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14 July 2019 | in Water Polo

Italy thrash USA to win Waterpolo and end Universiade in style

NAPOLI, 14 July - Italy secured a stunning gold medal in the men’s water polo today at a packed Piscina Scandone as they beat USA 18-7, bringing an end to a successful two weeks of sporting action for the host nation.

Italy started the game much brighter than their opponents and ended the first quarter with a 4-1 lead. The early dominance from the host nation continued into the second quarter, and they went into the halfway stage with a 7-3 advantage.

 

The third quarter produced more of the same as the Italians extended their lead by scoring three and conceding just one goal, before giving the home crowd further reason to celebrate by running riot and adding eight more goals in the final quarter. USA added three of their own, but by that stage a miraculous comeback was simply too much to ask of them.

 

“I feel very good,” said gold medal winning captain Umberto Esposito. “It’s a very important competition for us.”

 

“It was very important to win in front of our supporters.

 

“It was very emotional.”

 

Italy were perhaps slight favourites heading into the final having eased through the last two rounds, beating Russia 14-6 in yesterday’s semifinals and defeating France 15-9 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. USA meanwhile were forced to battle right until the very end in their 12-9 semifinal victory over Hungary and their 12-11 quarterfinal win against Croatia.

 

Piscina Scandone also hosted the men’s bronze medal match earlier this morning, and it was a 10-10 thriller between Russia and Hungary, with Hungary then coming out on top in an epic 13-12 penalty shootout victory.

 

The finals today not only witnessed the ending of the Water Polo, but also the ending of all sporting activity at the 2019 Napoli Universiade, with the closing ceremony at Stadio San Paolo officially bringing the event to a close later this evening.

 

Results – Men’s Water Polo

Gold: Italy

Silver: USA

Bronze: Hungary

 

Garda strikes three times to break hosts' hearts

 

NAPOLI, July 13 - Krisztina Garda struck three times as Hungary beat Italy 8-7 to win the gold medal in the women's waterpolo at Napoli 2019 on Saturday. The host nation made a confident start, winning the opening sprint and getting the ball forward quickly for Agnese Cocchiere to put them in front.

Serena Storai had them 2-0 up shortly after with a diagonal shot into Alexandra Kiss's goal. But the Hungarians did not panic. Kiss produced some good saves to help steady their nerves and Orsolya Hertzka got them on the board with a shot to the left-hand corner.

  

Garda then unleashed a rocket to level the scores and briefly quieten the noisy home crowd. Giulia Millo put Italy back in front with a cute lob over Kiss into the corner only for Garda to fire into the top left from some way out to restore parity.

  

Garda went on to put the Hungarians in front for the first time in the match, converting a penalty early in the second quarter. Sara Centanni then equalised for the hosts with an effort that took a deflection on the way into the net. But Gerda Brezovszki produced a fine skip-bounce shot to give Hungary a 5-4 lead at half-time.

  

Centanni levelled again with a thunderbolt from a distance at the start of the third period. That was followed by a scoreless spell in which both goalkeepers worked hard. Hungary's Alexa Gemes climbed high out of the water and fired home to end that stalemate.

  

The Italians were unlucky all night, with 10 shots hitting the bar or the post, including a penalty attempt by Chiara Ranalli that would have made it 6-6.

  

Instead, Alexa Gemes extended Hungary's lead with a well-placed shot that beat the reach of Italy goalkeeper and captain Fabiana Sparano.  

 

Things got tense at the start of the final period, with Hungary's coach sent to the stands after a row with officials. That did not stop Orsolya Hertzka putting them 8-5 up with a bounce shot.

The Italians rallied to set up a thrilling finale. Cocchiere scored from close range after a smart assist by Centanni and Millo trimmed the lead back to a point with a shot from the right into the far corner. But the Hungarians hung on to claim victory.

 

Earlier on Saturday, Russia thrashed Canada 22-7 to claim the bronze medal.

 

Italy still have a chance of a waterpolo gold as their men face the United States in the last final of the 30th Summer Universiade on Sunday.

 

Paul Virgo @ ANSA