British men win final European qualifier
2 July 2011
The British Gas GBR Men’s Water Polo team clinched a dramatic victory over Georgia in their final European Championship qualifier in Manchester.
With qualification for the 2012 tournament still a possibility, the British men took the game to their opponents and after four quarters of punishing water polo, emerged 8-7 winners.
To play so well at home and win against a side we haven't beaten before was great and there are lots of positives to take away.
And while the British didn't achieve the seven-goal victory margin needed to progress to next year's tournament, their performance was a signal of their progress in recent months as well as their potential in front of a home crowd.
Captain Craig Figes admitted the victory was bittersweet but insisted it boded well with the Olympic season around the corner.
"Obviously I have mixed feelings," said Figes. "It's really good to have a win and we played really well in the first half especially.
"I think because we were coming here aiming for such a big margin in goal difference we got a bit panicky trying to go for the goals.
"But to play so well at home and win against a side we haven’t beaten before was great, there are a lot of positives to take away.
"This is the best crowd we’ve played in front of at home and that made a big difference to the team."
Laura Campbell reports from Manchester Aquatics Centre:
As temperatures soared both inside and outside the Manchester Aquatics Centre the supporters flocked into the stands, hoping to help the home team to the seven-goal victory needed to book their place in the playoffs.
Georgia were keen to establish themselves, beating Great Britain to the swim-off and making the first mark on the score sheet within just 20 seconds. The GB retaliation came quickly, with Adam Scholefield putting one past keeper Zurab Chumburidze. Both teams scored again in quick succession, taking the score to 2-2 just a few minutes in.
GBR captain Craig Figes successfully converted a man-up, and a succession of excellent saves from GBR goalkeeper Ed Scott, coupled with determined defence from Rob Parker, kept the score at 3-2 until the end of the first quarter.
To the home crowd’s delight Sean King won the swim-off for Great Britain, and a Georgian foul soon put Great Britain in a man-up situation. Despite strong pressing from Georgia, King managed to find a way through, flicking the ball over the line thanks to a set-up by Figes.
A tussle in front of the Georgian goal saw Great Britain awarded a penalty, which was successfully converted by Figes, taking the score to 5-2 with just over a minute remaining in the first half.
However, as Parker was sent out Georgia took advantage of their man-up and the ball crept over the line to conclude the first half at 5-3.
King was first to the swim-off yet again and Great Britain enjoyed another man-up advantage, the crowd erupting as Joe Robinson scored to increase the home team’s lead to three goals.
Some determined marking saw both Scholefield and Georgia’s Mikheil Baghaturia sent out, allowing more space for the Georgian attack. Tato Nikoleishvili found the back of the net, taking the score to 6-4.
Both teams’ quests for goals continued fruitless for the rest of the quarter, with determined work from Scholefield for the Great Britain defence.
Georgia were first to the ball in the final quarter, and both teams kept their defence tight.
Eventually the home team persevered with Scholefield holding off the Georgian defence and slotting a backhanded shot past the keeper.
As their assistant coach was sent off the poolside the visiting side picked up the pace, taking advantage of Joe O’Regan’s send-out and taking the score to 7-5.
Spectators leapt to their feet after a controversial tussle in front of the goal between Scholefield and three of the Georgian players, but Scholefield soon avenged himself with another goal for Great Britain.
Georgian number 3 Marko Jelaca powered a shot through the tired GBR defence, and a saved O’Regan shot left the score at 8-6 with just two and a half minutes remaining. In the closing minutes a final goal for Georgia took the score to 8-7 but the British defence held out for the victory.
The British Gas GBR Women's Water Polo team were also in European Championship qualifier action, losing a tough fixture 10-6 against Spain in Bilbao.
Ciara Gibson-Byrne scored a hat-trick with Fran Clayton, Frankie Snell and Chloe Wilcox also finding the net for the British team.