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Malta suffer close defeat to France in SportMalta Christmas tournament

Malta's Sam Gialanze (right) defends a shot from France on Friday in the SportMalta Christmas tournament. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier



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

MALTA J. Tanti, G. Farrugia, L. Galea 2, M. Castillo, S. Gialanze 1, B. Plumpton 1, J. Muscat 4, J. Cutajar 2 , J. Zerafa Gregory , N. Zammit 1, D. Zammit, N. Bugelli, M. Bonello Dupius, M. Azzopardi , J. Bonavia.

FRANCE A. Hovhannisyan, R. Saudadier, U. Crousillat 3 , A. Bouet 3, E. Khasz, T. Vernoux 3, D. Zivkovic , E. Bjorch, E. Nardon, M. Bodegas 4, P. Vanpeperstraete1, A. De Nardi, H. Fontani, C. Canonne, R. Marion Vernoux 1.

Referees: Peter Balzan, Stefan Licari

Malta’s second act in the SportMalta Christmas Cup turned out to be an honourable performance, never mind a defeat at the hands of a higher-ranked team France on Friday.

The 15-11 scoreline is a close score by waterpolo standards, reflecting a battling performance from Malta, that lived up to its tag of being a good team in the continental ranking list.

The only blemish for Malta was that third session in which they suffered five goals in succession.

Milan Cirovic’s men battled on and were still in with a chance of a positive result till the end, trailing their opponents to just two goals, but then, France made their class tell again to stretch their lead to four goals.

More than that, this match was a test of character for Malta, if anything for the fact that they had to overcome the mental handicap of losing the first match 23-6 to Italy. In turn, all the players deserve credit for their efforts.

In opening sessions, Malta reacted well and every time France edged in front, Cirovic’s clan fought back to level the score on every single occasion.

Both sides went for an early breakthrough with Liam Galea missing out on a five-metre throw after just 30 seconds. Then, Jake Muscat showed off his considerable skill and nerves of steel, when the refereeing duo Peter Balzan and Stefan Licari annulled his effort from the five-metre throw for a technical issue. But unperturbed, Muscat made it 1-1.

Malta’s Jake Muscat (left) fires at the French goal. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

With a fraction of a second to go in the first session, Jayden Cutajar reminded the crowd of his exquisite scoring instincts when he netted a brilliant goal to make it 3-3.

The Maltese kept battling and fought back to level the score on every occasion until Muscat lifted himself out of the water to brilliantly intercept the ball in the Maltese area. The ball was quickly transferred upfront as Muscat powered in a shot to give Malta the lead for the first and only time in the match.

France, then went on a rampage, making it six-all before going on a scoring spree to hit five past Jake Tanti early in the third session. Sam Gialanze handed a lifeline to the Maltese side, to make it 7-11 at the end of the third session.

This was underlined in another closely fought fourth quarter with Galea bridging the gap to just two goals on 12-10, three minutes from the end. Michael Bodegas who finished as the game’s top scorer with four goals and Alexander Bout then made it a final 15-11 for France.

Malta will meet the Netherlands, who lost to Italy 15-10 on Friday for the final match of the SportMalta Christmas Cup, with the intent of avoiding the wooden spoon.



(3-1, 3-2, 3-3, 6-4)

ITALY M. Del Lungo, F. Di Fulvio 4, L. Damonte  2, L. Marziali 1, A. Fondelli , G. Cannella 3 , V. Renzuto Iodice, O. Gonzalo Echenique 1, M. Iocchi Gratta 1 , T. Gianazza, E. di Somma 2 , F. Condemi 1, G. Nicosia.

NETHERLANDS T. Huijsmans, B. Gradamassi 4, J. Rouwenhorst 2, F. Kastrop , G. Van Ijperen , T. De Mey 1, K. Te Riele , J. Nispelling, J. Muller, T. De Weerd 1, J. Koopman, L. Ten Broek 1 , J. Westerveld, S. Van Den Burg, J. Van Den Weijden 1.

Referees: Massimo Angileri, N. Mercieca

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