SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ That’s why Italian men’s water polo coach Ratko Rudic is one of the world’s best.
Tied at 5-all late in the fourth quarter, Rudic designed a last-minute play for Roberto Calcaterra that worked perfectly, lifting Italy to a 6-5 victory over Australia on Tuesday at the Sydney Games.
Italy, 3-0-1, is tied with Russia for the Group A lead. Both teams have qualified for the Friday’s quarterfinals.
But it wasn’t easy for Italy, even with its three-time gold-medal winning coach.
The Aussies, 1-2-1, got two goals from Andrei Kovalenko and were ahead 5-3 late in the third period.
Carlo Silipo started the Italian comeback with a skip shot past Australian goalie Eddie Denis. Alessandro Calcaterra, Roberto’s younger brother, tied things on an inside goal with 5:27 to go.
Both teams traded fuitless possessions until Sean Boyd’s foul gave Italy an extra-man situation with 47.6 seconds left.
Then Rudic, who won gold with Yugoslavia in 1984 and 1988 and with Italy in 1992, went to work.
On the restart, Italy passed the ball around until Silipo fed Roberto Calcaterra near the net for the game-winning backhand putaway.
Australia must beat Spain on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals.
Italy has not lost to Australia in the past two years, raising its series record to 7-0-3 in that span.