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Malta again grow tall against bigger nations

Malta’s Ben Plumpton (right) delivers a shot against Slovenia. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Malta’s Ben Plumpton (right) delivers a shot against Slovenia. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

After qualifying for the European Games in Baku last year, the Malta U-19s again grew taller than bigger nations in our qualifying group.

Their superiority yesterday was translated into a romping 15-9 victory against Slovenia.

The result lifted Malta to second place in the standings on six points along with Ukraine.

This morning, Malta play Bulgaria in the final match but are already assured of a top-two finish due to better head-to-head record with Ukraine.

Thus, another prestigious berth in the Under-19 European Championships finals, to be held in Holland in September, is guaranteed.

After beating Ukraine on Friday, the Maltese lads turned on the style to outsmart the Slovenians in a match that demanded steely physical qualities and mental alertness.

The boys knew that this was a must-win duel against a side whose target was also maximum points in order to entertain hopes of qualification.

The Maltese coped admirably with this psychological pressure, especially at a point when the Slovenians fought back to within two goals on 9-7 just before the final quarter after they had trailed the hosts by six goals in the middle of the second session.

The irrepressible Ben Plumpton had other ideas and eventually turned hero after bagging six goals, the last of which with a swagger as he rotated well above the water level to beat the opposing goalkeeper.

Those last eight minutes sealed the result with a forceful coup de grace which also had the other components of the team providing their share with gusto.

The Slovenians were unable to match our breaks and clinical execution.

Except for the third part of the game, our blocking and excellent shifting of positions to blot the opponents’ efforts when in possession were indeed a cut above anything Slovenia could manage.

This morning’s match against Bulgaria is now only of prestigious texture. Indeed Anthony Farrugia’s band did Malta proud.

Slovenia 9
Malta 15

(2-3, 1-4, 5-3, 1-5)

Slovenia: J. Beton, B. Popovic 5, B. Briski, P. Vuk, Z. Mocnik, M. Rahne, J. Justin, T. Debevc 1, K. Lazar 2, P. Brozovic, A. Finzgar, R. Bergant 1, L. Ivusic

Malta: Z. Sciberras, N. Bugelli 2, K. Navarro 2, J. Sciberras, I. Riolo, B. Plumpton 6, J. Galea, M. Mifsud, J. Abela 2, M. Zammit 1, M. Cacici 2, M. Azzopardi, J. Tanti

Referees: E. Turkkan, S. Melnicov.

Other result
Germany vs Ukraine 10-5 (3-1, 2-2, 3-1, 2-1)

Standings
Germany 9 points; Malta, Ukraine 6; Slovenia 3; Bulgaria 0.

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