Mladost became Croatian champions after beating the defending champion Jug AO 12-11 (2-1, 2-3, 1-1, 2-2; 5-4) in the decisive fifth game of the finals. Although they were down 0-2 in the finals, Mladost Zagreb managed to equalize at 2-2 thanks to two away victories against Dubrovnik club Jug AO.
Today, the final fifth game was played in Dubrovnik.
This is the 11th title for Mladost, but the first after 2008 to break the dominance of Jug, which has won the last five championships.
Mladost reached the title with three consecutive victories, making up for the 0-2 deficit in the final series.
The last, fifth game of the Croatian championship took place in a very even game during all 32 minutes. Mladost was constantly in the lead, but at no point did they have an advantage of more than one goal, and with a goal for 7-7 17 seconds before the end, Garcia took the duel to a penalty shootout.
During the penalty shootout, two of Loren Fatović’s shots were saved by Mladost goalie Ivan Marcelić. Marcelić defended Fatović’s attempt in the first series, and the Zagreb team kept that advantage until the third series when Toni Popadić defended Luka Bukić’s attempt.
By the end of the fifth series, all the remaining players were successful, so the drama continued with the sixth series, in which the players who shot in the first had the opportunity to shoot again.
However, Fatović did not manage to defeat Marcelić even from the second attempt, and then the Romanian veteran Cosmin Radu was precise for the big Mladost celebration.
The most efficient for Mladost was Andro Bušlje with two goals, with one added by Lovre Miloš, Franko Lazić, Ante Visković, Konstantin Harkov, and Josip Vrlić, while the only double scorer for Jug AO was Paulo Obradović. Loren Fatović, Xavi Garcia, Alexandros Papanastasiou, Marko Žuvela, and Hrvoje Benić scored one each.
Mladost coach Zoran Bajic was overjoyed to win the title.
“Such a turnaround can only be made by big teams, we have shown unity, heart, will. This was a water polo treat, the sugar at the end. I am extremely glad that after 13 years we have returned the title, we have shown that we are a real European club, and what will happen next is up to the leading people in the club. Luck eventually anointed us, we won on fives, but luck accompanies the brave,” he pointed out.
“All goals today were crucial, especially penalties, that’s luck, I can say a lottery. I can’t say that my goals were any more crucial than the others. We have shown in the last three games that we are the best team in Croatia. It was not easy to turn around, losing 2-0 in the final. We didn’t give up, we knew we weren’t in the pool for the first two games and then we decided to show that it wasn’t us. It opened up to us, we took advantage of the mistakes they made. Today the same was uncertain. The whole series was high quality,” points out the best player of Mladost, Andro Bušlje.
“We deservedly lost the finals, Mladost was better, they won the Cup and the championship. We disappeared from the finals in the last three games. We were short of air, we couldn’t match Mladost. Mladost had a better game, we currently do not have the physical and mental strength to win,” said Jug coach Vjekoslav Kobešćak.
“We definitely lack the maturity to win a trophy and to play with teams like this,” he added.
Mladost thus won 3:2 in the series with three away victories in a row!
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