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Watch: Malta waterpolo win thrilling shoot-out to place 15th in Europe

Malta finished 15th at the European Championships after defeating Israel in a penalty shoot-out. Photo: LEN

Jake Tanti takes centre stage with two saves in penalty shoot-out

ISRAEL            16

MALTA            17

(match finished 12-12; Malta win on penalties)

The Malta waterpolo national team ended their European Championship with a thrilling penalty shoot-out victory over Israel to end their campaign in 15th place.

It was a dramatic outcome to a match that looked to be heading Israel’s way as they were on top for much of the first three sessions.

But when it looked as though, the game was out of Malta’s reach, when they trailed by three goals in the fourth session, the character of this young Maltese outfit came to the fore as they managed to turn the match around to take a 12-11 lead with less than eight seconds left.

Israel managed to send the match to a penalty shoot-out at the death.

But that late setback failed to derail the Maltese players during the shoot-out where goalkeeper Jake Tanti came to the fore with two penalty saves before Jake Muscat sealed the win when converting the decisive penalty.

No doubt, this was an encouraging result for this young team who left the European Championship finals with two wins in the bag, and no doubt, with the young talent they possess, they have the potential to be a far more competitive outfit in the future editions, particularly with the expertise of national coach Cirovic.

The first session turned out to be a hard-fought affair.

The Israelis took a commanding 3-1 lead courtesy of goals from Ido Goldschmidt, Or Schlein and Ronen Gross.

The Maltese fought back and Muscat took centre stage when he managed to score twice and restore parity.

Yuval Kvarfeld restored Israel’s lead but then a major turning point happened when Fotin punched Castillo and was sent off for brutality leaving Israel with a player down for four minutes.

But the Maltese failed to make the most of this advantage as they could not score with Liam Galea even missing a penalty.

Instead, it was Israel who added two more goals through Or Schlein to put his team 6-4 ahead.

Jayden Cutajar finally struck for Malta to put the team just one goal behind.

Yoav Rendler profited from some poor defensive positioning by the Malta players to put his team two goals ahead with one session to go.

Jake Bonavia boosted Malta’s hopes with a fine angled drive early in the third session to put the team 7-6 behind.

Fotin quickly restored Israel’s lead from a man-down.

Jake Muscat broke free to finish off an excellent fast break to keep the team in the hunt.

Soon after Darren Zammit conceded a penalty and Goldschmitdt duly converted to keep Israel two goals ahead – 9-7.

Muscat was turning out to be the team’s only source of goals and Malta’s no.7 grabbed his sixth of the match to bridge the gap to 9-8.

Malta coach Milan Cirovic gives his thoughts after Malta’s win.

Vlad Begin converted a man-up before Goldschmidt scored from the distance to put Israel with one hand firmly on the match.

Jake Cachia kept alive Malta’s flickering hopes when converting a man-up set – 11-9.

The goal seemed to spark Malta into life as Jayden Cutajar scored a fine individual goal to put the Maltese just one goal behind before Liam Galea scored from the distance to level matters.

Malta’s fightback was completed with less than 11 seconds to go when Jake Bonavia fired a piledriver to put the team 12-11 ahead.

But the Israelis kept fighting and Begin levelled matters from a close angle to send the match into a penalty shoot-out.

Jake Muscat gives his thoughts after Malta’s win over Israel.

Jake Muscat, Liam Galea, Jayden Cutajar and Nikolai Zammit scored Malta’s first four penalties. Darren Zammit had the chance to win it when Tanti saved Ronen Gross’s penalty but the Maltese player’s shot was saved.

However, Tanti immediately handed Malta a second match point when saving Goldschmidt’s shot and Muscat made no mistake to seal Malta’s win.

ISRAEL: Y. Fire, O. Schlein 2, R. Gros 2, Y. Klarfeld 1, V. Begin 2, I. Roth, K. Halevy, I. Goldschmidt 3, D. Koter, Y. Rendler 1, E. Ben Gal Chalutz 1, T. Fotin, M. Smirnov.

MALTA: J. Tanti, G. Farrugia, L. Galea 1, M. Castillo, J. Cachia 1, J. Bonavia 2, J. Muscat 6, J. Cutajar 2, J. Abela, N. Zammit, D. Zammit, M. Azzopardi, B. Busuttil.

Referees: E. Silva (Portugal), Peter Radic (Slovakia).

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