No hiccups in the men’s eight-finals so far
Nations of the former Yugoslavia made full progress in the eight-finals, Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro all passed the first serious test with ease, just as Spain. The Netherlands demonstrated their strength against the Russians in the women’s tournament and clinched the top spot in Group A.
The favourites didn’t have any scares in the eight-finals, though Serbia played a much closer match with Slovakia then expected: in fact, it was tighter than their World Championships final against Croatia last year or the opening game here in Belgrade. Just as in their last encounter in the prelims, the Serbs struggled in the first period, while the Slovaks fought bravely and held them on 3-3.
Two goals in 62 seconds from Milan Aleksic put the hosts back on the right track but they were far from their overwhelming form. Still, a couple of more goals for an 8-4 lead by the middle of the third period secured their win. Their offence was a bit off the pace and the target but their defence still worked on the preferred level: after conceding three goals in the first quarter they let only two more in the remaining 24 minutes and the title-holders won 10-5.
The Montenegrins set the pace early, rushing to a 6-3 lead in eight minutes against France then took special care on their energy reserves. They netted only 5 more goals till the end of the game but defended well enough to avoid any scares (11-6). Worth noting Nikola Vukcevic’s effort: scored 4 from 4 shots.
Croatia did a clean job against the Netherlands: even though the Dutch took the lead, four connecting goals paved the way for the Olympic champions to the quarters. They progressed step-by-step, in the third they were 11-4 up already. The courageous Dutch climbed back a bit to 12-8 but four more goals sealed the Croats’ well-deserved victory (16-9). Sandro Sukno enjoyed a good spell this evening with 5 hits.
Perhaps Spain enjoyed the easiest cruise this day, against Malta. However, the championships’ newcomers fought hard, only trailed 3-1 after eight minutes and were 6-1 down at half-time. A 7-1 whirlwind blew them away soon in the third, but the fourth was even so Malta could leave the pool with heads held high: they conceded less goals here than in any of their matches in the prelims.
In the women’s tournament the Netherlands held a breathtaking demonstration of power, precision as well as offered a fine teaser of the beauties of women water polo. And they did that against the group’s other unbeaten side, Russia. By the middle of the second the 2014 runners-up already built a massive 3-8 lead and didn’t look back: at the end they hammered their rivals (7-14), Lieke Klaassen played superbly and scored five goals. This triumph secured the Dutch top spot in the group.
Hungary is in the hunt for the second place, it will come down to the game against Russia in the last round. The Magyar women gave a flawless performance against Portugal, earning their second ever shutout win at the Europeans (25-0, the first was in 1991 against Greece). Barbara Bujka and Hanna Kisteleki netted 4 goals apiece while poor Portuguese goalie Janete Souse started crying in the middle break and after the conclusion of the match…
The Turks could be a bit happier: even though the Greeks soundly beat them and secured their quarter-final berth (28-3, Alexandra Asimaki led the charge with 6 goals), after scoring a single goal in their first three matches now they managed to net three goals. Their best player, Kubra Kus finally found the back of the net: after 21 missed shots in the first three rounds she added 10 more attempts but scored twice at last.
Results, Day 7
Spain v Malta 14-3, Montenegro v Turkey 11-6, Serbia v Slovakia 10-5, Croatia v Netherlands 16-9
Russia v Netherlands 7-14, Portugal v Hungary 0-25, Greece v Turkey 28-3
1. Netherlands 12, 2. Hungary 9, 3. Russia 9, 4. Greece 6, 5. Portugal 0, 6. Turkey 0
Press release from LEN
Images courtesy of Giorgio Scala / deepbluemedia