Genidounias responding for the Greeks.

Francesco di Fulvio and Younger gave Pro Recco a two-goal cushion at the end of the third session. But Olympiacos were back in the hunt in the last session and went ahead for the first time, two and a half minutes from time when Ioannis Alafragkis made it 9-8. The Maltese ‘neutral’ supporters were clearly siding with the Italian side and di Fulvio’s equaliser was greeted by a great roar of joy.

It was Pro-Recco who had the last laugh at the expense of Olympiacos in a dramatic shoot-out which was resolved 13-11 in their favour after 9-9 at the end of the match.

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