National Teams

Malta Under 21 end season on a high with victory

Published: 08-06-2024 22:44
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08.06.2024, Centenary Stadium, Ta’ Qali

(HT 0-0)

1-0 Andrea Zammit, pen, 85.

The Malta Under-21 side ended their season on a high by beating Belarus 1-0 in a Friendly tonight. It was a much-deserved victory for the team, who recovered remarkably well from their latest outing last Wednesday against the same side. While the visitors were clearly the better side in the first game, the Maltese boys replied with a spirited performance in a balanced game, which sprung to life in the last ten minutes.

Compared to the first Friendly, Malta U21 coach Ivan Woods changed his starting XI on six positions. Between the sticks, Mosta goalkeeper Dylan Ciappara was preferred instead Hugo Sacco. Matthew Ellul returned in the heart of the defence, Andrew Borg, Nathan Agius and Aleandro Garzia on midfield while Jake Engerer was instructed with a more advanced role, along with 17-year-old Keyon Ewurum who kept his place. The changes worked out well as the home-side shared the exchanges with Belarus selection for most of the match, giving an excellent account of themselves in their final fixture of season 2023/24.  

The first opportunity of the match was for Andrew Borg in the opening phase, who advanced well on midfield but his grounder missed target. Play remained fairly balanced during the first half, with very little goalmouth action on each side. The visitors limited themselves to some long-distance attempts by Vadim Martinkevich and captain Nikita Burak, who both produced two off-target grounders. Their best chance was perhaps Ruslan Myalkovskiy’s close-range attempt on 39 minutes but the young midfielder failed to round off another Belarus attack. But Malta’s rear-guard stood-out, giving the Belarussians no chance to penetrate their defence.

Play remained rather balanced after lemon time with the visitors keeping a slight upper-hand. On 54 minutes, Ciappara did well to parade a Myalkovskiy scorcher from a corner action with the same Ciappara blocking Aleksey Dunaev’s rebound in style. On 75 minutes, substitute Trofim Melnichenko incredibly missed from close-range with the Maltese defence caught on the wrong foot. In the attack on the other side that followed, Andrea Zammit concluded weak from the edge of the box and barely a minute later, Nikolai Micallef forced Belarus goalkeeper Artem Karatai into a splendid save, turning the attempt from the left flank defender into a corner. On 80 minutes, Ciappara made another splendid save, this time on a Pavel Kotlyarov attempt.

The match was however decided in the final stages. On 82 minutes, Belarus substitute Vladislav Zhuravlev was given a straight red card for retaliation in an action involving Micallef. A minute later, Veselji was brought down in the box by Karatai with the referee in charge awarding a penalty for Malta. However, Karatai dived in the right corner to deny the same Veselji from 11-meters. One minute after, the home-side were awarded a second penalty, another very clear one, when Zammit was brought down by Aleksey Dunaev. This time Zammit stepped up and blasted home in style to give Malta the perfect ending of the season.

Belarus did threaten in the final minutes as just before the end of regular time, Rodion Pachura missed a huge opportunity to get his team on level terms, kicking wide over from an ideal angle. Ciappara blocked another Pachura goal attempt at the second post deep into stoppage time.

Zammit’s goal brought him next to Birkirkara’ Antoine Zahra, who scored seven goals for the Malta U21 team between 1995 and 1999. They both share the top position now in the all time goals ranking in this category.

Dylan Ciappara, Mattias Ellul (Owen Spiteri 87), Matthew Ellul (Sven Xerri 72), Jake Micallef, Jake Vassallo, Nicolai Micallef, Andrew Borg, Aleandro Garzia, Jake Engerer (Mattia Veselji 62), Nathan Agius (Gianluca Sciberras 62), Keyon Ewurum (Andrea Zammit 72)
Coach: Ivan Woods

Artem Karatai, Arseniy Ageev, Aleksey Dunaev, Kiriil Gomanov (Nikita Baranok 46), Vadim Martinkevich, Nikita Krasnov (Rodion Pechura 62), Nikita Burak (Daniil Dushevskiy 62), Aleksandr Guz (Artur Nazarenko 77), Ruslan Myalkovskiy (Pavel Kotlyarov 62), Vladislav Varaksa (Vladislav Zhuravlev 62), Aleksandr Frantsuzov (Trofim Melnichenko 46)
Coach: Sergey Yaromko

Trustin Farrugia-Cann (Malta)

Images copyright by Joe Borg