By Joshua Schneyer

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Serbia's world champion men’s water polo team defeated arch rivals Croatia 11-7 to win their first Olympic gold medal in the sport and dethrone the title holders on Saturday.

In a game marked by rough and aggressive play in front of both goals, Serbia showed superior firepower and defense.

Serbia's Dusan Mandic scored four times, while goalkeeper Branislav Mitrovic's impressive blocks kept Croatia out.

A Serbia team that has swept up world and regional titles since 2012 finally proved its dominance on the most prestigious stage after taking bronze at the last two Games.

Serbia began the tournament with two draws and a loss, but steadied their performances in the later rounds with five straight wins on their way to the title.

(Reporting by Joshua Schneyer; editing by Ken Ferris)