Malta vs. Cyprus 1:3 (13-25, 25-22, 13-25, 15-25)
Malta claimed the opening point of the first set, but it did not take long for Cyprus to take control with left-handed opposite Zoi Konstantopoulou finding the gaps in the Maltese block. At 6-11, Malta’s Thais Gatt produced a terrific block to halt the tide, but Cyprus then won the next eight points, helped by solid serving from Erika Zembyla, to take full control of the set at 19-7. Konstantopoulou struck the winning point down the line as Cyprus closed out the set at 25-13. Malta hit back at the start of the second set and led by 8-2 at the first technical time-out with captain Alison Borg serving strongly. A service ace took it to 9-2. Malta defended much better than in the first set and, at 7-14 down, Cyprus’s coach Petros Patsias was forced to take his first time-out. Cyprus threatened to come back, clawing back from 18-23 to 21-23, but Malta held their nerve to take the set by 25-22. In a tight opening to the third set, Cyprus led by just one point at the first technical time-out, but had stretched to 16-10 at the second. They then hit six unanswered points to control the set, Ioanna Leonidou clinching the set on the second set point for 25-13 with a second-ball attack. Cyprus jumped to a 6-0 lead at the start of the fourth set, but Malta did not lie down and won the next four points. But Cyprus had more weapons and was within sight of victory at 16-10 at the second technical time-out. Konstantopoulou pierced the block to bring up match point and Katerina Zakchaiou completed the job.
Zoi Konstantinopoulou contributed 20 points to Cyprus’s victory, followed by Erika Zembyla with 15. Alison Borg was Malta’s best scorer with 14 points.
Petros Patsias, head coach of Cyprus: “In every competition, the first match is difficult for any team, in my opinion. I think we only played at 30-40 per cent and we need more concentration during the match. There are no easy matches. My players stopped after the first set. I told the players after the second set that they had to concentrate. But it is a new team and they are still learning.”
Tibor Strajanek, head coach of Malta: “To win a set against Cyprus is a bonus for us. Maybe they lost concentration in the second set and we took advantage of that. Our priority is defense and, from good defense, we can build good offense and that is what we have to concentrate on.