Water polo (M) day 1 - Serbia breaks Hungarian streak of 18 Olympic victories

London 2012 Water Polo

Hungary's hoped of winning a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal were dealt a blow when they lost to European Champions Serbia in the opening round of men's water polo competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games Water Polo Arena. Olympic champions Hungary suffered their first defeat in 18 Olympic matches by losing to Serbia, 14-10. It was at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games that Hungary was last defeated in an Olympic match, falling to Yugoslavia in the preliminary rounds.  

The Serbian players stamped their authority on today's game, putting Hungary and the world on notice of their intentions to compete for the Olympic gold medal. Playing with passion and purpose the Serbs turned a 2-2 opening quarter into a 5-3 half time lead. Daniel Varga (HUN) evened the score at 3-3 at two minutes into the second period but it would be 11 minutes before Hungary would score its next goal. As in the earlier stages, the third quarter pace was fast and the match was physical as 9 goals were scored, Serbia holding an 11-6 advantage. Serbian centre forward Dusko Pijetlovic was unstoppable, twice evading the Hungarian defenders with speeding bullets from inside two metres. Hungary managed 4 goals in the final quarter, but fell to Serbia in a final score 10-14. Serbian goalkeeper Slobodan Soro made 13 saves. Filip Filipovic said of the Hungarian team, "they are triple Olympic champions, so we were expecting more pressure from their side. We were expecting a tougher offence and defence." 

Croatia beat Greece 8-6 in Group A match

Croatia beat Greece 8-6 in the tournament's opening match. Greece ended the first quarter with a 2-1 lead, but it was tied 3-3 by half time and again after three periods as Evagelos Delakas (GRE) converted an extra man advantage play with only one second left on the clock. Three goals in five minutes in the fourth quarter from Croatian players Niksa Dobud, Miho Boskovic and Sandro Sukno had Greece struggling with 1:28 minutes remaining. A penalty goal by Greek player Ioannis Fountoulis narrowed the margin to two. Nikolaos Deligiannis (GRE) had a sensational first half in goal, making seven spectacular saves to keep Greece in the match. Croatian goalie pulled down 13 shots but Greece's shooting lacked the punch of the Croatians. Croatia was led by assistant coach Elvis Fatovic who was standing in for head coach Ratko Rudic who was serving a one-match suspension drawn at the FINA Super Final in Kazakhstan earlier this month.

Romania defeats Great Britain as both teams make water polo comebacks

Romania beat Great Britain 13-4 in a Group B match of the men's competition. It was a memorable comeback day for the teams as Romania returns to Olympic competition for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games. It was 1956 that a team from Great Britain last competed in an Olympic Games. Both teams made a tentative start but by halftime the Romanian team was in control with Nicolae Diaconu scoring twice from distance to post a 6-1 lead.  

Great Britain's captain Craig Figes took two penalty shots in the first half, converting on his first shot in the opening quarter. He drilled his second shot into the stomach of Romanian goalkeeper Dragos Stoenescu, who finished the match with 17 saves. Diaconu (ROU) scored his third on a counter attack midway through the third period. The goal of the match came off the hard of Tiberiu Negrean (ROU) after a short drive across the front of the goal where he flipped onto his back and tipped the ball back over his head to make it 9-1. Rob Parker (GBR) offered London fans some relief by scoring two goals within a minute to end the third quarter at 9-3. Romania increased the margin 13-3 with Diaconu grabbing his fourth goal and captain Cosmin Radu (ROU) scoring on a backhand goal that rebounded high off the goalkeeper who slapped the ball into the goal. Jack Waller (GBR) scored the final goal for the home team, on an extra man advantage opportunity.  

Great Britain coach Craig Figes said "I was pleased with the performance. We had our chances, they put their chances away, we didn't."

Extra-man masters Italy just too strong for Australia

World Champions Italy proved the masters of extra-man plan beating Australia 8-5 in their Group A match. Six of Italy's eight goals came from six-on-five situations, while Australia scored four action goals and just one from five extra-man attempts. The extra-man play shaped the outcome of the game and Italian players Alex Giorgetti and Maurizio Felugo were masterful in this aspect of the game each scoring twice. Italy led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter and 5-2 by half time. Australia won the third period 1-0.

In a rarity for Italy they were kept scoreless for 13 minutes but fired in two goals for a 7-3 lead with 4:27 remaining in the match. Ironically the seventh goal of the match, also a man up advantage against Australia came from the arm of Pietro Figlioli (ITA) who represented Australia in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. Italian goalkeeper Stefano Tempesti was made to work all match, pulling down 17 saves, although 11 of those were from outside five metres. Joel Dennerley stopped 13 goals for Australia.

Speedy Spanish too good for Kazakhstan

Spain's counter-attaching game and superior speed overpowered Kazakhstan 14-6 in opening day Group A play. Former Brazilian international player Felipe Perrone (ESP) was his team's star as he scored four goals in the first half, twice on the counter, one from seven metres and his fourth after he pounced on teammate Javier Garcia's rebound just one metre from the goal. Spain increased their first quarter superiority (4-2) to 9-3 by halftime.

Perrone opened the second half with a penalty conversion after nearly six minutes of play without a goal. The Spanish team's margin increased to 12-4 at the end of the third quarter although Kazakhstan's Vladimir Ushakov scored his second goal on an extra man advantage. Two of the tournaments oldest players featured in the final quarter: 41 year old Ivan Perez (ESP) scored from two metres; 39 year old Yevgeniy Zhilyayev (KAZ) snapped in an extra man cross shot to make it 13-5. The final goal of the match came from Sergey Gubarev (KAZ) after the exclusion of a Spanish player, his second of the match. Spain converted three of five extra man plays while Kazakhstan managed just one of six. Goalkeeper Vicente Aguilar (ESP) made four saves and Daniel Lopez (ESP) stopped seven as they each played in half of the game. Four time Olympian Nikolay Maximov (KAZ) who won silver and bronze during his tenure with Russia, made nine saves.

USA holds off late Montenegro charge

The United States beat Montenegro 8-7 in a Group B men's match in their first meeting in a major tournament. The experienced USA squad includes 10 members of the team that won a silver medal during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Team USA showed their calm demeanour under extreme pressure in the final period when Montenegro closed the game to one goal on three occasions.

Little separated the teams until five minutes into the second quarter when Layne Beaubien (USA) broke a 2-2 deadlock. A minute later USA's Peter Varellas scored an excellent lob from deep right for a 4-2 half time lead. Vladimir Gojkovic (MNE) left the field of play just before halftime and returned to the team bench early in the third period with a bandage over a cut above his left eye, but he was able to return to the game several minutes later. Montenegro switched goalkeepers bringing in former Serbian goalkeeper Denes Sefik. Drasko Brguljan (MNE) scored an extra-man attack just before Adam Wright (USA) drove down the right and lobbed one at the Montenegro goal to make it 5-3.

Varellas (USA) scored from the top with his left arm to extend their lead to 6-3. Aleksandar Radovic (MNE) brought the score back to 6-4 inside the final minute of the third period. Vjekoslav Paskovic (MNE) closed the margin to one just two minutes into the final quarter. Varellas scored his third goal off a cross pass just minutes later to give the USA a 7-5 advantage. Ivovic claimed his third goal with an overhead shot that caught the goalkeeper by surprise with 2:09 remaining.

USA called a timeout in the final minutes of the game. They returned to play with a goal from USA captain and four time Olympian Tony Azevedo giving his team an 8-6 lead. Montenegro fought back delivering a goal by Gojkovic 11 seconds later. USA lost the ball on the next attack and Montenegro took a time out with 17 seconds remaining in the game. They were unable to get a shot away losing the match 8-7. USA had the better of the extra man statistics scoring two from six while Montenegro could only manage two from eight attempts. A telling statistic was the 31 shots taken by the USA compared to only 18 from Montenegro.

Next round (July 31, 2012):

Hungary - Montenegro (Group B)

Croatia - Spain (Group A)

Australia - Kazakhstan (Group A)

Hungary - Serbia (Group B)

Greece - Italy (Group B)

Serbia - Great Britain (Group B)

USA - Romania (Group B)