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Favourites Serbia outclass depleted Malta in European Championships

Malta goalkeeper Jake Tanti attempts to make a save at the European Champions. Photo: LEN

SERBIA              21

MALTA              4

(5-0, 6-1, 5-1, 5-2)

SERBIA R. Filipovic, D. Mandic 1, S. Rasovic 3, S. Randelovic 1, D. Lazic 1, M. Radulovic 3, P. Jaksic, N. Jaksic 3, N. Vico 1, V. Milojevic 3, N. Lukic, V. Rasovic, B. Mitrovic.

MALTA J. Tanti, G. Farrugia, J. Cachia 1, J. Bonavica, J. Muscat 1, J. Cutajar 1, J. Abela, N. Zammit 1, D. Zammit, M. Azzopardi, B. Busuttil.

Referees R. Evers (Netherlands), T. Copic (Croatia).

Tournament favourites Serbia outclassed Malta to seal the top spot in Group C at the European Championship finals on Tuesday.

There was very little hope that Malta could get a positive result against the European powerhouse that is Serbia. Their task was even more difficult with the absence of four players as Mark Castillo was serving a two-match ban, following his red card for violent play against Israel. Added to that, Sam Gialanze, one of the star performers against Israel, and Nicholas Bugelli were ruled out of the equation as they were down with fever. On the other hand, Liam Galea was forced to miss out due to a back injury.

Despite the heavy defeat, the Maltese still have a lot to look forward to as on Wednesday they face a crucial positional play-off against Slovenia where a win would give them the chance to play for 13th and 14th place on Saturday.

As expected, the Serbians were off to a strong start in the opening session as the tournament favourites raced into a four-goal lead with a brace from Strahinja Rasovic and further strikes from Mandic, Dorde Lazic and Nikola Jaksic.

The Maltese looked resigned to defeat much to the chagrin of coach Milan Cirovic who showed his frustration during his pep talk with his players.

Cirovic’s words seemed to shake the Maltese players who started to show more fight in the second session with Filipovic forced to make two fine saves to deny Jayden Cutajar and Jake Muscat.

The Serbians continued to show their cutting edge with Vuk Milojevic netting twice and another strike from Marko Radulovic.

Malta finally netted their first goal in a man-up set with Cutajar blasting home.

That was just a temporary reprieve for Malta and Serbia soon hit the ten-goal mark through Raksic, Radulovic and Sava Randelovic.

The goals kept coming for Serbia in the third session through Nemanja Vico and Milojevic with the Maltese bagging their second with a long-range shot from Jake Muscat.

The Maltese battled as hard as they could but the Serbians still added three more goals through Radulovic (2) and Jaksic.

Malta’s reserve goalkeeper Benji Busuttil distinguished himself with some fine blocks in the fourth session to thwart somewhat the Serbians early on.

In fact, they could only add three goals in the first six minutes through Petar Jaksic, Victor Rasovic and Randelovic.

Malta did add two goals through a fine strike from Nikolai Zammit and a well-executed lob from Jake Cachia.

However, Serbia went on to seal the win with goals from Milojevic and Lukic to seal a commanding victory.

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