Andorra throw off 4th IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship with win

25 Apr. 2023

Andorra throw off 4th IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship with win

The 4th IHF Men's Emerging Nations Championship threw off with a tantalising game, which saw Andorra take an unexpected 29:27 win over Malta after a hard-fought game with nine lead changes.

Group A

  • Malta vs Andorra 27:29 (12:12)

Malta's aggressive 5+1 defence put Andorra in serious trouble to start the game as the attack failed to get going, enabling Diogo Castro's side to take a 7:4 lead after only nine minutes, with nothing going Andorra's way.

But as Andorra quickly started to adapt and their most experienced player, Unai Ruiz, got into the groove, the tables turned. Malta failed to score more than one goal in the next 10 minutes, with Andorra clawing back into the match and tying the game (8:8).

A wave of attacks ensued for Andorra, trying to clinch their first lead of the game, but a flurry of turnovers and misses prevented them from getting in front for the first time. But goalkeeper Felix Chillon also started to save shot after shot, and it was the moment that Andorra sealed.

They finally got into the lead (11:10) as backs Ruiz and Pol Soriano combined for eight goals in the first half, which eventually saw Malta tie the score (12:12). Malta's momentum continued at the start of the second half, which saw them score two goals in quick succession to get back in front, boasting a two-goal gap.

Yet the lead changed hands once again as Chillon was nothing short of amazing. It was not only about the saves – seven for 33% after 36 minutes – but also two consecutive open goal shots converted, as Malta took off their goalkeeper to compensate for a suspension.

It quickly became a battle between the top two scorers of Malta and Andorra, Neil Gruppetta and Unai Ruiz respectively, as each did their utmost to put their teams in a position to win.

After two more lead changes, Andorra had a 26:25 lead with six minutes to go, despite Malta throwing everything they had in defence to stop Ruiz, especially an aggressive man-to-man defence that yielded partial dividends.

But in the end it was Andorra who celebrated the win (29:27), thanks to a better defence and an in-form Ruiz, who was named the "Player of the Match" after scoring 11 goals, being virtually unstoppable by the Malta defence.

Malta will have a one-day rest on Wednesday while Andorra play against India in a game that could see them progress to the semi-finals, provided they win their second match in as many days.

Player of the Match: Unai Ruiz (Andorra)