Jake Grech stunner gives Malta a merited win
Malta registered a double over Latvia yesterday as the local boys scored a merited 1-0 win. Malta had won the match in Latvia 2-1 last year.
It was Hamrun youngster Jake Grech who scored a beauty at the start of the second half which proved to be enough for the local boys to take all the three points.
In the process, Silvio Vella’s side established a record in the Under 21 category having collected eight points so far - the most number of points in a qualifying group.
The results, coupled with those of the Group matches played yesterday, enabled Malta to move up to fourth place on eight points from nine matches.
Malta’s remaining match is that against Moldova next Tuesday, also at the Hibs Ground. Moldova yesterday lost 4-1 to the Czech Republic who are the Group winners.
In the first half, play was balanced but it was Malta through Grech, Mbong and Camenzuli who created the best scoring opportunities, though these were few and far between. Otherwise the two sets of defences were on top of the respective front lines so much so that neither goalkeeper was seriously tested.
In the second half Malta came out strongly to take the lead with a splendid goal.
From then on, Latvia went on the offensive in search of an equaliser, but it was the Maltese who went close to scoring on at least three other occasions.
The Latvians tried hard, but the Maltese were well organised at the back and never allowed their opponents a chance to have a pot at goal.
Malta almost opened the scoring in the 7th minute. From a Jake Grech cross, Ryan Camenzuli, unmarked in front of goal, hit over the bar with his knee.
Latvia’s reply arrived in the 15th minute when from a Tinderbergs cross, it was Jurkovskis who headed over the bar.
In the 25th minute, Malta risked a lot when in a tackle in our area, Jean Borg seemed to have pushed Svarups, but no one protested and the referee, close to the action, waved play on.
Moments later, from a Jurkovskis cross, it was Daniel Zerafa who cleared to corner before Svarups could conclude at goal.
In the 33rd minute, Camenzuli set Degabriele beautifully in the area, but goalie Zommers rushed out of goal to thwart the Malta striker.
A minute later, Malta created the best opportunity when Mbong found Camenzuli who controlled the ball on the edge of the area, only to see his effort going just wide of the target.
Malta started the second half on a very positive note taking the lead with an excellent goal. It was Joseph Mbong who set Jake Grech with a fine back heel and the latter fired home a rising shot from the edge of the area, giving Zommers no chance.
And soon after it was almost 2-0 as Degabriele worked a good ball in the area and passed the ball low to Grech who transferred it to Cremona, but the latter’s effort was just over the post.
On the hour, in a swift counter-attack, it was again Mbong – Malta’s best player – who crossed into the area, but Degabriele’s effort went wide.
Three minutes later, Cremona set Degabriele in the area, but when on the point of shooting at goal, he saw Cernomordijs clearing in extremis.
In the 83rd minute, Malta missed a good chance to increase their lead when off a Camenzuli freekick, it was Cremona who missed the flight of the ball in front of goal.
In added time, Latvia came closest to getting an equaliser when Jurgen Borg fumbled the ball in a cross, but a shot from Flaksis was cleared from near the goalline by Samuel Magri.
The Maltese squad celebrate their win against Latvia.
Malta's goalscorer Jake Grech (right) celebrates scoring with team mate Matthew Guillaumier (left)