Australia will now need to rely on other results in order to make the Olympic knockout stage. Picture: Water Polo Australia Facebook

Hopes of a top four finish for Australia were dealt a large blow as Spain piled on the pain, defeating the Aussie Men's Water Polo team 5-16.

Australia has been handily defeated by table-topping Spain in a crucial Men’s Water Polo match, the final score 5-16. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Sharks improve on Serbian start

It was Spain that got things underway, winning the swim-off before carelessly turning the ball over in the offensive end.

After the Aussies failed to fire, Spain took the ball up, again on the offensive, this time drawing a foul from the Australian defender, leading to an exclusion.

The exclusion proved costly, as it did for Australia against Serbia, and Spain opened the scoring with the numerical advantage.

Australia immediately answered with a goal of its own from captain Aaron Younger, his fourth for the tournament.

Spain pulled ahead, Mallarach recovering a loose pass from his teammate before firing home with the shot clock ticking down, Hrysanthos with no chance in the Australian goal.

At 2-1 it was not a great start for Australia but still far more positive than the one against Serbia which saw the Aussies 10-0 down inside the first half.

Both sides hit the frame of the goal with back to back efforts, neither finding the back of the net as quarter time neared.

Spain started to flex its muscle and show why it sat at the top of the standings, extending the lead to three goals with a minute to play in the first, captain Perrone Rocha converting a penalty to make it 4-1.

Australia seemed to sense the urgency of the occasion, though, and found an answer to cut the lead down to two through Blake Edwards thanks to some nice ball movement, creating a clear-cut opportunity.

The quarter ended 4-2 with plenty of work to do for Australia, though Elvis Fatovic’s team was certainly not out of it.

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Aussie’s pain is Spain’s gain

Spain started the second well, goalkeeper Lopez throwing an amazing cross-pool pass to Spain’s captain who added to his tally for the night, bringing the score to 5-2 and the Sharks in danger of being blown away.

With every possession crucial, the Aussies began to feel the pressure, failing to string together any effective passages of play, Lopez looking comfortable in the Spanish goal.

Aidan Roach grabbed a goal back for the Aussies but Spain was looking the far better side in the first half, piling on the goals in the second quarter.

Consistent Aussie exclusions meant consistent shot attempts for the Spaniards, many hitting the post and plenty finding the back of the Australian goal.

As Spain’s confidence grew, as did its defensive line, pushing higher and higher making the Aussies create from further away from goal than usual.

At half-time, the margin was five, not completely out of reach but on the eye test, the Sharks looked out of it. 8-3 at the main interval.

Sharks start strong but Spanish lead safe

Spain began with back to back goals for Granados from the penalty spot, both shots deceiving Hrysanthos, sending the Aussie keeper the other way.

With the margin now out to seven goals, the Sharks also had to deal with the loss of Lachlan Edwards who, after his third foul, had to depart the pool.

Finally, Aaron Younger added to his tally for the night, finding the inside of the post from distance as the ball bounced into the net, reducing the margin to six.

Six became five as Blake Edwards fired home from the left wing, a much needed Aussie goal with a touch over three minutes to play in the third.

The Australian offence was beginning to click and they now looked to be posing a threat to Lopez in goal.

Defensively, there was a heightened sense of urgency as Spain, for the first time all game, looked as though they were struggling to break down the Sharks.

It took an amazing effort from Alberto Munarriz, lobbing the ball over Hrysanthos from distance, to break the Australian wall.

With the lead back out to seven and just a minute to go in the third quarter, despite an improved spell, the Australians looked to be down and out.

Spain added to its margin in the dying seconds of the third, Famera firing a shot in that skimmed off the surface of the water.

Australia Water Polo struggles continue

Spain made it 4/4 in the swim-off to get the last quarter underway and quickly added to its total, scoring with ease.

Rhys Howden committed his third major foul, seeing him join Lachie Edwards on the Australian bench for the remainder of the match.

Lopez looked like a giant in the Spanish goal, Aidan Roach firing in multiple efforts that would have beaten plenty of keepers, but importantly not the Spanish star.

The margin hit double digits with Granados again beating Hrysanthos, this time from open play, just beating the shot-clock buzzer.

Granados again found the net, taking his tournament tally to an astounding 13 goals.

The final siren sounded and the scoreboard did not read nicely for Aussie fans, the Sharks going down 5-16.

Aussie Sharks’ great white hope

This loss dealt a hammerhead blow to the Australian side who will now have to rely on a number of results going their way if they are to reach the knockout stages of Tokyo 2020.

As it stands, they will need to rely on Croatia losing its remaining two games and Australia will need to defeat bottom of the table Kazakhstan in its remaining fixture.

If this is to happen, Australia will go through on the basis of head-to-head results.

It is entirely possible that the Aussies finish equal on points with either Serbia or Montenegro, but a tie with either of those nations would see the Aussies miss out given they lost to both of them in the group stage.

After Croatia’s loss to Australia, it turned things around and defeated number one ranked Water Polo side Montenegro, so for Australia, they will be hoping for a sudden dip in form from the Croatian outfit.

Final Score:

Australia 5 (Younger, B. Edwards 2, Roach 1)

Spain 16 (Granados 4, Perrone Rocha 3, Famera, Munarriz, Tahull, Mallarach 2, de Toro 1)

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