S. Desjardins, K. Camilleri, K. Agius 2, K. Navarro 1, M. Perici Ferrante 1, L. Cachia, F. Paolella, S. Camilleri, D. Micallef, R. Caruana Dingli, Z. Bartolo, N. Azzopardi, A. Amato.
M. Sampaio, M. Ferreira, C. Fernandes 4, C. Reis 1, I. Nunes 1 A. Jardim, J. Teixeira, M. Lousa, M. Machado, B. Pereira, V. Freire, A. Rodrigues, B. Cavaleiro.
Refs: U. Wengenroth (Switzerland), A. D’Hossche (Belgium)
A disciplined Malta produced a stirring performance in their second match of the LEN 2022 European Water Polo Championships Qualifications but was still not enough to avoid a narrow defeat against Portugal.
Anthony Farrugia’s girls battled on honourably, stayed within reach of Portugal and were still with a chance of a positive result till the end.
Portugal took an early lead after Carolina Fernandes had given the visitors a 2-0 buffer early in the first session.
But eventually Malta closed ranks and netted twice through Kaia Agius and Martha Perici Ferrante on either side of the first intermission.
Portugal then won a penalty which Stephanie Desjardins blocked brilliantly on Fernandes.
A second lost chance when Portugal were a player short, proved costly for Malta as Fernandes scored again to put her team 3-2 up at the beginning of the third session.
But the Maltese had been very competitive and very much in the contest at that stage.
Agius’s swimming of the flank found no response from Portugal. Midway through the third session, she gave the illusion of goal as her effort flashed against the side-netting.
Nevertheless, Agius managed to find the net soon after to level the score before Fernandes restored Portugal’s advantage 4-3 lead before the end of the third session.
Midway in the last session, although tightly marked, Kendra Navarro found time to slot Malta’s fourth goal.
Meanwhile, the Malta goalkeeper Desjardins was doing sterling work in goal, reaching at all angles.
Yet, Catarina Reis, Portugal’s tournament top-scorer, showed her opportunism to make it 5-4.
However, Malta’s mental alertness and physical resistance were now slightly on the wane.
Francesco Paolella came face-to-face with Maria Sampaio but shot straight at the Portuguese goalkeeper.
On Paolella’s back-hand which was saved by Sampaio ended Malta’s hopes to get a positive result from this match as Ines Nunes made it 6-4… a final scoreline too harsh for Anthony Farrugia’s girls.