New heights scaled as Malta clinches bronze medal
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New heights scaled as Malta clinches bronze medal

The Maltese contingent proudly line up with the medals and trophy presented to them yesterday after their narrow victory against Turkey

The Maltese contingent proudly line up with the medals and trophy presented to them yesterday after their narrow victory against Turkey

Malta 7
Turkey 6
(2-2, 3-1, 1-1, 1-2)

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Malta made history again yesterday when, in a nail-biting match against Turkey for the Bronze medal in the European B waterpolo championships in Sweden, they emerged winners 7-6.

The team, playing their seventh match in eight days, were coming from a defeat against Poland, the eventual gold medallists, the previous day. They started the game in weary fashion but determined to avenge their defeat against Turkey in the group stage.

After going a goal down, Jonathan Valletta scored the equaliser which was followed by another goal for Turkey. Before the end of the first session, John Paris levelled matters for Malta.

Dirk Dowling's men came up tops in the second session which started with goals from John Soler and Paris. Turkey pulled one back, but Paris scored again for a 5-3 lead before ends were changed.

Two goals, one apiece, were scored in the third quarter. Paul Privitera increased Malta's advantage at the start only for Turkey to again pull one back for a temporary 6-4 scoreline.

Tension started to mount in the fourth period as Turkey hit back with two goals to equalise. There were some near misses from both sides before Valletta, from a man-up situation, scored the winning goal for a final score of 7-6.

For the record, Malta scored twice from five man-up occasions while the Turks scored four times from six.

In the third session there was a controversial episode when, during a Turkish attack, the Maltese goalposts suddenly fell forward, blocking the goal. The referee immediately signalled a penalty and assigned it to Paul Privitera who had just reached the exclusion area after being sent off.

Privitera and the rest of the Maltese bench protested strongly, indicating that it was impossible for the Maltese stalwart to have pulled down the goalposts from the corner. The referee discussed the incident with his colleague and on second thoughts, reversed his decision.

It later transpired that it was a Turkish left-hander who had advanced to the border with the ball who had pulled down the rope.

The Maltese contingent was ecstatic at this unprecedented achievement. The ASA president, Robert Ebejer, called it a dream come true and the coach Dowling, expressed his satisfaction at the team's performance, not only yesterday but throughout the tournament. He was very happy that the team was able to break down the Turk's strong zone defence which was the main reason for Malta's defeat against the same opponents in the group stage.

By virtue of this win, Malta has gained the right to participate in a five-nation qualifying group for European A Waterpolo Championships, which from next year will be played between eight teams. They also gained automatic qualification to next year's European B Finals which will also be contested by only eight teams.

Malta's medals were presented by Mr Bertie Muscat, Secretary of the LEN Waterpolo Technical Committee.

The Maltese contingent is expected to return to Malta at noon today.

Other results

Final: Poland 9 Ukraine 8 (Poland win gold, Ukraine silver).

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