Australia has comfortably beaten Kazakhstan in its final game for Tokyo 2020 in the Men’s Water Polo competition. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.
Red card causes a splash
Rhys Howden won the swim-off and Australia opened the scoring with Tim Putt finding the net from the left wing, his third of the tournament.
With five minutes remaining in the first quarter, the game quickly took a sour turn as Vuksanovic, Kazakhstan’s leading scorer, was sent off, the referee deeming he had some kind of substance on his shoulder, making him slippery and difficult to grab.
The red card meant he was done for the match, not allowed to re-enter the pool at any stage.
It was a strange opening but the Sharks benefited from it greatly as Aaron Younger scored the second goal, putting Australia up 2-0.
Richard Campbell added a third with relative ease and the Aussies were sitting pretty, his goal coming from an exclusion against Kazakhstan.
The first time-out of the match came when Kazakhstan coach Knezevic brought his players over for a chat.
It resulted in an immediate chance as the ball found its way to the Australian goal-line, Australian keeper Dennerley swimming after it but to no avail, Kazakhstan was on the board, 3-1.
On the cusp of quarter time, Younger fired home his second, giving Australia a three goal advantage at the first break. The Sharks were in control.
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Sharks demonstrate defensive discipline
The second period started how the first ended, Australia extending its lead to 5-1 with the Sharks now in a very commanding position.
Australia’s defence had been a highlight so far, the Aussies with very few exclusions throughout the start of the match. This is likely something that coach Fatovic places great importance from after it had cost them in recent outings.
With three minutes to go in the half, it was 6-1 in favour of Australia and Kazakhstan, not from a lack of trying, were unable to penetrate the Aussie back-line.
Rhys Howden scored his second to make it 7-1, the game almost beyond reach for Kazakhstan now.
Aidan Roach thought he had made it a seven goal margin but he was judged to have committed a foul just before finding the net, the score staying at 7-1.
Sharks’ turn to see red
It was Roach who opened the second half but not in the way he would hope, his foul resulting in a red card, making it two red cards for the match.
The setback didn’t stop the Aussies, though, with Lachie Edwards netting his first of the night, the score now out to 8-1.
The Sharks continued to pile on the pressure, peppering the Kazakhstan goal but their opponents remained as vigilant in defence as possible, a number of blocks being made, helping out Makhmetov in goal.
If you shoot enough times, though, a few are bound to go in, as both Australia and Kazakhstan were finding out.
Medved’s shot hit the crossbar of the goal with such velocity that it launched an Australian counter-attack, resulting in a goal to Blake Edwards.
A second Kazakhstan goal gave the side a bit of joy but the game was now comfortably out of reach, the Aussies enjoying the bulk of the attacking chances.
With 40 seconds to play in the third quarter and an extra player for the moment, Elvis Fatovic called a time-out for the Aussies, their first of the match.
Much like Kazakhstan, it resulted in an goal to the Sharks, Richard Campbell getting on the end of a fantastic team move.
Kazakhstan captain Shakenov was able to find a way past Dennerley just before the end of the quarter to make the score 12-3 at the final break.
Sharks sing Olympic swan song
Kazakhstan started strongest in the final term as they scored first thanks to a double exclusion against Australia.
Rhys Howden scored his fourth to go with his four swim-off victories, the lead back out to nine goals now.
As the minutes ticked down and the Aussie ascendancy continued, it gave time to reflect on what has been a difficult campaign for the Sharks.
They started strong, pushing number one ranked Montenegro to its limit before taking a famous victory against Croatia in the second game.
Since then, the Aussies struggled, going down comfortably to both Serbia and Spain, their record not quite good enough to make it to the knockout stages, despite tonight’s comfortable victory.
For Kazakhstan, their tournament ends without a victory but spurts of competitiveness will highlight a side with plenty of promise and just as much room for improvement.
Australia will be no doubt disappointed to finish a second successive Olympic campaign without progression past the groups, but in Elvis Fatovic they have a fantastic coach with great pedigree.
The young talent has been on display, Putt and Ford two of the standouts while Richie Campbell had a great campaign, scoring a lot of goals and being very effective offensively.
Goalkeeper Hrysanthos, who did not play tonight, had perhaps the best performance of the tournament against Croatia, defiant in the face of adversity and Dennerley was impressive tonight, the goalkeeping stocks clearly strong.
There are plenty of positives to take from the campaign and it finished in a positive way, the final score of 15-7 tonight enough to give Sharks fans hope for upcoming competitions, though there is still plenty of work to do having finished in fifth position.
Men’s Water Polo final score:
Australia 15 (Howden 5, B. Edwards 3, Campbell, Younger 2, L. Edwards, A. Ford, T. Putt 1)
Kazakhstan 7 (Shakenov, Ukumanov 2, Shmider, Ruday, Shvedov 1)
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