Baku, June 16, AZERTAC
Jubilant Azerbaijan players hugged and roared with delight after winning their first match of the men's water polo competition with an 8-7 victory over Malta.
But tempers flared among the defeated Maltese players and punches were thrown during the home team's celebrations.
The match was tied 7-7 going into the final period and Azerbaijani goalkeeper Naim Khamidi made three brilliant saves from Ben Plumpton (MLT).
Egor Triapin (AZE) scored the winning goal late in the game and pumped his right fist into the air in celebration as coach Azer Babayev (AZE) did the same.
"The happiness was great," Triapin said. "All the team congratulated me and shouted, ‘win win'."
As the final buzzer sounded, there was a fracas involving both sets of players, and an Azerbaijani coach jumped fully clothed into the water to try to separate the squabbling teams and restore order.
When the players emerged from the pool, the Maltese contingent shouted angrily at the referee as they tried to approach him, but were ushered away by tournament organisers.
"Malta is a really strong team and they are known in the world for starting fights and arguments in the game," coach Babayev said.
"We were wary of it and wary that our players would fall victim to provocation and we'd lose. At the end of the game, the Maltese team wanted to start a fight. Our coach dived into the water to prevent the fight. We didn't take the bait."
Azerbaijan play Turkey on Wednesday to decide who finishes 13th and 14th in the 16-team competition.
"Our next game is with our brothers. We have already achieved what we wanted," Babayev said.
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