By Sarah Young
LONDON (Reuters) - Serbia won the bronze medal in Olympic men's water polo on Sunday, beating Montenegro 12-11 in a repeat of the outcome of the third-place match in Beijing after an intense physical clash in which emotions ran high.
A late surge from Serbia reversed a three-goal deficit and they scored in the final minute of the game to deny the Montenegrins the medal after a fierce battle in which referees handed out four red cards.
"This was not even a match, this was a war, a fight between two countries," Serbia's Filip Filipovic told reporters.
"This is not a usual match for us, this is something more, a step ahead with more emotions, we take all our heart and we put it into the game."
Players from both Serbia and Montenegro say they find their clashes particularly intense due to lingering emotions from before the countries separated in 2006.
Montenegro led Serbia until a gripping last quarter when the Serbians, under huge pressure with five of their players excluded after major fouls, scored in a final minute which was high on drama with Serbia's coach and assistant coach both red-carded.
The Montenegrins could not capitalize on the extra-man situation they had with 20 seconds to go, hitting the cross-bar twice to loud gasps from an excited crowd.
"This bronze medal is more shiny for us than if had got into the final and lost against an opponent," said Filipovic.
Montenegro were hoping to add another medal to their collection after the tiny Balkan country won their first Olympic medal, a silver, in the women's handball on Saturday.
"Always matches between Serbia and Montenegro are difficult especially when it's a match for an Olympic medal. We are disappointed especially because we were three goals better than Serbia a few minutes before the end," said Montenegro goalkeeper Milos Scepanovic.
Croatia and Italy play in the gold medal match later on Sunday.
(Editing by Matt Falloon and Ed Osmond)
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