Maltese youngsters fail to control the game
Under 21 coach Silvio Vella could have been happier with his team as the Malta Under 21 national team lost a two-goal cushion to finish in a 2-2 draw against Cyprus.
The overall performance was encouraging for Vella as he is trying to build up a new squad with only three players forming part of the record breaking squad that finished Group 1 of the European Qualifiers with 11 points.
One of the negative points from the performance was that the team failed to control the game after scoring the second goal, and had to defend the last twenty five minutes of the game to keep the lead.
But surely, Vella saw a lot of positives from several players and is looking forward for more games to find his team.
Cyprus created the first danger after ten minutes as Karo crossed a low ball from the right to Iosifidis but the striker didn’t meet the ball in time from an ideal position. In the middle of the first half Malta had a promising action when Jake Grech gave a good long ball to Jurgen Degabriele, but after the Hibernians striker controlled the ball, his final shot was easy for Tasouris to save.
Cyprus had their best opportunity of the first half three minutes later. It was a free-kick from the right side, the Maltese defence failed to clear and the ball fell in the direction of Panagi who rattled the upright with a first-time shot.
But Malta opened the score on the 37th minute as from a corner, James Brincat laid Kurt Zammit, as the left back served the ball in the box where Joseph Mbong was ready to anticipate Tasouris with a header from close range. Cyprus almost equalised three minutes later as from a cross by Karo, the header of Fragkou finished centimetres over the crossbar.
The Maltese youngsters doubled the score twelve minutes into the second half, as goalkeeper Tasouris failed to hold on the a cross, and as the ball stalled in the air, Kyrian Nwoko rose above everyone and slotted past his opponent.
Cyprus increased their pressure in order to get back in the game and manage to reduce the margin 15 minutes from time, thanks to a personal action by Ilia who crossed a short low ball to Fytos Kyriakou who entered in the small box and beat Schranz from few metres away.
On the 83rd minute central defender Anastasiou tried his luck with a long distance effort but Philip Schranz saved in two attempts. But the Tarxien goalkeeper couldn’t do nothing three minutes later as Cyprus equalised.
Ioannis Pittas who was in a dubious offside position, received a pass from the midfield area, dribbled past two Maltese defenders with a first time control and beat Schranz with a low shot.
Despite the opponents goal, the Maltese youngsters made a quick reaction and few seconds later substitute Jurgen Suda could have regained the lead. But instead of passing to the middle, he opted to shoot from the left side, managed to beat Tasouris but was denied by the post. From the same action, Kyrian Nwoko tried with an acrobatic first-time shot from a cross on the right side but Tasouris made a good save to deny the St. Andrews striker.
Malta’s Joseph Mbong (number 7 partially hidden) reaches first ahead of Cyprus goalkeeper George Tasouris (1) to open the score for Malta. Photo - Domenic Aquilina