RK Zagreb: Ivic, Horvat (5), Stepancic (9), Brozovic (2), Josip Valcic (2), Pavlovic (-), Sprem (-) -starting seven-, Sebetic (-), Tonci Valcic (-), Mandalinic (3), Vuglac (1), Celica (-), Susnja (1), Obranovic (-), Kovacevic (-) & Stevanovic.
FC Barcelona: Saric, Víctor Tomás (5), Entrerríos (1), Sorhaindo (1), Sigurdsson (4), Viran (-), Karabatic (6) -starting seven-, Noddesbo (5), Sarmiento (2), Ariño (-), Gurbindo (1), Rutenka (-), Lazarov (5).
5 minute periods: 1-1/4-3/5-6/6-9/7-11/10-14 (descans)/12-16/14-18/17-20/18-21/21-24/23-25.Referees: Csaba Dobrovits & Peter Tajok (Hungary).
Champions League quarter finals are never easy affairs, and this was another tough outing for Barça. At a packed Arena Zagreb, Xavi Pascual’s side stuck to what they know and managed to win by two points to end the Croatians’ season-long unbeaten run at home (23-25) and take a huge step towards the Final Four in Cologne.
The first half was all about sizing each other up, and neither side managed to get their scoring going and it was still 4-4 after ten minutes. Barça edged one ahead on the quarter hour and it was then that they finally started coming into their stride. Karabatic was outstanding in attack and Sigurdsson led some quick counters to get the score to 7-11, a lead they stretched to 8-13 soon after, before Zagreb narrowed the gap just before the break at 10-14.
Pascual stayed faithful to his lack of reliance on rotations, and his second half was focused on making good use of Karabatic, Víctor Tomás, Sigurdsson, Sorhaindo and Noddesbo. But we had yet to see the best of Zagreb, and egged on by the home crowd, they started edging their way back. Stepancic, who ended with 9 goals, led the way and by the final minute, Barça’s lead had been cut to one (23-24). Saric produced a fine save with his foot to prevent a draw and immediately after Víctor Tomás grabbed a late score that means Barça get a two-goal head start when it all starts again, this time at the Palau, on Saturday 18 April at 6.30pm CET.