FUKUOKA, Japan, AFP
European champions Yugoslavia edged past Olympic silver medallists Russia 9-8 with a last-second decider to secure a berth in the men’s water polo final at the world championships. The Yugoslavs were leading 8-7 in the last minute of the fourth period when they were stunned as Roman Balashov netted an equalizer with 24 seconds left on the clock. But Vladimir Vujasinovic came to the rescue of the team by sending a clever looping shot over a hapless Russian goal keeper in the dying moment, triggering scenes of jubilation among his teammates. “We couldn’t play as well as I had expected in our defence. They scored three counter-attack goals. It was a big game and we made mistakes,” said Yugoslavia’s coach Nenad Manojlovic. “One mistake is fatal in a semi-final match of the world championships. We were nervous and very tired, because this tournament is as tough as the European championships. Hopefully, we will have a good match tomorrow.” “It was a tough match,” said Yugoslav star Veljko Uskokovic. “Because the Russians played very well and we were nervous in defence. But we will be the world champions tomorrow.” In the final Sunday, Yugoslavia will take on defending champions Spain, who beat European silver medallists Italy 4-2 in the other semi finals earlier in the day. After a goalless first period, Spain’s Daniel Ballart scored his seventh and eighth goals of the tournament, slipping one under Italian goalkeeper Stefano Temppesti’s right arm and the other over his head. The Italians, seeking to avenge their loss to Yugoslavia in the European final, steamrollered ahead. But keeper Jesus Rollan, who made seven saves for Spain from nine Italian attempts, kept their attacks at bay as the Spaniards maintained their lead for the victory. “The game was very difficult. We were under pressure, but we played very well. To win by two goals in the semi-finals is great. We were never certain of the win, not even in the last minute,” said Spanish coach Juan Jane. It will be a repeat final of the 1991 world championships where Yugoslavia emerged victorious for their second world title.