CZECH REPUBLIC 9
Malta’s Under-19 waterpolo team put their opening game loss to Spain in the past as they cruised past the Czech Republic 13-9 in Podgorica on Monday afternoon.
It was a show of strength and superior swimming from Anthony Farrugia’s side throughout the game against a Czech team that replaced Russia in the tournament, the latter having been banned from the games due to their ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
With their first win in two games played, Malta are in third place of their group ahead of the game between Spain and the Netherlands later on Monday.
Jake Cachia and Jake Bonavia both led the scoring with three goals each for Malta, Cenek Rames grabbing the same tally for the Czechs.
The Maltese youngsters’ enthusiasm after a good showing against Spain on Sunday was fuel as just seconds into the game, Alec Fenech scoring the opening goal with the first possession of the fixture.
Malta doubled their lead through a Sam Gialanze penalty, sending Czech goalkeeper Alan Akmalov the wrong way.
Malta captain Bonavia made it three as Malta looked strong two minutes into the tie. However, the Czechs fought back and brought it back to within a goal through a Rames five-metre shot, and an effort from Filip Dittmer who benefitted from a great team play to get a shot with only Malta goalkeeper Andrew Bugeja to beat.
Farrugia’s clan started the second quarter with the same tempo, a goal from Gianni Farrugia putting Malta further ahead almost instantly.
Patient play around the goal led to further domination from Malta who scored another to reopen their three-goal lead through Bonavia.
The Czech Republic replied when Dittmer hit a shot amid a crowded Malta defence.
Kieyan Borg missed a golden opportunity when he hit straight at Akmalov, but Cachia made up for it with an impressive strike after having collected a pass under pressure, hitting an effort with his back towards goal.
The second half was a continuation of Malta’s strong showing as Malta continued to add goals, but not before Petr Smerda scored for the Czechs with a shot from range 2.5 minutes into the third quarter.
Malta, however, made it 7-4 with a Jayden Cutajar effort, and Cachia gave them a four-goal cushion with two minutes to go in the session. Eventually, Malta ended the quarter five goals ahead when quick thinking from shotstopper Bugeja led to a counterattack from Bonavia who hit past Akmalov from close range.
The Malta youngsters had been the stronger side throughout, leading the game both in goals and attempts. Cachia continued to assert this dominance with another goal before Gialanze added another penalty scored for his side.
The Czechs finally replied through Ondrej Curda who fired low into the bottom left corner.
Another penalty could have made it 12 for Malta but Akmalov managed to stop Gialanze’s effort this time and instead, the Czechs hit a goal themselves, Filip Harant the scorer this time.
Malta changed penalty duties for their next hit and Gianni Farrugia made no mistake to put Malta up ahead by six with five minutes to go in the game.
This gap was crucial for the Maltese as the Czechs made the most out of a lapse in concentration to put in goals from Curda, and a brace from Rames before coach Farrugia called a time-out and made a number of changes to counter this momentary setback.
Malta’s goalkeeper for the fourth quarter Matthew Bonello DuPuis was on point to keep the side’s three-goal lead intact with a vital stop with less than a minute remaining, as Cutajar dealt the final blow to the Czechs with Malta’s 13th and final goal of the game before the final buzzer.