Italy breezes through to the quarters, Spain downs Montenegro

Credit: European Aquatics

Italy thrashed Greece and booked their spot in the quarters, while the young Hungarians beat Georgia in an entertaining match on the second day of Division One action at the European Water Polo Championships. Spain brushed off Montenegro’s comeback efforts, while host Croatia stormed to a big win against France.

Group A (Dubrovnik): Montenegro v Spain 12-14, Croatia v France 12-7.
Standings: 1. Croatia 5, 2. Spain 4, 3. Montenegro 2, 4. France 1

Group B (Zagreb): Greece v Italy 8-15, Georgia v Hungary 11-15
Standings: 1. Italy 6, 2. Greece 3, 3. Hungary 3, 4. Georgia 0

Alvaro Granados’ double kicked off the big match of the day in Dubrovnik which gave Spain a 0-2 lead, the Montenegrins got back to even quickly, only to fall back by two shortly before the first break.

It was a fantastic 30m shot from Unai Aguirre who noticed that fellow goalie Petar Tesanovic was looking after Spanish fast-breakers.

Granados opened the second with a blast too, making it 2-5, forcing their rivals into a chasing game – something the Spaniards are very keen to play.

Montenegro pushed hard, they managed to come back to a single goal a couple of times, but at this stage they didn’t have a shot at an equaliser as Spain usually found the way to score, so at half-time it stood 6-8.

Felipe Perrone reset the three-goal gap early in the third, still, the Montenegrins had a better spell, Tesanovic delivered a couple of important saves which let his team stage a real comeback.

With 0:06 to go, Vasilije Radovic’s man-up goal brought them up to 9-10 before the last eight minutes.

And they were back to 10-10 right away in the fourth, Marko Mrsic put away the ball despite the 6 on 5 expired.

Though the Spanish seemed to get into trouble a bit, after a missed man-up Montenegro even had a possession to take the lead, but a distant shot and a post was all they could get out of it.

Then Granados geared up, netted two in 37 seconds and even though the Montenegrins managed to deny a 4 on 6 and score a nice one from action, Roger Tahull’s centre-shot was a party-killer just 22 seconds later.

Aguirre made an easy stop in a man-down and with 1:03 to go, Bernard Sanahuja’s blast put an end to the contest.

Credit: European Aquatics

The evening session was sold-out, as expected, the local fans got everything they paid for, with the exception of similar thrills they had had on the opening day in the match against Spain.

Even though the French caused headaches for the top teams recently, this time they were no match for the hosts.

Two late hits in the first put the match on its desired track (from a local angle, obviously).

The French held on for another four minutes in the second, but a missed 6 on 4, followed by two action goals from the perimeter in 50 seconds by Rino Buric and Ante Vukicevic broke the French team.

Luka Loncar added another one from action for a 6-2 lead shortly before the middle break, then two more came in a minute early in the third for 8-2 and from that point only the gap remained a question.

The hosts’ concentration level dropped a bit in the third, missed a couple of extras but still led 10-5 as the French could barely penetrate their fine defence.

Both sides then netted twice in the final eight minutes, which wasn’t enough to alter the result as the Croatia fans went home happy.

Credit: European Aquatics

The Zagreb Randezvous for the top division produced an unexpected outcome – Italy beating Greece was not surprising, but by seven goals, that was huge.

The Italians didn’t let themselves be bothered by any ‘side-effect’, like a goal annulled and the scorer ejected.

It happened to Edoardo di Somma in the third period, whose hat-trick already opened a four-goal gap in the previous period at 3-7.

The VAR-decision, penalising di Somma for a ‘kick-start’ on an opponent in a counter, didn’t turn the cards, the Greeks missed the man-up to come back to two goals, instead, Gonzalo Echenique hit back from a 6 on 5 to make it 4-8.

And soon it was over as Italy staged a 0-3 rush in 1:40 minutes to go 5-11 up.

Lorenzo Bruni netted a nice one from the centre, followed by Luca Marziali’s last-gasp 6 on 5 hit and Andrea Fondelli’s counter.

The Settebello didn’t stop in the fourth, added three more goals, two within the last 80 seconds to demonstrate strength and commitment.

This seven-goal win practically secured their first place as it would require an incredible effort from the young Hungarians, a five-goal win, to pass them on the ranks.

That would be a mission impossible for even the world champion side.

In the afternoon, Hungary fielded its youngest ever team at a European Championships with an average age of 22.8 – some Italian media outlets already nicknamed them Baby Ungheria – and they simply outpaced the experienced Georgians for most of the game.

Credit: European Aquatics

They dominated the first half, their fast breaks and quick finishes in man-ups left their rivals stranded.

They produced a remarkable piece of stats, despite the eight EWPC rookies in the team, their first 20 shots were all on target – Georgian goalie Irakli Razmadze did a lot to keep his side in the match by the middle of the third.

By that time the Magyars were 12-7 up, even his 18-year-old prodigy Vince Varga fired one in – then they had a lapse in concentration, something you may expect from youngsters and the Georgians could cut the gap to two before the last break, at 13-11.

Still, the interval was enough to make order in the Hungarian backyard – after conceding six in the third, they shut out their rivals for the entire fourth quarter, adding two quicky to secure a fine victory.