Malta U21 suffer defeat against Belgium. Zammit scores for the boys in red

UEFA European U21 Championship Group B

Belgium …… 3

MALTA …….. 1

Belgium ran out winners defeating Malta 3-1 in a spirited performance in Leuven by the boys who keep navigating progress in their hunt for first qualification point in this competition.

Floriana forward Mattia Veselji was missing through suspension, in a match that represented the first ever cap at this U21 level for Sydney-based midfielder Dylan Scicluna, who performed brilliantly and was a driving force in his role of engineering moments of high press, ball possession and forward play situations.

The rest of the starting eleven was pretty much unchanged from previous matches the U21 team played in this UEFA Euro Championship Qualifying Group B competition.

The home side started off with plenty of possession, but the Malta defensive block and second line stuck to their pre-match instructions and on-field task, holding well, also confident, and flawless at times coming out from the back.

Hibernians keeper Hugo Sacco produced a couple of routine saves in the opening stages where tactical discipline by the Malta players was worthy of attention and applaudable.

However, pressure by Belgium paid off when they managed to forge ahead before the stroke of halftime when a corner from the right saw Romeo Vermant finding himself unmarked and with a clean header directed the ball into the top corner to give Belgium the lead.

This goal conceded was rather harsh on the Maltese players who could have easily concluded level the first period of the match, but what a terrible way to start the second half.

Less than 2 minutes on the watch at the start of the second period, this time the playing the ball out from the back tactic failed for the boys gifting the ball to the opponents, who after a series of quick passes across the 18-yard box, finally Jarne Steuckers drifted the ball in the bottom far corner to make the score 2-0.

Belgium continued to probe and shortly after the second goal forced another save by Malta keeper Hugo Sacco, as the Belgium pressure remained incessant at the opening moments of the second period.

However, a rare but productive counterattack earned Malta a route back as Basil Tuma was tripped inside the box by Belgium defender Van Den Bosch, from the spot Birkirkara forward Andrea Zammit calmly slotted the ball home.

The home side didn’t let the Malta goal disrupt their rhythm, and they added a third in the 90th minute through substitute Kazeem Olaigbe with a low-angled shot ending up in the bottom corner behind the faultless Malta keeper Hugo Sacco.

Meanwhile, next up for the Malta Under 21 Team is a home friendly on Monday as we rub shoulders with Slovakia at the Tony Bezzina Stadium, kick-off at 7 pm.

Belgium – Maarten Vandevoordt, Hugo Siquet (Killian Sardella 63), Jorne Spileers, Zeno Van Den Bosch, Arne Engels, Malick Fofana (Kazeem Olaigbe 63), Mario Stroeykens, Romeo Vermant, Eliot Matazo ©, Jarne Steuckers (Noah Mbamba 87), Tuur Rommens.

Malta – 12. Hugo Sacco, 3. Owen Spiteri, 4. Jake Vassallo, 5. Matthew Ellul, 8. Dylan Scicluna, 10. Andrea Zammit © (Jake Engerer 80), 11. Aleandro Garzia (Kurt Briffa 88), 13. Nikolai Micallef (Karl Mohnani 69), 17. Gianluca Sciberras (Matthew Debattista 88), 19. Basil Tuma, 20. Kurt Bondin (Andy Borg 80).

Subs – 1. Mattias Debono, 2. Zean Leonardi, 16. Jake Micallef, 22. Brooklyn Borg.

Referee – Genc Nuza (Kosovo).

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