Serbia saves Olympics beating Australia

Filip filipovic best european water polo players

The heat is on at the Olympic Games water polo tournament. Day 4 is in progress and the teams are looking to build on good results so far, or to catch the last momentum to advance to the much anticipated quarterfinals.

Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Friday, August 12 – day 6

Hungary vs. Japan 17-7 (5-1, 6-2, 2-2, 4-2)
Hungary scorers: Kis 5, Manhercz 4, De. Varga 3, Vamos, Szivos, Da. Varga, Hosnyanszky, Ad. Decker.

Japan scorers: Takei 3, Arai, Shimizu, Okawa, Kadono.

The Hungarians had to improve on three draws and they did just that in first game of the day beating pointless Japan 17-7, also improving on goal difference which can be crucial for the group A ranking. Strong from the beginning to end, the Tibor Benedek coached team routed Japan almost from the start of the game. Japan managed to stay in race at a score of 1-1 but soon started to trail, as youngster Kristian Manhercz set the tone of the match with 3 goals to wrap up the first quarter with a comfortable 5-1 score. With the winner decided so early in the match, the Hungarians used the opportunity to improve on goal scoring for the most important game ahead. Also it was their first two points of the tournament, now they have 5 before they meet unexpected group leaders Brazil in the last round of the preliminary stage on Sunday.

By: Srdjan Tomic.

Croatia vs. Italy 10-7 (1-1, 4-3, 3-2, 2-1)
Croatia scorers: Sukno 5, Jokovic, Buslje, Setka, Buric.

Italy scorers: Gallo 2, Figlioli, Bodegas, N. Presciutti, Fondelli, Nora.

In the second game of the day  Croatia, with Sandro Sukno on fire, halted the winning streak of Italy with a 10-7 victory which puts them in leading position in group B. The game was decided in the third quarter where Sukno was unstoppable scoring four times to single-handedly brake the resistance of the Italians giving his team a two-goal lead which they held on to and even extended towards the end. The Italians were ahead only once at a 3-2 score, and managed to tie the game at 6- 6 through a Valentino Gallo score on an extra man situation. At that moment the game could go either way, but Sukno had things under control firing at will to build the score and confidence for the Ivica Tucak coached squad.

By: Srdjan Tomic.

USA vs. Montenegro 5-8 (1-2, 0-0, 2-2, 2-4)
USA scorers: Samuels 2, Cupido, Bonanni, Mann.

Montenegro scorers: Da. Brguljan 2, Misic, Paskovic, Klikovac, Janovic, Petrovic, Dr. Brguljan.

The second game of the group B was a crucial one for both Montenegro and USA, as the winner will claim at least 4th place and thus quarterfinal qualification, and the European vice champions kept their chances alive as they emerged victorious in a hard duel 8-5. Decisive moment was in early fourth quarter when Alex Roelse earned a major foul and was sent off, while his team-mates had to play 4 minutes man down as a result of Roelse hitting his opponent. The Americans were trailing a single goal after three nervous and defensive quarters, and had a mountain to climb with a man less in the water.

Opening of the game showed that teams were under pressure because the importance of the game, and after 2-1 for Montenegro in first quarter there were no goals for over 11 minutes before Josh Samuels on an individual effort (dribbling and lob shot) finally broke the deadlock deep in to third period. Montenegro responded immediately through Vjekoslav Paskovic and the game’s rhythm suddenly changed as both sides started to push for goals. John Mann concluded the third period with a nice effort from the center position to bring his team back to a one goal deficit, 3-4 before the final 8 minutes.

A lot of duels and physical play peaked in the beginning of fourth session with both sides believing they can turn on top, and then Roelse made themistake that proved to be a vital one for USA’s Olympic ambitions. A penalty shot was given, even Merrill Moses stopped Mladjan Janovic’ shot. But Montenegro had a ball as a result of a corner, and Janovic made up for it, hitting quickly to restore his self-confidence and the two-goal lead for his team. Still, USA put up a good performance managing to cut the deficit with man down twice, but saw a reply following immediately on both occasions by Montengro who held on for the important victory.

Samuels led the way for USA with 2 goals, while seven Montenegrin players found the backo of the American net with Darko Brguljan leading with two hits. Maybe the most important individual statistic came from goalkeeper Milos Scepanovuic who recorded 13 saves for Montenegro who are now up to 4 points and are playing the last game against Spain while USA is going up against Italy.

By: Srdjan Tomic.

Greece vs. Brazil 9-4 (3-1, 1-1, 3-2, 2-0)
Greece scorers: Fountoulis 2, Dervisis 2, Gounas 2, Genidounias, Delakas, Afroudakis.

Brazil scorers: Silva 2, Perrone, Vrlic.

After their huge upset beating Serbia host nation Brazil could not repeat such a surprise outcome in their next match against Greece. The Greek opened up by quickly establishing a 3-1 lead, extended to 4-1 early in the 2nd period, and there laid the foundation for a 9-4 win while grabbing the lead in group A. The 2-goal lead at half-time was quickly extended to 6-2 midway through the 3rd period and by that time the win was there. The powerful duo of Felipe Perrone and Josip Vrlic for Brazil were held to scoring twice while Greece, counting on a balanced attack with 6 different goal scorers, closed out the match posting two unanswered goals in the final period, by Georgios Dervisis, and a converted penalty shot by Ioannis Fountoulis. Now Greece meet Australia on Sunday while Brazil is to close out that day against Hungary.

Spain vs. France 10-4 (3-1, 3-0, 1-1, 3-2)
Spain scorers: Echenique 3, Molina 2, Mallarach 2, Español, Minguell, Roca.

France scorers: Crousillat 2, Marzouki, Camarasa.

Spain confirmed France’s elimination from the knockout stage of the tournament by beating the French 10-4 in the penultimate match on Friday in the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre. Fueled by a superior performance in the first half the Spaniards looked in control for most of the contest in which Gonzalo Echenique once again earned top scoring honours netting 3 shots. The 6-1 lead at half-time by the Gabi Hernandez coached squad proved decisive. Despite putting up a decent fight the French could not stop the Spanish attack and themselves only started scoring in the second half where the match at least looked more balanced. Goals by Ugo Crousillat (man-up) and captain Alexandre Camarasa (powerful center action) had France playing along with Spain in the final period although the outcome had already been determined. Spain now joins Croatia and Italy on top in group B with the match against Montenegro as the closer of the prelims for them. France, later on Sunday, takes on Croatia.

Serbia vs. Australia 10-8 (2-2, 2-3, 2-1, 4-2)
Serbia scorers: Prlainovic 2, Nikic 2, Aleksic 2, Jaksic, Filipovic, Cuk, D. Pijetlovic.

Australia scorers: Cotterill 2, Campbell, Roach, Younger, Kayes, Howden, Swift.

Serbia saved their Olympics by eliminating Australia in a head-to-head duel for quarterfinal qualification, all assuming that Serbia is to beat still pointless Japan in the final round of the prelims. A nerve-wracking match-up was finally being decided in the last three minutes where the Serbs scored 3 straight goals and broke Australia’s resistance, overcoming an 11-save performance by goalkeeper Joel Dennerley. Serbia, playing a difficult tournament as one of the favourites for gold, saw the tournament on the line ahead of this game. A must-win situation for both sides, which was obvious in the first minutes of the showdown. Goals were exchanged in the opening period but not only the score was levelled (2-2) with the 2nd quarter to begin. It quickly became clear that this one was going to be decided by details, and not many goals. The Aussie Sharks looked determined to snatch this one from the sometimes struggling world champs who however hung on, even when the pair of centre forwards brought Australia to leading 2-4. Milan Aleksic (long distance) and Milos Cuk on a 6-on-5 were there to respond levelling the score once more. A defensive error by Dusko Pijetlovic though, who assumed time had ran out, allowed Rhys Howden to tip in a goal at the buzzer of the 2nd quarter so that the Sharks were in front 4-5 at the start of the 2nd half.

Slowly but surely it became clear that Serbia was going to plan their strategy from focussing more and more on defence. With the attack not nearly being what it was for the past major international tournaments, coach Dejan Savic emphasized even more on the defensive organisation. It worked as Australia got more into trouble of getting open looks to even try for a shot or draw an exclusion. On the other end Milan Aleksic scored his 2nd on a man-up and not much later Andrija Prlainovic succeeded after 4 tries getting past goalie Dennerley on a penalty shot. Richie Campbell however hit from outside to get the Sharks back into it (6-6) in the next attack. The Serbian defence however had set the tone for the final period. Here Prlainovic shot home a beautiful skip shot near corner on a counter attack getting the Serbs in the lead 7-6 early on. It took the Elvis Fatovic coached side a major effort to respond. When Pijetlovic hard defence on Aaron Younger resulted in a personal foul, Johno Cotterill struck from the left wing. By that time though the reigning world and European champions looked in control on defence. Now it became a matter of offensive execution. In crunch time Serbia delivered scoring three consecutive goals. The first was by youngster Nikola Jaksic tipping in a nice no-look pass from Dusan Mandic on man-up, followed by Filip Filipovic finally breaking his drought with a rocket above Dennerley’s head for the 9-7 lead with 1.51 on the clock. The exclamation point was made by Slobodan Nikic who tipped in Serbia’s final goal for the match on a man-up following Joe Kayes’ 3rd personal. A goal by Cotterrill on the other end came too late for the Sharks who saw their medal hopes crushed after a sometimes physical but overall very demanding and tactical match. Now Serbia can claim its spot in the quarters by beating pointless Japan in the final round, on Sunday, where Australia takes on Greece, all in the Olympic Aquatics Stadium where the water polo tournament will resume from then.

Here the Aussies will be going up to beat Greece and hope for the unlikely scenarios of either Japan beating Serbia or Brazil defeating Hungary by 2 goals or more, which would decide the tiebreaker in their favour.

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Saturday, August 13 – day 7

09.00: China vs. Spain – women
10.20: Russia vs. Italy – women
11.40: Australia vs. Brazil – women
13.00: Hungary vs. USA – women

Olympic Aquatics Stadium

Sunday, August 14 – day 8

12.50: Montenegro vs. Spain – men
14.10: Australia vs. Greece – men
15.30: USA vs. Italy – men
16.50: France vs. Croatia – men
19.30: Serbia vs. Japan – men
20.50: Brazil vs. Hungary – men

N.b.: Time mentioned is local time (UTC/GMT – 3 hours)

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