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Malta U-17 waterpolo team beat Romania to secure historic top 12 finish at Europeans



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

The Malta U-17 women’s national team eased past Romania to secure their place into the knock out stages at the European Championship finals, which are currently being played in Manisa, Turkey.

Anna Goncharenko’s girls came into the match on the back of a tough 15-5 defeat to Slovakia on Monday.

That defeat left the Maltese girls needing to beat the Romanians, who are ranked higher than our national team in the World Aquatics rankings, to ensure second spot in the group and a place in the cross-over stage of the championships.

On Tuesday, the Maltese girls were back on song as they managed to outwit their Romanian opponents to secure a much-needed win that not only see them progress into the competition but more importantly earns them a top-12 placing in the prestigious championship.

“I am really proud of this group of players,” ASA president Karl Izzo told the Times of Malta.

“There was a lot of skepticism about our participation in this tournament but I have always believed in the potential of these players. They came into this tournament with great enthusiasm and they managed to win two of the three matches played and that is no mean feat.

“Against Romania, it was not easy as they are ranked above us in the rankings but our girls showed great spirit to get a fantastic win that propels them to an historic top 12 placing in these championships.

“This is a historical result for the Aquatic Sports Association of Malta and above all it shows the great commitment of the governing body towards women’s waterpolo.

“Our achievement in this tournament shows that there is a lot of potential and will continue to invest as we believe there is more to come from these players. Many members of this team form part of our senior national team as well as the U-19 selection who will be also in action in the U-19 qualifiers with the hope of reaching the Euro finals in that age group too.

Special thanks to coach Aurelien Cousin, who was responsible for the team preparation but unfortunately could not make the trip due to family reasons, coach Anna Goncharenko and her assistant Francesca Paolella, team manager Claudio Azzopardi, ASA delegate Randolph Cauchi as well as our physio Tamara Farrugia Drakard for their sterling work.”

The Maltese girls were off to a brisk start as two quickfire goals from Zaira Bartolo, one from a penalty and the other from a man-up set, along with further nettings from Chloe Amato and  Elisa Amato handed them a comfortable 4-1 lead at the end of the opening session.

The match took a completely different complexion in the second session as the Romanians came to the fore and started to put more pressure on the Maltese team.

In fact,  goals from Dorofea Virtosu (2) and Jazmin-Adrienn Lorincz saw them bridge the gap to 5-4 with Elisa Amato netting Malta’s only goal in this session.

The Maltese girls rediscovered their scoring touch in the third session with Zaira Bartolo taking centre stage when firing home a fine hat-trick to enable the team to surge into a commanding 8-5 lead.

The Romanians were hit hard and further goals from Elise Gatt and Nadya Azzopardi helped the Maltese girls to move 10-7 ahead with only one quarter to go.

Zaira Bartolo and Eyla Schembri were soon on the mark at the start of the final session to put the Maltese with a comfortable five-goal cushion – 12-7.

The Romanians pulled two late goals late but to no avail as Malta were long home and dry.

MALTA: Kelise Agius, Nadya Azzopardi 1, Elisa Amato 2, Chloe Amato 1, Jorjii Stellini Widersum, Elise Gatt 1, Zea Cutajar Licari, Thea Abdilla, Kaylen Cutajar, Eyla Schembri 1, Zaira Bartolo 6, Giulia Zammit, Joelys Sammut.

ROMANIA: Nicole Nita, Jazmin-Adrienn Lorincz 1, Gordan Lorena-Andrada 1, Olivia-Eva Csaki, Patricia-Theodora Chira 1, Maria Talianu, Dorofea Virtosu 3, Andreea-Mihaela Onciu 1, Denisa-Ana-Maria Samuel, Amalia-Cosmina Novacean 1, Maria-Angelina Frangu 1, Francesca Sivu, Stefania-Anna Popescu.

Referees: Anne Grandin (France), Damien Taylor (Great Britain).

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