(1-1, 4-2, 4-1, 4-5)
Malta finished their commitments in 10th place in this year’s LEN Under-19 European Championships after a loss against the Netherlands in Podgorica on Saturday.
Coach Anthony Farrugia and his clan were facing the Dutch for the second time in the tournament after having lost to the side 8-7 in the group stages earlier on in the week. However, they could get revenge as the Dutch produced a strong performance, Malta unable to catch up despite a late fourth quarter surge.
Malta opened proceedings 90 seconds into the game when Sam Gialanze fired into the bottom corner from the left.
It was a particularly defensive start to the game for both sides as players resorted to trying their luck with long-distance shots.
The Netherlands managed to make their efforts count as they equalised with seconds to go in the first session through a Jens Wijgers long shot.
Gianni Farrugia fired Malta back into the lead with a stunning effort at the start of the second session but the Dutch regained parity with their next possession through Jimmy Sjardjin.
Gialanze hit back for Malta, this time from five metres as the second quarter looked to have an exciting turn of events for the game.
Marnick Snel hit from deep as The Netherlands equalised once more with three minutes gone into the session as the two sides were level at 3-3.
Snel was the protagonist yet again after intercepting the ball during a Malta possession and going on a counterattack before firing past goalkeeper Matthew Bonello DuPuis to put his side ahead for the first time.
The Netherlands took over from then on, Stan Meijn opening a two-goal margin with a goal of his own ahead of halftime.
Terence Smit added to Malta’s woes at the start of the second half with a penalty shot and Mart Van Der Weijden made it 7-3 as Malta began to look in trouble.
While the Dutch defence proved to be a tough nut to crack, they were unable to stop Jake Bonavia from getting one back for Malta as his goal stopped a negative run of four straight goals conceded.
Malta suffered a setback as Gialanze was sent off and had to be replaced. To make things worse, Lars Ten Broek added another for the Netherlands to reopen a four-goal gap. They had time for a final goal in the quarter to head into the final session at 9-4 after another goal by Sjardijn.
The Malta players were in need of a miracle in the fourth quarter to overcome such a deficit, but superior swimming led to them grabbing a goal almost instantly from a mark Castillo shot.
The Netherlands replied with a goal from Thijmen Karel before Ten Broek was also expelled from the game.
Gianni Farrugia brought Malta’s hope back up by reducing the deficit but Wijgers brought the Dutch scoring back to 11 as they all but closed off the game with five minutes to go. It became a herculean task for Malta as Van Der Weiden brought the margin back up to six.
Alec Fenech managed a goal for Malta with close to three minutes remaining, but it was game over in the sixth minute of the final quarter as a counterattack led to Tim Ketelaars scoring the Dutch’s 13th goal. Cachia replied yet again as Malta never died down.
Daniel Rizzo fired in a penalty to bring it to within four goals but the Malta boys could do no more as the final buzzer gave the Netherlands the win.
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