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MALTA SEE OFF AZERBAIJAN

Malta made up for the defeat in Baku in the 1st European Games when why beat Azerbaijan 9-5 in the Under-19 European Water Polo Championships on Wednesday.

Jeremy Abela opened the score for Malta half way through the session with Joseph Galea netting a goal with just 25 seconds to go in the first session.

In the second session Jeremy Abela scored his second goal of the match with Azerbaijan narrowing the gap to one goal before Ben Plumpton scored Malta’s 4th goal.

The third session was very tense and neither team could find the back of the net until our opponents scored halfway through it. Malta then failed to convert a penalty and went into the 4th session with just 1 goal advantage.

In the final session, the team upped their performance and Nicholas Bugelli scored 2 goals. Azerbaijan were not giving up and once again narrowed the gap bringing the score to 4-6.

The Maltese opponents missed a couple of opportunities and this time, it was Malta’s turn to punish them for their mistakes with goals from Jacob Sciberras, Ben Plumpton and Nicholas Bugelli. Azerbaijan could only manage to score once and Malta won the game 5 – 9.

After-match comments:-

Anthony Farrugia: “I would like to thank all the players, the President and the Association, as well as the Technical Director, Karl Izzo for their support. Throughout the match we were in control and the slightly better team.

Although Azerbaijan put us under pressure at some points during the match, our faster swimming, better technical and tactical abilities won us the game.

The conditions we found were not up to standard, in that the open air training pool was too cold and transport to watch matches was not available. We were drawn in the hardest group of the Championships but with this victory we secured the 14th position at worst.

The players have no matches tomorrow and although we are suffering from a few minor injuries and a stomach virus which has affected quite a few players, we will do our utmost to improve and end these Championships in 13th Place when we meet Turkey on Friday.”

Karl Izzo: “I would like to congratulate Anthony Farrugia and the boys. This result shows the big improvement we have achieved in the last four years under the guidance of Joe Caruana Curran who led our teams to a higher level, qualifying for three European Championships in the last 15 months.”

Joe Caruana Curran: “The fact that Malta enjoys great potential and talent amongst its players has been a known fact for many years. The ASA together with the Clubs and especially the National Coaches ably led by Karl Izzo has been attentive in developing a strategy of ensuring players would prepare better and deliver the desired results at highest competition levels imaginable.

Let us not believe for a minute that having beaten Azerbaijan in today’s match is the point of arrival or where our ambitions stop. The next game against Turkey on Friday will be the next challenge we want to overcome. These matches will continue to lay the strongest possible foundations for the further development of water polo in our islands.

Maybe a few years back we wouldn’t have believed all this was achievable. In reality, the strides we have taken and the progress visible to all is yet another great step in the right direction.

This participation at the EJC 2016 together with our senior teams’ achievement in Belgrade earlier in the year just continue to confirm that we are all working hard but, more importantly, working with the firm belief that we can continue to affirm ourselves amongst the elite nations in the years to come.

My sincere thanks go to Karl Izzo, Anthony Farrugia and Adrian Cachia for their incredible dedication and effort. My thanks also go to my colleagues in the Executive and to our magnificent clubs who develop the grassroots of this wonderful sport.

All these components together with our National Team Sponsors Enemed augur well for the future.

Finally, a great day for our General Secretary Rita who celebrated her birthday with this wonderful victory”
 
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