(4-1, 3-2, 5-4, 5-2)
Four goals in the first six minutes paved the way for a 17-9 win for Slovakia over Malta in a match valid for the 13-16th places in the European waterpolo championships being played in Belgrade.
That cushion remained for long stretches of the game as the Maltese side improved its performance in the middle sessions, and it was only in the final quarter that Karl Izzo’s boys were again dominated by their opponents who doubled their final advantage to eight goals.
The national side will now play its final encounter against Georgia or Turkey, hoping to avoid the last place in the competition. Today’s result also means that Malta cannot improve upon the result obtained 13 years ago. That time, Malta had finished third in the European “B” championships for an overall 15th place in Europe; in those years, the “A” championship was contested by 12 teams.
Slovakia had a sprightly start, and quickly built a steady advantage in the first session as the Maltese side appeared too disorganised in defence and ineffective in attack. Goals from Famera (2) and Durik (2) gave Slovakia a healthy 4-0 lead before Steve Camilleri pulled one back for Malta from a man-up situation for a 4-1 score at the end of the first session.
Slovakia remained the more enterprising side in the second quarter, although tighter marking by Malta led to a more balanced situation. Still, Slovakia increased their advantage to 7-3 with goals from Durik, Famera and Zatovic, while Steve Camilleri replied twice for Malta.
The pattern remained the same after the change of ends, with Slovakia keeping their healthy advantage all along as the two sides shared nine more goals. Balaz, Hroski, Famera (2) and Durik added five more for Slovakia, interspersed with well-taken goals by Malta through Mark Meli, Steve Camilleri (2, one from a penalty) and Matthew Zammit.
As they had done in the first session, Slovakia upped the tempo in the last quarter to score quick goals through Kolarik (2), Tkac, Hrosik and Balaz to open up a healthier lead, while Steve Camilleri, and Ben Plumpton scored twice for Malta to make the score more respectable.
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.