The Malta waterpolo national team set up a mouth-watering showdown with hosts Romania for the second qualifying spot at the World Cup Group B qualifiers after they defeated Great Britain 9-7 on Saturday.
Milan Cirovic’s men had a tough fight on their hands against the British outfit as they shared the exchanges for long parts of the match, with the match turning point turning out to be the third session which saw the Maltese take a two-goal lead which they managed to preserve in the final quarter to secure victory.
The win has lifted Malta to second place in the group, level on points with Romania and these two sides will face off in a direct shoot-off with the winner heading to the semi-final stage of these qualifiers which will be held in Berlin in the summer along with tournament winners Germany.
However, should Malta lose Sunday’s match, Cirovic’s boys could still make it to the next stage as ASA officials told the Times of Malta that the governing body World Athletics will decide on April 1 whether the third-placed team from this tournament will also progress since Germany were already assured of qualification prior the start of the tournament since they will host the semi-final stage this summer.
There was little separating either side in the first quarter with the Britons managing twice to go in front with the Maltese managing to restore parity each time courtesy of goals from Jake Muscat and Benji Cachia.
The second quarter saw the Maltese surge two goals clear after Liam Galea and Alec Fenech fired home to put their team 4-2 ahead.
But the Britons kept fighting and managed to restore parity before ends were changed, 4-4.
In the third session, the Maltese stepped up a gear as goals from Ben Plumpton and Jake Muscat enabled the team to take a crucial 6-4 lead with one session to go.
The final quarter turned out to be a topsy-turvy affair as goals from Nikolai Zammit and a Jake Muscat brace gave the Maltese a commanding 8-5 lead.
Great Britain netted two goals without replay to bridge the gap to 8-7 and set up a nailbiting finale.
But the Maltese players kept their poise and Sam Gialanze sealed the win to hand Malta a 9-7 win.
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