- After back-to-back penalty shootout wins – in the quarter’s (vs Italy) and semi’s (vs Hungary) – Serbia clinched the LEN European Men’s U19 Water Polo title in regular time against Spain.
- The final was no less thrilling than their previous encounters with the decisive goal coming two minutes from time.
- Spain had to settle for the silver for the sixth time since the inaugural 1970 championship.
- The bronze went to Hungary who beat Greece convincingly.
- MVP: Vasilije Martinovic (SRB); Best GK: Alejandro Alegre Lopez (ESP); Best Scorer: Nikolaos Gkillas (GRE).
Gold medal final: Serbia 9-8 Spain.
Bronze medal final: Hungary 10-7 Greece.
Places 5-6th: Italy 11-14 Croatia.
Places 7-8th: Germany 12-13 Montenegro.
After missing the podium in 2018 – and seeing the event cancelled in 2020, Serbia finally reclaimed the throne they previously occupied in 2014 and 2016.
In the final, Spain took the lead and the Serbs needed almost six minutes to score their first but then quickly added another to go 2-1 ahead with eight minutes played. Soon they doubled the gap and still retained their 4-2 deep into the third, but the Spaniards levelled the score in 47 seconds while the Serbs’ captain Vasilije Martinovic got his second exclusion.
His team-mates did not panic though and Nikola Kojic scored in the very last second of the first half for 5-4.
Again, the Serbs managed to reset the two-goal difference twice, however, Spain would come back to even again, two man-up goals in two minutes were enough to make it 7-7, while the Serbs missed two extras in this period.
Not in the fourth, though, Aleksandar Kovacevic put away a 6 on 5 after a minute. Despite missing their next man-up, Spain could equalise, Gerard Gil sent the ball home from action for 8-8.
With 3:24 on the clock, the Serbian head coach Uros Stevanovic, who’s passion and impulsiveness can be key to his team’s success, received a red card – not for the first time in his career.
That appeared to give his players even greater motivation and Martinovic sent a brilliant bouncer from the wing under the bar in an extra, with 2:03 on the clock for 9-8.
It was Spain’s turn, but even after a time-out they were unable to overplay the super-intensive defence of the Serbs and the goalie could make an easy catch to deny them in the fourth straight man-down.
The Spaniards had one more possession and managed to launch a counter-like attack but the finish was poor from the left side. The Serbs retained the ball in the last half a minute and could start their celebrations together – with many supporters coming over to the neighbourhood.
In the bronze medal match, Hungary earned some consolation with a hard-fought win over Greece.
The Magyars took a 2-1 lead after eight minutes, the Greeks hit back with three connecting goals early in the second to go 2-4 up.
Then came a crucial phase as the Hungarians regrouped themselves and after coming back to even by half-time, they added three more in the third to stage a 6-1 run.
After falling back to 8-5, the Greeks had desperate attempts but were unable to cut the gap to one goal at any stage. With 59 seconds to go, Erik Molnar – silver medallist with the senior team two weeks ago in Split – put away an extra to close down the contest.
Croatia built a massive lead in the second period of the game played for the fifth place, and once they were 4-8 up, they never let the Italians back to the match.
Host Montenegro closed their campaign with a win over Germany. It was a thriller as the home side blew a five-goal lead, but David Stevovic netted the winner 1:30 from time.
1. Serbia, 2. Spain, 3. Hungary, 4. Greece, 5. Croatia, 6. Italy, 7. Montenegro, 8. Germany, 9. Netherlands, 10. Malta, 11. France, 12. Georgia, 13. Turkiye, 14. Romania, 15. Czech Republic, 16. Slovakia.