Mal­tese young­sters fail to con­trol the game

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

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

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