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Malta U-17 waterpolo team stun France to place 11th at European Championship finals

MALTA            13

FRANCE           9

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

The Malta U-17 national team ended their commitments in style as they stunned France in their final positional play-off to secure 11th place at the European Championship finals played in Turkey.

It was a stunning performance from Milan Cirovic’s boys who managed to outmuscle the more-quoted France side to ensure they finish in the highest-ever placing achieved by our country in this age-group at the continental championship.

Elijah Schembri finished as the team’s leading scorer with four goals while Sam Engerer bagged a hat-trick while Jayden Cutajar, the team skipper netted a brace.

The first session turned out to be a real thriller with both teams hitting blows to each other, turning the match into a real thriller

Pau Pourtau Sire put the French ahead, but the Maltese came back strongly and turned the match around through Elijah Schembri, through a man-up set, and a Jayden Cutajar penalty.

The French drew level through Killian Fernandez but Schembri managed to restore Malta’s lead.

Pourtau Sire had the final say at the death to make it three-all.

The Maltese kept pushing in the second session and goals from Jayden Cutajar and Sam Engerer put the team 5-3 ahead.

Fernandez kept the French within touching distance before Johan Scorletti levelled matters.

But the Maltese players kept their poise and Zak Cutajar Licari put the team back in front – 6-5 – and take a one-goal lead when ends were changed.

The third session was a tight affair with both teams struggling to make any inroads due to the stringent press from both sets of defences.

Malta goalkeeper Allen Dzanovic distinguished himself with a penalty save on Pourtau and that turned out to be crucial as Julian Valletta struck at the other end to put the Maltese two goals ahead – 7-5.

Dean Bugeja was excluded with substitution late in the session and Nikola Nikolic put the French one goal behind.

But the Maltese soon recovered from that blow as Schembri restored Malta’s two-goal lead with one session to go – 8-6.

Malta started well the final session with Sam Engerer extending their lead with a fine strike after a man-up set.

The French looked on the ropes and quick-fire goals from Schembri and Julian Chircop put the team 11-6 ahead.

The French pulled one back through a Tom Chalinet penalty but the Maltese had the game firmly in their hand and Luigi Dimech bundled the ball home for 12-7.

France tried to fight back and goals from Pourtau and Nikolic saw them bridge the gap at 12-9 but it was Engerer who had the final say to seal a very impressive performance from the Maltese side.

MALTA: Z. Dzanovic, S. Engerer 3, J. Valletta 1, G. Bonavia, J. Cassar, D. Bugeja, Z. Cutajar Licari 1, J. Cutajar 2, E. Schembri 4, J. Chircop 1, L. Dimech 1, E. Mallia, M. Grech.

FRANCE: C. Dervieux, T. Chalinet 1, P. Pourtau 3, A. Mercier-Chaplain, V. Volant, K. Fernandez 2, A. Mehdi, A. De Reviers De Mauny, M. Aissi, L. Barnat, N. Nikolic 2, J. Scorletti 1, I. Fuksa.

Referees: V. Byelyetsov (Ukraine), G. Spanoudis (Greece).

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