The USA have won a record third successive Olympic games in a final that they never looked like losing.
Whilst all the indicators suggested that Spain could cause an upset, the USA didn’t give the Spanish an inch when they were defending, whilst picking them off in a clinical fashion at the other end.
The water polo world are really running out of ways to describe this American side, but they genuinely make some of the best teams in the world look so average at times. Whilst Spain looked good in the second period, the USA dominated them in the first and third to essentially end the game after 24 minutes. Aria Fischer and Rachel Fattal had superb performances today with Maddie Musselman grabbing a hat-trick.
The defence is what has kept the USA at the top of the women’s game for so long, and at the heart of the defence is goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson. She made a stunning 11 saves in the game and so good was her contribution, she was afforded a break in the fourth quarter.
It was another heart-break for Spain in an Olympic final against the USA. Six of the team today played back in 2012 and lost 8-5 in London, as Spain’s torrid record of not beating the USA dates back to 2013. There were tears of disappointment and heartache, but the reigning European Champions will come back stronger with their ever-increasing number of fantastic young players coming through the ranks
Spain 5 – 14 USA (1-4, 3-3, 0-5, 1-2) – LIVESCORE
Spain: L.Ester, M. Bach, A. Espar, B. Oritz 1, R. Tarrago 1, I. Gonzalez, C. Espar, P. Pena, J. Forca, E. Ruiz 1, M. Garcia 2, P. Leiton, E. Sanchez. Head Coach: M. Oca
USA: A. Johnson, M. Musselman 3, M. Seidemann 1, R. Fattal 1, P. Hauschild, M. Steffens 1, S. Haralabidis 1, J. Neushul, A. Fischer 2, K. Gilchrist 2, M. Fischer 1, A. Williams 2, A. Longan. Head Coach: A. Krikorian
Extra Player Shots: Spain 2/13 , USA 8/10. Penalty Shots: Spain 0/0, USA 1/1.
The USA looked more composed in the opening exchanges and it set the tone for the game. Alys Williams opened the scoring with a central shot from 5m before Maggie Steffens was unmarked on the post to make it two. Spain really looked rattled when Maica Garcia missed a really good opportunity from close range by hitting the bar, but the experienced Roser Tarrago settled Spanish nerves with a bouncing near-post shot into the bottom corner of Ashleigh Johnson’s goal.
But the USA were putting Spain under real pressure and took a 4-1 lead into the second quarter with a near-side shot from Maddie Musselman before Rachel Fattal found the roof of Laura Ester’s net with two seconds to go.
The USA continued in the same vein and punished the Spanish for their ill discipline. Makenzie Fischer and Kaleigh Gilchrist added scores from patient set-plays from the Americans to make it 6-1.
Spain were seriously struggling to create chances to threaten Ashleigh Johnson in the American goal, and it took a spectacular finish from Maica Garcia, surrounded by three USA defenders, to grab a second in the pit from Bea Ortiz’s cute pass. Spain really grew into the game when Ortiz then bagged a goal for herself with a vintage shot from position four into the top, right-hand corner.
Musselman fired a rocketed another goal in for the USA to increase their lead, but a second fantastic finish from Garcia in the pit made it 7-4 and pulled Spain within three at half-time.
Into the third quarter, all the momentum that the Spanish had amassed was strangled out of the game with two unanswered goals from Alys Williams and Aria Fischer to make it 9-4. Young Elena Ruiz and Bea Ortiz tried hard to make a score for their side, but the American defence was relentless. Whilst the defending was formidable, the USA were even more impressive in attack. Kaleigh Gilchrist rifled in a delightful cross-cage shot into Ester’s top-left corner.
Anna Espar was then denied a goal by the referees, and then to make matters worse for the Spanish, Aria Fischer won a penalty for Steph Haralabidis to put away, before Aria Fischer made it 12-4.
But the focus has to be on the way the USA defend their goal. Spain had two of the best centre-forward’s in world water polo, as well as one of the tournament’s top goalscorers in Bea Ortiz, and yet they couldn’t register a goal in the third period.
By the fourth, the game was finished as a contest. Midway through the last quarter, Maddie Musselman grabbed her hat-trick with a powerful shot past Ester, before now three-time gold medalist Melissa Seidemann netted another goal in the final. Elena Ruiz added a goal at the death, but the game was already over as a contest.