London: Croatia won its first Olympic gold in men's water polo, getting two second-half goals each from Miho Boskovic and Maro Jokovic to pull away from Italy for an 8-6 win on Sunday.
With two of the best defenses and goalkeepers in the tournament, the final was a bitter defensive struggle. Croatia eventually grabbed control of the match early in the second half after Boskovic slotted home from long distance and then converted a penalty to take a 5-3 lead.
Maro Jokovic gave Croatia more breathing room in the fourth quarter with two more goals, setting the country's fans, dressed in their traditional red-and-white checkered shirts, into a frenzy.
"The whole tournament, our team was playing excellent, all eight games we were dominating all the teams, and we were playing well all the tournament, so for sure we deserved this gold medal," coach Ratko Rudic said.
With its stingy defense, anchored by goalkeeper Josip Pavic, Croatia rolled through the competition in London to finish with a perfect 8-0 record, with two of those victories against 2011 world champion Italy.
Croatia, which played in its first Olympics as an independent country in 1992 after the breakup of Yugoslavia, won silver at the 1996 Atlanta Games, but had never topped the podium until now.
"This is the first, I hope it's not the only one," center forward Niksa Dobud said.
After the final buzzer, Croatia's players and coaches leapt into the pool, tearing the goal down and sitting on top of it in the water.
Italy fell just short of winning its fourth Olympic water polo title, but picked up its first medal in the sport since gold in 1992 in Barcelona.