(1-5, 3-4, 2-1, 4-3)
A disastrous first-session performance proved costly for Malta as the national team crashed to a disappointing defeat to Turkey that all but ended any hope of avoiding bottom spot in Group C at the European Championship.
For much of the last months, coach Karl Izzo and his players had outlined the match against Turkey as their key appointment in Budapest as it provided them with a perfect opportunity to bag their first-ever victory but more importantly enabled them to secure a top 12 placing in the continental finals.
But unfortunately, the team failed to deliver when it mattered most as they looked well short of their best, particularly in the first session which saw them trail their opponents 5-1.
From then on it was always an uphill battle for the team who struggled with their finishing, particularly in man-up sets as they finished with a poor five conversions from 16 man-up sets.
Added to that the team’s poor conduct in the water further dampened any hopes of a comeback as in the last two sessions Malta lost Steve Camilleri, Aurelien Cousin, Dino Zammit and Jerome Abela who were excluded from the match while Jordan Camilleri was also fouled out.
Now, the team will conclude their commitments against Hungary tomorrow before switching their focus on the positional play-offs where they hope to at least avoid from finishing bottom in the championships for a second successive edition.
The Maltese team were very poor in the opening session as they struggled to keep the pace with the efficient Turks who looked a far sharper lot than Karl Izzo’s men.
In fact it was no surprise that the Turks raced into a three-goal lead courtesy of goals from Berek Biyik, Fatih Acar and Emirhan Yangun.
Aurelien Cousin temporarily stopped the rot when he pulled a goal back from a man-up.
The Maltese had more chances to bridge the gap but they were too sloppy in front of goal and instead it was the Turks who added two more goals through Emre Gurdeni and Nesbet Ozbet to take a commanding 5-1 lead.
The Turks were off to a lightning start in the second session as in no time they managed to add three goals through Biyik Sonmez and Yutmaz to surge 8-1 up.
Malta finally started to find their scoring touch with goals from Jordan Camilleri and Matthew Zammit to reduce the gap to five goals – 8-3.
But the Turks soon re-establised their six-goal lead with a firm strike from Ozbet.
Cousin, however, handed Malta a lifeline with his second of the match to leave Malta trailing by five goals at the interval – 9-4.
Things seemed to improving for the Maltese as two goals from Ben Plumpton put the team 10-6 behind.
In between, Malta suffered a huge blow when they lost Aurelien Cousin who was excluded with substitution.
The Maltese players lost their head at this juncture and this proved costly as the team were further hampered by the loss of key players Stevie Camilleri, who was excluded by substitution, and Dino Zammit who was red carded.
Still the Maltese had their chances to bridge the gap but were again let down by their finishing.
Heading into the final session without three key players looked a tall order for a comeback.
Plumpton completed his hat-trick to keep alive Malta’s flickering hopes.
Izzo’s options continued to diminish when Jeremy Abela was red carded from the bench for protests and in a further blow the Turks added another goal through Sonmez.
Gabaretta again handed a lifeline to make it 11-8.
But seconds later Jordan Camilleri was fouled out and Dilek netted again before Fatih Acar wrapped up the match when putting his team 13-8 ahead.
Plumpton added two late goals but that little mattered as Turkey were long home and dry.
MALTA: N. Grixti, J. Gabarretta 1, A. Galea, G. Pace, Darren Zammit, M. Zammit 1, S. Camilleri, J. Camilleri 1, J. Abela, A. Cousin 2, B. Plumpton 5, D. Zammit, A. Borg Cole.
Turkey: A. Sezer, C. Caner, M. Yutmaz 1, F. Acar 2, B. Biyik 2, E. Gurdenli 1, E. Yenigun 1, O. Senemoglu, N. Sonmez 3, N. Ozbek 1, E. Kahraman, M. Dilek 1, H. Kil.
Referees G. Stavridis (Greece), S. Dervieux (France).