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Yugoslavia outfights Germany

Punches were thrown in the pool Tuesday as Yugoslavia continued its quest to return to the top of Olympic water polo.

Vladimir Vujasinovic was punched in the face by German Uwe Sterzik and left the pool bleeding from a cut in the nose. Playing with a substitute, the three-time champions still prevailed 9-8.

The victory left Yugoslavia 3-0-1 and ready to face six-time champion Hungary for first place in their qualifying group.

Water polo is a close-contact sport. Still, Tuesday's game got a little out of hand.

Although they won, the Yugoslavs blasted what they called uneven refereeing standards. Star goalkeeper Aleksandar Sostar was ejected in the fourth quarter.

"If I got ejected for pushing, then none of the Germans should have finished the match," Sostar said. "The guy was pulling on my trunks and the referee didn't punish him, he punished me."

"The Germans played very aggressively and dirty from the beginning, but we survived everything. I can't figure out the refereeing here, what's a foul and what's a sending off," said captain Igor Milanovic.

In Pool B, undefeated Italy, which beat Greece 10-8 to win the group, was joined by Croatia, which crushed Ukraine 16-8, producing the highest-scoring game yet and the most lopsided score.

The United States is all but certain to advance, and barring major upsets, the winner of today's game between Greece and Ukraine will be the last into the quarterfinals.

Hungary edged Spain, the 1992 silver medalist at home in Barcelona, 8-7 to stay perfect after four games. Russia ended all uncertainty in Pool A by beating the Netherlands 10-5. Germany and the Netherlands were eliminated from the medal round.

The rankings at the end of the preliminary round are important because group winners will take on fourth-placed teams from the other groups, thus having an easier path into the semifinals.

Four teams from each of the two six-nation pools advance to the quarterfinals.

Yugoslavia was Olympic champion in 1968, 1984 and 1988 but barred from Barcelona because of U.N. sanctions.

LATE MONDAY: For two quarters, the U.S. team just couldn't make its shots. But once Chris Humbert found his range, the Americans prevailed for what looked to be a spot in the quarterfinals.

Humbert contributed three goals in the Americans' 9-7 victory over Ukraine. Two of his goals came off his trademark backhand shot.

"It's a shot you have to get a feel for," said Humbert, a 6-foot-7 forward from Lodi, Calif. "People never understand how you do it."

The game was tied 7-7 in the fourth period when the U.S. luck seemed to turn.

Vadym Rozhdestvensky hit the bar for Ukraine. Then Chris Oeding's second goal at the other end of the pool put the Americans ahead to stay.