Alexa

US, Hungary meet for gold in men's water polo

US, Hungary meet for gold in men's water polo

Goalkeeper Merrill Moses stopped 16 shots Friday to carry the U.S. men's water polo team to a 10-5 victory over Serbia in the Olympic water polo semifinals.
The Americans continued their improbable run in Beijing and advanced to the gold medal game for the first time since 1988. They will play two-time defending gold medalist Hungary in the final Sunday.
The Hungarians beat Montenegro 11-9 in the other semifinal.
"It's hard to describe in words what it feels like," U.S. player Jeff Powers said. "You set goals and once you reach that goal, you've got to keep going, right? The new goal is a gold medal. Let's go get it. Let's change history."
The Americans came to Beijing ranked ninth in the world, and few gave them much of a chance of bringing home a medal. But behind Tony Azevedo's scoring and Moses' goaltending, the Americans upset world No. 1 Croatia to win their group and pulled another surprise against Serbia.
The match was tied 4-4 late in the first half, but Ryan Bailey's first of two goals gave the U.S. the lead going into halftime. Bailey and Azevedo each scored on power plays in the third, staking the Americans to a 7-4 lead they would never relinquish.
The Serbs looked sluggish the rest of the way. Part of it was having to play short-handed after center forward Zivko Gocic injured his hand early and part of it was frustration from having little luck against Moses.
Moses turned aside long-range screamers, deflected skip shots from every angle and even batted down a few from point-blank range.
"I knew I had to play the game of my life to keep us in this," Moses said. "It's my best game as of yet. But there's more to come. You'll see."
Azevedo's goal from the 2-meter area made it 8-5 with 4:04 to play, then Rick Merlo added a power-play goal a minute later.
Powers turned it into a laugher when his overhand shot with no time on the shot clock skipped by Denis Sefik and into the back of the net.
Moses stopped several more shots in the closing minutes, celebrating each with a scream that echoed through Yingdong Natatorium. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, he started splashing furiously in the pool and celebrating with teammates.
"He played amazing," Powers said. "He's played amazing the whole tournament. Merrill is coming up with some huge saves on his own. He's making the saves when they matter. He's playing fantastic."
Hungary, the only country still unbeaten in the 12-team field, started slow against Montenegro, falling behind 6-3 in the second quarter.
But coach Denes Kemeny switched goalkeepers and it turned out to be the move of the game. With backup Istvan Gergely stopping almost every shot _ including a penalty shot with about 4 minutes to play _ Hungary outscored Montenegro 8-3 over the final 2 1/2 quarters.
Gergely Kiss led the Hungarians with three goals. Norbert Madaras added two.