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Cirovic hails players’ lion-hearted mentality as Malta waterpolo beat Ukraine

Coach Milan Cirovic hailed his players’ character as the Malta waterpolo national team enjoyed a very positive day at the World Cup Group B tournament in Romania on Friday.

The Maltese youngsters bounced back from their 9-5 defeat to Germany in the tournament’s opener to see off Ukraine 11-6 in Otopeni.

For Cirovic this was his first win since he replaced Karl Izzo as the Malta national team coach and said that he was impressed with the behaviour of his players during their win over Ukraine.

“I am really satisfied with how my players performed today,” Cirovic said.

“We are making small steps forward every day and that is key as we need to continue to progress with every day that passes.

“The thing that impressed me most of my players is how they behaved after our defeat against Germany. We knew we were facing a very strong German team who boast players who ply their trade with clubs like Spandau and Hannover who compete in the Champions League.

“But despite the strength of our opponents, the players continued to fight throughout all four quarters and inevitably were tired after the match. I was afraid that maybe with very little time to recover, we could suffer against Ukraine but it was not the case.

“In fact the players were very professional and managed to be very focused and concentrated and managed to do better even some tactical things from the match against Germany and that shows that they are committed to the cause.”

Malta will play their third match of the competition on Saturday when they face Great Britain and a win could ensure the team a top three finish.

But Cirovic has a wider focus on this match as he wants his team to use the game as a perfect preparation for Sunday’s final fixture against Romania which could earn the team an historic qualification to the semi-final stage of the qualifying campaign.

“I expect the team to be very focused against Great Britain,” Cirovic said.

“We are boosted by the return of Dino Zammit from suspension and I’m planning to rotate the squad throughout the match to ensure to arrive for Sunday’s final match in the best possible shape.

“I saw Romania against Germany tonight and I think that if we perform to our best we stand a good chance of playing a good match against them so we need to be ready.

“Our physical preparation is not the best but I have a group of players who keep fighting and are showing great heart and that shows that the future is really bright for Maltese waterpolo.”

The Maltese were off to a storming start as two goals apiece from Ben Plumpton and Jake Muscat saw the team race into a commanding 4-0 lead at the end of the opening session.

The Maltese remained in control in the second quarter as goals from Liam Galea and Plumpton, who completed his hat-trick helped the team to change ends 6-3 ahead.

During the second part of the match, the Ukrainians started to offer a better fight with Malta goalkeeper Jake Tanti effecting some fine saves.

Goals from Nikolai Zammit and Ben Cachia saw the team move 8-3 ahead.

Jayden Cutajar restored the team’s five goal lead from a penalty after Ukraine had netted their fourth goal.

Malta went on to seal their win with two further goals from Alec Fenech and Nikolai Zammit, from a penalty, to hand coach Cirovic his first win as Malta coach.

Malta will be again in action on Saturday when they face Great Britain.


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