(1-2, 4-3, 4-3, 6-1)
Spain needed five late goals to overcome the fierce challenge of Malta U-19 at the European Championships in Podgorica on Sunday.
The Maltese youngsters produced a fine display which saw them lead the match for the majority of the match as the highly-rated Spaniards looked rattled by the stamina and efficiency of the Maltese team.
It was only in the final part of the final session that the Spaniards managed to take control of the match and secure the win in the opening match of the championship.
But despite this upset, Sunday’s performance will surely fill the Maltese players with a lot of optimism that they can battle for a top placing in the championship as they showed they have the quality to go far in this competition.
Alec Fenech was Malta’s star performer with four goals while Jayden Cutajar helped himself to a brace. The other scorers for Malta on the day were Sam Gialanze, Mark Castillo and Gianni Farrugia.
Malta will be hoping to clinch their first win in the competition when they face the Czech Republic on Monday.
Anthony Farrugia’s boys started the match brightly as they managed to share the proceedings with their more-quoted opponents as they showed great defensive discipline and looked sharper in front of goal.
In fact, the Maltese surged into a two-goal lead midway through the first session when they fully exploited two man-up sets.
It was Alec Fenech who put Malta ahead before Mark Castillo made it 2-0 with another fine strike.
Spain’s response arrived in the final seconds of the first second when Marc Ferrer Valls pulled a goal back.
In the second session, the Maltese kept up their tempo and they were awarded a penalty from which Sam Gialanze made no mistake.
The Spaniards looked rattled and Fenech grabbed his second of the match from another man-up set to make it 4-1.
Spain launched a strong fightback late in the session, scoring three goals without replay through Valls Ferrer and an Abel Ramon Sesen brace to restore parity.
The Maltese were back in front from a quick transition, as Fenech put his team 5-4 ahead.
However, Spain levelled matters with 18 seconds to half-time through Hugo Castro Fernandez.
It was tit-for-tat in the third session, with very little separating either side.
Goals from Fenech, Gianni Farrugia had twice put Malta in front but each time the Spaniards drew level.
However, in the final part of the session, Spain took the upperhand as goals from Valls Ferrer and Castro Fernandez handed them a crucial 9-7 lead.
Jayden Cutajar’s goal at the death kept Malta’s hopes alive with one session to go.
Cutajar was at it again at the start of the final session when he levelled matters with a fine strike from the distance.
But the Spanish side’s sharpshooters put their team in charge as goals from Beil Gomila Faiges, Valls Ferrer (2) and Abel Ramon Sesen (2) and Ignasi Bargallo Garcia sealed a 15-9 win.