As with Group A, there was a three-way tie for second place. Georgia upset Serbia 23-22 in an elongated, sudden-death penalty shootout after the score was tied at 11 after full time. And Montenegro, fourth on the ladder, beat second-ranked Greece 8-7. Greece, Serbia and Montenegro had nine points each and in the three-way tiebreaker, Greece was lucky to survive as Montenegro needed to win by two goals for advancement, and Serbia’s one point for the shootout loss was instrumental in clinching third spot from Montenegro and the last group berth for the finals in Los Angeles. Spain had already finished top of the group the day before.
Georgia ecstatic with sudden-death-shootout victory
GEORGIA 23 SERBIA 22 in sudden-death penalty shootout (FT: 11-11. Pens: 12-11).
Georgia was out to make a statement in its final match. With no hope of making the Los Angeles finals, Georgia decided to go all out and led 4-2 at the quarter, 6-5 at halftime and allowed Serbia to level at eight by the last break. Serbia gained its first lead through Strahinja Rasovic from the penalty line to start the final eight minutes. It became 9-9 and then 11-9 in Serbia’s favour as Dusan Mandic for his third and Marko Radulovic lifted the margin to 11-9 at 2:32. Dusan Vasic pulled one back on extra at 2:00 and Andria Bitadze was given the easiest of cross passes at centre forward to score with his defender trailing. Georgia made two big saves in those dying moments and Serbia gained a steal, but the match was tied and sent to a shootout. What a shootout this was for the small crowd who arrived early for the Montenegro encounter, with Mandic having his first shot blocked and Nika Shushiashvili closing the 10-shot rotation with a blast into the right arm of the goalkeeper. Sudden death then prevailed with 14 consecutive shots penetrating the goalmouths. It was Djordje Vucinic, with three goals and a penalty shot that hit the post in regular time, who had his attempt blocked, leaving Revaz Inaishvili to convert his third shootout chance and give an historic victory to Georgia.
Marko Jelaca took out top honours for Georgia with his three penalty-shootout conversions. His beaming smile and kind words at the presentation spoke volumes for he and his team.
Vucinic’s pair that wrested control of the match for Serbia early in the third period; the two goals to go ahead 11-9 in the last and Georgia’s two goals in the final two minutes of regular play to force the shootout.
Stats don’t lie
The three missed penalty shots by Serbia, despite having an excellent extra-man count at six from eight while Georgia managed just three from 10.
Georgia is working hard at being a top liner in world water polo and proved today that it can beat the best. After all, Serbia is the reigning Olympic champion. The victory gave Georgia a second victory after downing Australia in a one-goal thriller earlier in the week. Serbia gained what it wanted from the tournament — qualification for the finals.
Montenegro holds on to beat second-ranked Greece
MONTENEGRO 8 GREECE 7
Montenegro needed to win by two to make the finals, but fell just the one goal short. Greece had survived in a match that was tied to all the numbers until six. Each team had to come back three times. After Greek captain Ioannis Fountoulis converted a penalty to start the third quarter, Vasilije Radovic on the right post and Dusan Matkovic from the right-hand-catch position took Montenegro back into the lead — 7-6. It was 3:59 and neither side could score before the final break. Aljosa Macic set the crowd alight with the bonus second goal, coming from a close pass to centre forward at 7:36, however, there was still plenty of time for Greece to spoil the pot. Montenegro took a timeout at 4:12 and nothing came of that. Then Konstantinos Genidounias was allowed to walk into the four-metre line to score at 2:21, which proved enough for Greece to advance and Montenegro to stay at home. Greece had two shots saved and one miss in those final exchanges as it tried to force the shootout and secure a finals berth. Neither team could capitalise and while the Montenegrin crowd was happy, there was a tinge of sadness, as well.
Montenegrin captain Petar Tesanovic (pictured above) was inspirational in goal, making 14 saves to win the match award. Seven of his team-mates made the scorers’ list. Greece’s Fountoulis netted three in another excellent tournament for him and his team.
Greece coming from 4-3 behind to 5-4 ahead, but it was really breaking the 6-all shackles to go 8-6 ahead, that gave Montenegro victory.
Stats don’t lie
Montenegro took less shots (24-28); one less penalty goal (1-2) but had the better of the extra-man count at four from 10 while Greece hit four from 14. Montenegro turned the ball over twice more (12-10) and the saves by Tesanovic were the difference.
Greece has the better chance of going further in the competition. However, Montenegro’s three wins from five matches was commendable and bodes well for an excellent showing at the World Aquatics World Championships later this year.
Final Group B points:
Spain 13, Greece 9, Serbia 9, Montenegro 9, Georgia 5, Australia 0.