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Malta cruise past Ukraine to kickstart Euro qualifiers

Malta hit 14 goals past Ukraine in their Euro qualifiers opener. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

MALTA 14

UKRAINE 7

(2-1, 3-0, 5-3, 4-3)

MALTA

J.Tanti, J. Gabarretta 1, L. Galea 1, J. Gambin, J. Cutajar 2, B. Plumpton 3, J. Muscat 3, B. Cachia 2, J. Abela, N. Zammit 2, A. Fenech, N. Bugelli, N. Grixti

UKRAINE

K. Nikolskyi, M. Osyka, V. Voitenko 1, D. Ashanin, O. Diadiura 1, R. Gryshchuk, O. Dzhura 1, Y. Mametyev 1, D. Gusakov 1, K. Alieksieiev 2, D. Sokolov, I. Kechedzhy, M. Khytryi

Referees Erwin Schapers, Luis Santos

A largely rejuvenated Malta put up a solid performance to beat Ukraine 14-7 on Friday in the first match of Group B of the 2023 European Championship qualifying round.

Inspired by the sound goalkeeping of Jake Tanti and a solid rearguard made for the right platform for victory.

Malta were the stronger side, basing their play on rapid shifting of the ball and accurate shooting.

Milan Cirovic’s side will meet Group favourites Germany on Saturday. The winner of the Group will qualify automatically for the Championships to be held in Tel Aviv next January. The best three runners-up from the four qualifying groups will also book their place in the finals.

A fine shot by Jake Muscat gave Malta the lead early on. Denys Gusakov levelled immediately. However, Ben Plumpton gave the Reds a 2-1 boost in the opening session.

The local shooting from the outside five and six positions was not accurate enough in the first quarter. However, efficient cover at the back in front of a safe Tanti between the sticks with Nicholas Bugelli and Jamie Gambin in particular evidence limited the Ukrainians’ options to conclude from an ideal position.

Nicholai Zammit came to the fore in the second session when he netted a brace before Muscat his second, made it a sound lead before the ends were changed.

Spurred by some great blocks from Tanti, the hosts went 10-1 ahead through Muscat, Plumpton, Zammit, Jayden Cutajar, and Ben Cachia.

However, Ukraine revved up and Kostiantyn Alieksieiev (2) and Yuriy Mametyev made it 10-4. Malta were guilty of some hesitancy when they squandered two early chances on extra-man sets.

It was getting quite nervy for Malta but Tanti drew cheers from the local crowd when he made a great block on Oleksandr Diadiura just before the end of the third session.

 Ukraine were awarded a penalty at the start of the last session but Orest Dzhura missed amid frustration for the away team.

Malta grew taller as goals from Cutajar and Cachia restored an eight-goal cushion for the local side early in the last session.

More of the same was expected but Ukraine were basing their play on accurate shooting as reduced the deficit to 13-7 with Jerome Gabarretta’s goal sandwiched between efforts from Dzhura and Volodymyr Voitenko.

Tanti made a double crucial intervention on Ihor Kechedzhy. Malta held sway to increase their advantage through a superb shot by Liam Galea for a final 14-7.

Other result

Germany vs Bulgaria: 24-3.

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