MALTA 7
SPAIN 23

(3-4, 2-6, 0-7, 2-6)

Malta coach Karl Izzo was encouraged with the national team’s performance in their European Championship opener despite suffering a heavy defeat to tournament favourites Spain at the Duna Arena in Budapest on Tuesday.

For much of the first part of the match, the national team showed good tactical discipline and organisation against the superior Spaniards to somewhat remain in the game. 

However, when ends were changed Spain showed all their class as they severly punished Malta’s sloppiness in defence with some lightning transitional play, scoring goals at regular intervals to open their campaign with a convincing victory. 

Steve Camilleri was Malta’s leading scorer with a hat-trick.

“I’m quite pleased with the performance of the players,” Izzo told the Times of Malta.

“To score seven goals against a world class side such as Spain is a huge positive, as we never managed such a feat in our previous two meetings against them. 

“Besides, we had a great scoring rate when it comes to man-ups, converting half of the opportunities that came our way. The players’ attitude was also spot on and hopefully we can build on that for our crucial match against Turkey on Thursday.”

The Malta coach still pointed out his concern on his team’s 
performance in the third session. 

“In the third session we completely switched off,” Izzo said.

“We committed several mistakes and conceded a few goals that could have been easily avoided. It’s important that we don’t commit such mistakes against Turkey.” 

Malta started brightly in the opening session as they managed to keep abreast with the Spaniards. 

In fact, both teams were trading blows with the Spaniards managing to find the net three times with the Maltese always managing to restore parity. 

Fernando Fernadez Miranda and a brace from Roger Tahull Compte put Spain in charge but the Maltese hit back courtesy of goals from Jeremy Abela, Steve Camilleri and Dino Zammit to level matters with only seconds to go. But it was Spain who edged the session as a Munarriz Egana penalty earned them a 4-3 lead.

In the second session, Spain’s pacey play came to fore as their quick movement of the ball and faster swimming left the Maltese on the ropes.

In fact, the World Championship finalists managed to find the net six times with Alvaro Granados Ortega netting a brace while Tahull Compte, Delgado Baches, Larumbe Gonfaus and Filipe Perrone also on the mark. 

Malta managed to find the net twice in quick succession through  Steve Camilleri, from a man-up, and Matthew Zammit, but were still trailing 10-5 when ends were changed.

The last two sessions turned out to be more difficult for the Maltese as Spain maintained their high-tempo, scoring at regular intervals.

In fact, Spain netted seven goals without reply as Malta’s defending left much to be desired.

Steve Camilleri had the chance to find the net for Malta in the third session but failed to convert a penalty. 

In the last session, Malta did manage to somewhat regroup but the rampant Spaniards continue to hit the target with Munarriz Egana helping himself to a hat-trick.

The Maltese at least did manage to regain their scoring touch as they managed to pull two goals back through Matthew Zammit and Steve Camilleri.

Malta: N. Grixti, J. Gabarretta, A. Galea, G. Pace, Darren Zammit, M. Zammit 2, S. Camilleri 3, J. Camilleri, J. Abela 1, A. Cousin, B. Plumpton, D. Zammit 1, A. Borg. Cole.

Spain: D. Lopez Pinedo, A. Munarriz Egana 5, A. Granados Ortega 3, B. Sanahuja Carne 1, M. De Toro Dominguez, M. Larumbe Gonfaus 2, A. Delgado Baches 1, F. Fernadez Miranda 2, R. Tahull Compte 4, F. Perrone Rocha 3, B. Mallarach Guell 1, A. Bustos Sanchez 1, E. Lorrio Bejar.

Referees: D. Dutilth Dumas (Netherlands), G. Stavridis 
(Greece).