(5-2, 3-3, 5-2, 3-2)
Malta beat Belarus with goals to spare to qualify for the European waterpolo championship for the second time in succession. A two-goal victory would have been sufficient but the final result, 16-9, is evident of Malta’s superiority in the game.
A fiery first session paved the way for a brilliant performance by the Maltese lads, as Belarus were never much in the game after that. Malta retained a three-goal lead by the change of ends and then upped the tempo in the third quarter, opening up an unassailable lead. Belarus had thrown in the towel by the end of the third quarter, for Malta to control the situation in a comfortable way till the end. Belarus’ frustration was exposed as they had two players sent off with substitution as a packed Tal-Qroqq pool could start celebrating Malta’s feat.
Steve Camilleri and Matthew Zammit were the protagonists for the Maltese side, scoring goals and making matters tough for the Belarusian defence. At the back, Cousin played a blinder and goalkeeper Grixti kept the opponents away with a string of saves in crucial moments.
The Maltese team, led by Karl Izzo, had a splendid start to go 5-2 in front at the end of the first session.
The second session was more balanced, but the Maltese side kept its nose in front with goals from Steve Camilleri (2) and Dino Zammit, with Averka (2) and Kuznenko replying for the Belarusians for an 8-5 score midway through.
The Maltese side stepped up a gear in the third quarter, scoring three quick goals through Cousin, Dino Zammit and Steve Camilleri for an 11-5 lead. Azerka reduced the distance with Averka and Pedziaran, but two splendid goals by Matthew Zammit kept Malta six goals ahead.
Belarus were down and out and their rushed attempts did little to trouble Malta. They scored twice in the last session with Azerka and Kuzmenko but Malta’s feathers were not ruffled and Jordan Camilleri, Cousin and Steve Camilleri rounded up a clear 16-9 victory.
Malta had lost 7-8 in the first leg in Belarus last week, and qualified with a 23-17 aggregate.
The European championships will be played in Barcelona in July..
Original article found on The Malta Independent