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Malta youngsters outclass Kazakhstan to open World Championship campaign in style

Malta's Sam Engerer (left) eyes the ball against Kazakhstan. Photo: Timmy Cutugno

KAZAKHSTAN 6

MALTA 16

(0-4, 2-3, 2-3, 2-4)

Malta U-16 grew taller than Kazakhastan to make a winning start at the U-16 World Aquatics Championships that got under way at the National Pool.

Whilst lining up for the presentation, Malta’s opponents looked bigger and taller, yet that disparity fizzled out immediately in the water. Jonathan Valletta’s boys seemed to be more organised and physically more fit than their opponents.

Their superiority was translated into a romping 16-6 victory. The result lifted Malta to first place in Group H standings on a better goal average compared to Greece who beat Romania 14-3.

The Maltese boys knew that this was a must-win duel in order to entertain hopes of qualification, given that the other two teams in Group H – Greece and Romania on paper are considered to be favourites to go through the knock out stages.

Malta had a flying start, taking a 4-0 first-session lead thanks to their superior movement and finishing power.

 That advantage was extended in the next quarter as they edged out their opponents 3-2. Sam Engerer led Malta’s charge in the opening sessions as the Sliema player and Max Lanzon orchestrated play.

A quick-fire brace from Lanzon increased Malta’s tally early in the third session but Kazakhstan managed to limit the damage before Engerer restored some order. Lanzon was fouled out towards the end of the third session, but it mattered little.

Engerer applied the coup de grace on the opponents with two quick goals on 12-4.

Kazakhstan reduced the arrears again but the irrepressible Engerer had other ideas, bagging his eighth goal.

There was also glory for second-choice goalkeeper Zak Attard who blocked Kozhakhmetov’s five-metre throw. Thomas Fenech, Jamie Pawley Neame, and Philip Tabone increased the gap to a final 16-6 scoreline.

Indeed, Valletta’s boys made Malta proud.

KAZAKHSTAN: A. Talipov, A. Umergaliyev 1, D. Ryspayev, A. Motigolla, A. Bimzhanov,  Z. Karagul 1, Z. Abilkassym 2, A. Akhmetov, A. Namazov 2, R. Tamabayev, B. Kozhakhmetov, N. Bolatbek.

MALTA: Z. Dzanovic, M. Lanzon 4, T. Fenech 3, A. Aquilina 1, S. Cutajar Casha, M. Cassar, S. Mifsud, S. Engerer 6, J. Pawley Neame 1, J. Borg Tabone 1, A. Fava, P. Tabone, Z. Attard.

Refs R. Koryzna (Poland), L. Meichunzi (China).

Other result: Romania vs Greece 4-13.

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