Aug 6 (Reuters) - A dramatic comeback and last-minute goal from Serbia saved the water polo world champions from defeat against Hungary as the two bitter rivals drew 13-13 in the sport’s opening match at the Rio Olympics on Saturday.
Nine-times Olympic champions Hungary came out blazing, scoring first and widening their lead to 9-6 by half-time in the group A match.
The game was marked by aggressive head-locks, face-gripping and incessant grappling in front of the goals. At times, it felt as rough as a rugby match, Serbian player Stefan Mitrovic said afterwards
Hungary are eager to win a medal in Rio after bowing out in the quarter-finals at the 2012 London Games while Serbia, who in January added the European championship to the world title they won last year, are looking to confirm their dominance of the sport.
Serbia coach Dejan Savic said before the match that supporters and the media back home “are waiting to cut the head off from our team if we don’t win the gold. We have won everything else, now we want this.”
His side fought back hard late in the game and Filip Filipovic scored the last of his three goals with four seconds left in play to level the score.
“Considering that we only played well in two quarters, we have to be satisfied with the result,” Filipovic said.
Hungary coach Tibor Benedek told Reuters that Serbia could never be counted out of a game. “They have a lot of huge shooters who can resolve a game in its final moments,” he said.
Hungary last won Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, the third in a string of three straight Games victories.
In the first Group B match on Saturday, defending Olympic champions Croatia prevailed over the United States by 7-5. (Reporting By Joshua Schneyer; editing by Brian Homewood)