Malta Under 21 end season on a high with victory

08.06.2024, Centenary Stadium, Ta’ Qali

(HT 0-0)

1-0 Andrea Zammit, pen, 85.

The Malta Under-21 team concluded their season on a positive note with a 1-0 victory over Belarus in a Friendly match on Saturday. The team truly deserved this win, especially after their previous match against the same opponents last Wednesday. While Belarus was clearly superior in the first game, the Maltese players responded with a spirited performance in a closely contested match that came alive in the final ten minutes.

In comparison to the first Friendly, Malta U21 coach Ivan Woods made six changes to his starting lineup. Dylan Ciappara, the goalkeeper from Mosta, was chosen instead of Hugo Sacco. Matthew Ellul returned to the heart of the defence, while Andrew Borg, Nathan Agius, and Aleandro Garzia took their places in midfield. Jake Engerer was given a more advanced role, alongside 17-year-old Keyon Ewurum, who maintained his position. These changes proved to be successful as the home team held their own against the Belarus selection for most of the game, displaying an impressive performance in their final match of the 2023/24 season.

The first scoring opportunity of the match arose during the early stages when Andrew Borg made a promising run through midfield, but unfortunately, his shot missed the target.

The first half of the game saw a relatively balanced play, with limited goal-scoring opportunities for both teams. The visitors attempted some long shots through Vadim Martinkevich and captain Nikita Burak, but failed to hit the target. Ruslan Myalkovskiy had a close-range chance in the 39th minute, but was unable to convert it into a goal. Malta’s defense was impressive, preventing the Belarusian team from breaking through.

The balance shifted slightly in favor of the visitors after halftime. In the 54th minute, Ciappara made a great save to deny a powerful shot from Myalkovskiy during a corner situation, and followed it up by blocking Aleksey Dunaev’s rebound. In the 75th minute, substitute Trofim Melnichenko missed a golden opportunity from close range, catching the Maltese defense off guard. In the subsequent attack, Andrea Zammit’s shot from the edge of the box lacked power. Just a minute later, Nikolai Micallef forced Belarus goalkeeper Artem Karatai into an excellent save, turning his shot from the left flank into a corner.

In the 80th minute, Ciappara pulled off another fantastic save, this time denying Pavel Kotlyarov’s attempt.

However, the outcome of the match was determined in the closing stages. In the 82nd minute, Belarus substitute Vladislav Zhuravlev received a straight red card for retaliating against Micallef. Just a minute later, Karatai brought down Veselji in the penalty area, leading to the referee awarding a penalty for Malta. But Karatai dove to the right corner and successfully blocked Veselji’s shot from the 11-meter mark. In a twist of fate, one minute later, the home team was awarded a second penalty when Zammit was fouled by Aleksey Dunaev. Zammit stepped up and confidently blasted the ball into the net, giving Malta a perfect end to the season.

Belarus did pose a threat in the final minutes as Rodion Pachura missed a golden opportunity to equalize just before regular time expired, sending his shot wide from an ideal position. Ciappara also thwarted another goal attempt by Pachura at the second post deep into stoppage time.

Zammit’s goal now puts him on par with Antoine Zahra from Birkirkara, who scored seven goals for the Malta U21 team between 1995 and 1999. They both currently hold the top spot in the all-time goals ranking.

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)

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