Stingers suffer Olympic quarter-final loss
A scrappy, spiteful and sapping 9-8 loss to Russia has ended Australia's bid for their first Olympic medal in water polo since 2012.
The Stingers rallied after trailing 8-4 and 9-6 in the second half of Tuesday night's Tokyo Olympics women's quarter-final.
Bronte Halligan's second goal, coming with 16 seconds remaining in the match, gave her side hope.
But there was no miraculous equaliser, with several Australians reduced to tears after a gutting result that came five years after losing a quarter-final shootout at Rio de Janeiro.
Australia coach Predrag Mihailovic was given a red card late in the final quarter of a brutal clash in which momentum shifted frequently as both sides were repeatedly penalised with exclusions and fouls.
"It was a hard game, a tough game with a lot of physicality," Mihailovic said.
"We made mistakes, which is part of the sport."
Russia captain Ekaterina Prokofyeva claimed the "most important thing was our emotions".
"I don't think it was about physical strength but about psychology," Prokofyeva said.
"And we just dominated on that today."
Mihailovic highlighted how the absence of tune-ups for the Games hindered his charges' preparation.
"We haven't had this atmosphere, this tension," he said.
"It's not an excuse and I can't criticise anyone because it just wasn't a possibility.
"In these circumstances, they gave their best.
"I'm proud of them."
The Stingers will play two classification matches to determine their final ranking, between fourth and eighth, while Russia advances to Thursday's semi-final against the United States.
Australia's men's side failed to progress beyond the group phase.
The Stingers claimed an early 2-1 lead thanks to Zoe Arancini and Keesja Gofers.
Russia crafted a 4-2 buffer at quarter-time and were never headed despite multiple comebacks and some superb saves from goalkeeper Gabi Palm.
Australia will lament their lack of composure at key junctures and several what-if moments that led to the loss, including the multiple occasions on which they failed to take advantage of having an extra player in the pool.
The Stingers scored thrice from seven extra-player shots.
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