Szolnok were roared on to European glory in Budapest this weekend when they beat title-holders Jug Dubrovnik 10-5 to become LEN Champions’ League winners.
Despite a huge partisan crowd of 10,000 roaring on the home team Szolnok, Jug powered into a 3-1 lead by the early stages of the second quarter. A quick-fire double from Milan Aleksic levelled matters before Marco Macan edged the Croatian national champions in front. From that moment on Szolnok took full control of the game, Andrija Prlainovic equalising from the five-metre penalty line after Gábor Kis had been fouled before Márton Vámos twice fired in trademark shots which crashed past Bijac in the Jug goal.
The score was 6-4 at half-time but Szolnok didn’t let the break check their momentum, Kis again drawing a foul from which Prlainovic scored another penalty to extend his team’s lead to three. Pavo Markovic pulled one back for Jug but with Viktor Nagy in imperious form in goal it was always going to take a truly special effort to regain any more ground in this contest. Such a challenge was even harder given the attacking talent at Szolnok’s disposal and Aleksic exemplified this when he rattled a free throw just inside the near left post from ten metres to re-establish that three-goal advantage just before the end of the third quarter.
The first goal of the fourth and final period would be crucial in determining the momentum in the remaining minutes and thankfully for the majority of the crowd it was Szolnok’s Zivko Gocic who scored it, his left-handed throw finding the far left corner of the net from eight metres to sent his team into raptures. A four-goal lead in such a final was incredible but also fully-deserved, Sándor Cseh’s team having dominated every facet of the game since that second quarter. Macan struck a post for Jug as they tried in vain to gain a foothold in the game, Gábor Kis instead crushing their hopes once and for all with a fabulous finish into the top left corner of the net from a central position 12 metres from the Jug goal.
The final score was 10-5 to Szolnok who now become the first Hungarian team since Honvéd in 2004 to claim European club water polo’s biggest prize! Szolnok also dominated the individual awards, Viktor Nagy being awarded best goalkeeper of the tournament and Andrija Prlainovic winning the Best Player prize.
Men’s Champions’ League, Final Six
Jug Dubrovnik (CRO) 5–10 Szolnoki Dózsa-Közgép (2–1, 2–5, 1–2, 0–2)
Danube Arena (Duna Aréna), officials: Alexandrescu (ROM), Margeta (SLV)
DUBROVNIK: Bijac – Fatovic, Jokovic 1, Garcia, Vrlic, Perrone, Obradovic. Replacements: Macan 1, Loncar 1, Markovic 2, Pavlicevic, Benic. Head coach: Vjekoslav Kobescak
SZOLNOK: Nagy V. – Gocics 1, Vámos 2, Jansik D., Mezei, Prlainovics 3, Varga Dénes. Replacements: Crousillat, Alekszics 3, Younger, Kis G. 1, Fülöp. Head coach: Cseh Sándor
Source: Press release – Waterpolo.hu