Two matches against major competitors in the group have resulted in two draws for Serbia. The gold medal favourites needed another comeback, this time to force a draw against Greece who led by 1-5 and even 6-8 in the final quarter but still had to settle for the 9-9 final score. In fact the equaliser was scored by Ioannis Fountoulis who hit another shot from the left wing on man-up with 1.47 remaining in the match after veteran centre forward Slobodan Nikic had put Serbia in front for the first time in the match 9-8 at the 2.23 mark.
Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Monday, August 8 – day 2
Serbia vs. Greece 9-9 (1-2, 0-2, 4-3, 4-2)
Serbia scorers: Filipovic 2, Gocic, Cuk, Nikic, Aleksic, Jaksic, Prlainovic, S. Mitrovic.
Greece scorers: Fountoulis 4, Vlachopoulos 2, Genidounias, Pontikeas, Kolomvos.
It was another tough one for the Serbs who faced a Greek side ready to play already in the early morning opening the action on day 2 of the water polo competition in Rio. Serbia was off to a slow start and Greece took advantage in the first half which was closed with a 1-4 lead. The feared extra-man play by the Greek, one of the best in the game, could not be defended by Serbia who also saw things getting worse when outside shots by Fountoulis and Konstantinos Genidounias in the third quarter starting to fall.
But not for the first time it looked as if Serbia gets the best out of themselves when falling behind. Slowly but surely they started to extend their grip on the match. Especially because of shots on offence which finally hit target. Two strikes on man-up and a beautiful action lob goal by Filip Filipovic (top scorer) got the Serbs back to trailing 5-7 and eventually 5-7 at the end of the third after Vlachopoulos surprised Serbia goalie Branislav Mitrovic with 8 seconds remaining.
The momentum had easily could have turned in favour of Greece again but Serbia hung on thanks to an early cross cage goal by captain Zivko Gocic who was left open on a counter on the right wing. Christodoulos Kolomvos was there to respond for Greece on a man-up from the post but then Serbia struck by scoring twice in a row finally levelling the score. First Milan Aleksic released one of his trademark well-covered shots from outside on a 6-on-5 and a minute later, Milos Cuk finished off an extra man possession from the left wing, when the Greek defence left him open for the 8-8 score. A complete turnaround looked in the making when Slobodan Nikic scored a nice backhand with 2.23 remaining as Serbia got in front 9-8. But Greece showed resilience. In the very next possession another extra man was earned and Fountoulis (4 goals) struck once more from the left wing, as Alexandros Gounas was on the bench for the entire quarter, scoring to level the score at 9-9 with 1.47 to go.
Serbia was close to scoring the winner but when Dusko Pijetlovic came out open in front of Greece goalkeeper Flegkas, US referee Joe Peila called a turnover foul on Andrija Prlainovic was allegedly holding a defender. It proved the final chance as neither side could score and the teams had to settle for the draw which put Serbia in need of points to live up to their favourite status. Another test follows on Wednesday when hosts Brazil are the opponent, this time in the evening (19.30 local time) after now two morning games. Greece will face Hungary in another group A top match-up on Wednesday.
Italy vs. France 11-8 (4-3, 4-1, 1-2, 2-2)
Italy scorers: Aicardi 4, Figlioli 2, C. Presciutti 2, Di Fulvio, Bodegas, Velotto.
France scorers: Kovacevic 2, Simon 2, Blary 2, Tomasevic, Crousillat.
A solid outing by Italy who came back from the tough win over Spain on day 1 by adding their second victory on Monday beating France 11-8. Perhaps not the best shooting game, especially by the French, where Michal Izdinsky, Mehdi Marzouki and Alexandre Camaras remained scoreless in tough shooting performances, but thanks to a strong 2nd quarter the Italians grabbed control and held on for the win. Centre forward Matteo Aicardi, who wore a protective mask playing with a broken nose which he suffered in the match vs. Spain responded well by scoring a game-high 4 goals (shooting 4 for 5) in the win. Michaël Bodegas, playing against his former team-mates, contributed 1 goal for the Italians. In that almost decisive 2nd-quarter run Aicardi hit twice as Italy led 8-4 at half-time. France scored a pair of consecutive goals in the following period but again Aicardi was there to get back the comfortable 3-goal lead from the centre position: 9-6. Italy’s therewith looked secure as the Sandro Campagna coached side now leads group B and is off to a great start of the tournament while France remains pointless after 2 rounds facing USA in game 3 on Wednesday. Italy take on Montenegro in the following encounter that same day.
USA vs. Spain 9-10 (2-4, 3-1, 2-3, 2-2)
USA scorers: Bonanni 4, Bowen 3, Azevedo, Cupido.
Spain scorers: Echenique 3, Molina 2, Español 2, Munarriz 2, Mallarach.
Spain and USA had the tough task to turn things around after their day 1 defeat. The Spaniards were off to a better start thanks to Gonzalo Echenique who was leading the 1996 Olympic champions with 3 consecutive goals. The Americans used long-distance shots to stay close, but were trailing 2-4 after the first 8 minutes.
The Dejan Udovicic coached side used the second period to improve on defence, and goalkeeper Merill Moses was leading their effort with good goalkeeping, while Brat Bonani was in shooting form in attack. USA managed to climb back and tie 5-5 at half time, even going up in the third, leading for the first time 7-6, before the Gabriel Fernandez coached side found its rhythm again and got back ahead 8-7.
In the third quarter Echeniqe was sent off after hitting his opponent with an open palm, and that trend continued until the end of the match with a couple of red cards, mostly due to hitting. Despite of losing a few players Spain still had players able to lead them to victory. Guillermo Molina and Albert Español used their offensive quality and experience to make their team prevail. On other side Bonanni was the leading scorer followed by Alex Bowen who both had nice shooting games.
By: Srdjan Tomic.
Hungary vs. Australia 9-9 (4-3, 2-2, 1-3, 2-1)
Hungary scorers: Vamos 2, Harai 2, De. Varga 2, Manhercz, Szivos, Erdelyi.
Australia scorers: Campbell 4, Roach, Swift, Ford, Kayes, Cotterill.
After Serbia didn’t manage to bounce back from the opening day draw, Hungary couldn’t get it either. A tough match against Australia ended up in a 9-9 tie after a late hit by Johno Cotterill from the left side. A deserved point for an Aussie Sharks side that lived up to the test of playing one of the group favourites. The shooting by Richie Campbell (4 goals) who was feeling it from outside, combined with Australia’s defence that initially had all trouble with especially Balazs Harai, but improved along the way, caused Hungary to play a clearly tough match.
After a close start the Hungarians in the second and early third quarter got away to leading by 2 goals. Not before Richie Campbell took over scoring twice in a row to level the score at 7-7 only to see team-mate Joe Kayes at the centre forward position finishing off a nice passing game by the Aussies for the lead 7-8 with 2.44 to play in the third term. Both defences turned up in the final period as the game was heading for a close finish. First to strike was Hungary captain Denes Varga who surprised Sharks goalie James Stanton-French with a so called donut (shot above the head). Both teams were held far away from the goal in the remaining minutes which saw several long-distance shots in the final seconds of the shot clock. Breaking the deadlock was Hungary. After both Norbert Hosnyanszky and Aidan Roach had hit the post on shot attempts, Balazs Erdelyi finished an extra man situation late following a Richie Campbell exclusion. His strike from the left wing not only put Hungary up 9-8 but also in the driver’s seat towards what could have been their first win as just 1.51 were to be played in the game. Australia tried hard to force the equaliser but had trouble creating good opportunities, as the Hungarian defence looked rock solid while the Aussies got more and more fatigued.
The equaliser eventually came, in striking fashion, and perhaps showed Hungary’s tough afternoon. Johno Cotterill launched an almost desperation shot from the left wing on the end of the attack which somehow got past Hungary goalie Attila Decker under his arms with just 26 seconds remaining. A perhaps somewhat lucky but deserved equaliser and huge disappointment for the Hungarians who had hoped to have come away with the close win. A busy final attack followed where tensions flew at the end but all in vain as goalie Stanton-French saved 2 shots attempts by Daniel Varga to secure the point for Australia who can keep their hopes of quarterfinals qualification alive, especially since group favourites Serbia and Hungary collected just two points after two rounds of play.
On top of that the performance by the Elvis Fatovic coached side was promising and showed the team’s ability to bounce back from their tough opening day loss to Brazil. Next up for Australia is Japan on Wednesday early morning while Hungary is up in the second match of the day facing Greece.
Japan vs. Brazil 8-16 (2-5, 1-3, 4-4, 1-4)
Japan scorers: Shiga 2, Takei 2, Okawa 2, Arai, Adachi.
Brazil scorers: Vrlic 5, Perrone 4, Gomes 2, Delgado 2, Silva, Salemi, Guimarães.
A clear win for the host nation that was never in doubt after the start of the match. The Brazilians were ready to play and deal with the odd way of system executed by Japan who played pressing all over the field resulting in unusual situations of just two or three brazilians in attack and the ball on numerous ocassions being thrown across the pool from back to front where Felipe Perrone and Josip Vrlic had the times of their lives. They could often play 1-on-1 duels and combined for 9 goals in the 8-16 win; the second victory already for the Ratko Rudic coached side. Japan meanwhile again were relying on their counter attack swimming, most dangerous after man-down situations in which the whole Brazilian team was in front of their goal. In set play the team just could not come through as experienced Brazil goalkeeper Slobodan Soro again proved a reliable stop on goal. After a high-scoring third period in which Brazil got sloppy they were back at it in the final term walking away to the comfortable 8-goal victory.
Croatia vs. Montenegro 8-7 (2-2, 2-1, 1-2, 3-2)
Croatia scorers: Loncar 2, Sukno 2, Bukic 2, Buric, Jokovic.
Montenegro scorers: Janovic 2, Da. Brguljan 2, Ivovic, Petrovic, Dr. Brguljan.
They came in front twice in crunch time, but the third attempt was decisive. Luka Bukic scored the winning goal for Croatia with just 8 seconds remaining in a close battle with Montenegro that was won 8-7. It came only after Maro Jokovic and Luka Loncar had put Croatia up ahead twice in a close final period, that was typical for the close encounter these two group favourites played concluding day 2 of Rio 2016 water polo. However Montenegro veterans Drasko Brguljan (6-6) and Mladjan Janovic (7-7) were there to respond. The final two minutes went by without exclusions before Sandro Sukno received one with 49 seconds remaining. The ultimate chance for Montenegro but Janovic saw his shot attempt deflected and miss target as the clock was ticking. In the next (counter)attack Croatia struck and got away with the win thanks to youngster Bukic, son of two-time Olympic champion Perica, who scored his 2nd of the game giving Croatia the hard-fought win. With two out of two the Croats are off to a great start in the tight group B while Montenegro remains with one victory and will face Italy on Wednesday. Croatia takes on Spain that same day in the final match.
Tuesday, August 9 – day 3
09.00: China vs. Hungary – women
10.20: Italy vs. Brazil – women
11.40: Spain vs. USA – women
13.00: Russia vs. Australia – women
Wednesday, August 10 – day 4
09.00: Australia vs. Japan – men
10.20: Greece vs. Hungary – men
11.40: France vs. USA – men
13.00: Montenegro vs. Italy – men
19.30: Brazil vs. Serbia – men
20.50: Spain vs. Croatia – men
N.b.: Time mentioned is local time (UTC/GMT – 3 hours)