(3-1, 3-0, 7-1, 1-1)
Malta’s adventure in the second phase of the European Waterpolo championships predictably started with a heavy defeat against Spain, winners of their group in the preliminary stage.
Malta will now continue its participation in matches for the ninth to 16th places, with its next opponent to probably be Romania, who will be playing Greece tomorrow, with the Greeks starting as obvious favourites. Malta will be playing again on Monday morning at 9.30am.
The match against Spain was arguably the best performance for Malta in the championships, although the score is slightly worse than that obtained against France in the opening game (17-7). But Malta for long stretches were well-organised and it was only in the third session that Spain dominated outrightly.
The first session was the best start for Malta so far in the competition, as the team suffered only three goals scored by Roca and Tahull. In defence, the Maltese side played with discipline, but in attack the 30-second possession time often finished without a shot at goal. Malta did however convert one of its two man-up situations through Niki Lanzon.
The second session followed a similar pattern, with Malta limiting the damage in defence as Spain were also guilty of committing a number of attacker fouls. The Spaniards added three more goals in this session through Tahull, Espanol and Mallarach. In attack, Malta continued to find the going tough and also missed another man-up situation.
The Spanish side upped the tempo after the change of ends, and as the Maltese player’s energy started to fade, they were able to pile up the score. Espanol (2), Mallarach, Molina, Minguell (2) and Sziranyi scored Spain’s seven goals in this session, with Malta’s Cousin replying from a man-up situation for a 13-2 score.
The game’s rhythm dropped in the final quarter and, for the first time in this competition, Malta managed to hold the opponents to a draw – a 1-1 score in the last session as Mallarach scored for Spain and Matthew Zammit replied for Malta. Of course, the game’s outcome had long been decided, but this should be of encouragement for Karl Izzo’s boys.
Malta’s team was made up of the following players:
Alan Borg Cole, Nikki Lanzon, Jerome Gabarretta, Nicholas Bugelli, Mark Meli, Matthew Zammit, Stevie Camilleri, Jordan Camilleri, John Brownrigg, Aurelien Cousin, Ben Plumpton, Dino Zammit, Nicky Grixti.