Romania knocks out Georgia to join top eight alongside Greece

Credit: European Aquatics

Romania got back to the top-flight after ten long years. They came up with a brilliant performance to thrash top division side Georgia and this win also sent them to Doha for the World Championships. Greece did a clean job to book its spot in the quarters by eliminating the Netherlands.

Crossovers: Greece v Netherlands 15-10, Georgia v Romania 11-18
For places 13-16th: Slovakia v Israel 15-9, Slovenia v Malta 10-8

Quarter-finals (Friday): Hungary v Serbia (15.00), Spain v Romania (16.30), Croatia v Greece (18.30), Italy v Montenegro (20.15)

Credit: European Aquatics

The big match of the day came in the evening in Zagreb between Georgia and Romania.

It had high stakes: a place in the quarters as well as in the first division at the next edition, but ultimately a World Championship berth for February in Doha.

Since Croatia and Montenegro booked their respective spots in the quarters, the two strongest ‘yet-ot-qualify’ sides ticked the Doha challenge.

The Netherlands bowed to Greece (see below), so the third European spot came down to the battle of the Georgians and the Romanians.

And the Romanians staged a stunning start, they stormed to a 0-4 lead in the first period, thanks to fine man-up plays and action shots from the perimeter and Marius-Florian Tic’s great saves – prompting an emergency time-out from the rivals’ bench.

It was rather Goddess Fortuna who helped the Georgians to break the ice as they could force a penalty from a lucky rebound to open their account after 6:37 minutes.

Credit: European Aquatics

Still, Vlad Georgescu replied immediately from a man-up for 1-5 which looked more than fine from a Division Two challenger.

And it went on, the Georgians just thought to have survived a man-down when Silvian Colodrovschi netted a brilliant one from the centre for 1-6.

Another penalty goal, by Nika Shushiashvili, then Dusan Vasic’s hit from a 6 on 4 kept the Georgians’ hopes alive.

The Romanians bounced back with Levente Vancsik’s fast man-up goal, followed by another 6 on 5 finish after a single pass, by Andrei Neamtu, so they seemed to have overcome their minor lapse at 3-8.

The Georgians wasted back-to-back extras, while Georgescu made water polo look quite easy as he sent the ball to the net with a great wristshot from the perimeter.

Soon it was 3-10 – another missed 6 on 5 from the Georgians, while Colodrovschi could put away even a dying man-up at the opposite end.

Andria Bitadze pulled one back finally, 6sec before the buzzer, still, Georgia was anywhere but close to win this game at 4-10.

David Belenyesi sent the ball through the arms, seconds after their 6 on 5 expired, then he hit another one, from 8m, in the dying seconds of their next possession for 4-12, while Georgian attacks were yet to start clicking.

Their following two extras landed in the net, though, and there were still three minutes to play in the third.

The next attack was tumultuous, at one stage the Romanians were 6 on 4, still almost lost the ball, then after recovering it, Georgescu sent it back to the net from 8m with 0:02 on the shotclock, probably it was the most important of his four goals so far as it halted the Georgians comeback and gave Romania a 6-13 lead heading into the fourth.

In a span of 43 seconds, the Romanians sealed their victory by adding two more – triggering a minor scoring feast in the last period with five goals apiece.

Anyway, it was a stylish way to return to the top eight for the first time since 2014, and to join the World Championships field in Doha too.

Credit: European Aquatics

As for the other crossover match in Zagreb, it was kind of obvious from the beginning that Greece would win this match – only the quality of the road leading towards their goal was in question.

Well, the Dutch made it as bumpy as possible and the Greeks’ level of concentration wasn’t on top either, at least not constantly.

When they hit their first three and seemed to have taken control, the Dutch replied with a double in a span of 27 seconds, so the Greeks could restart the whole process.

They managed to reset the two-goal gap with two fine goals still in the first for 5-3.

Then in two minutes or so they doubled the gap to make it 8-4, but needed four more minutes to net their next one for 9-4.

It was a commanding lead and the Greek held on for 11-6 early in the third.

Credit: European Aquatics

Their offence was down for painfully long minutes, while Kas Te Riele’s brilliant one-timer and Jesse Nispeling’s action goal brought them back to 11-8 and they had a couple of possessions to further cut the gap.

The promising counters were gone due to bad passes and at the end Dimitrios Skoumpakis put away a man-up for 12-8 to end their 5:33min long drought in front of goal.

In the fourth, the Greeks managed to maintain the safe distance and as the Dutch lost steam towards the end – an inevitable outcome when full pros meet semi-professionals – still, it never turned into a KO as their rivals fought hard and found the way to score a couple of more goals.

Credit: European Aquatics

Teams finishing third and fourth respectively in Division Two were ‘summoned’ to Dubrovnik to play out the ranks 13-16th.

Slovakia and Israel staged a no-limit shooting contest, in 32 minutes players let the ball fly 66 times (35-31), though precision was on the Slovaks’ side.

Especially in the third period when a 4-0 rush decided the battle, leaving the fourth period for the ultimate fireworks with ten goals, including five in the last 130 seconds.

Malta, meanwhile, threw everything at Slovenia in their 13th-16th classification semifinal, but came up against inspired goalkeeper Jure Beton, who saved 16 from 24 to deny them time and time again.

Aljaz Troppan fired in four goals before halftime to help edge Slovenia 6-5 in front, and from there they never gave up the lead, even opening up a four-goal gap late in the fourth (10-6).

Malta did score the last two goals of the game, including Jayden Cutajar’s fourth of the contest, but by then the match was lost.