Matan 13; Mann 27, 40 pen.
Silvio Vella’s much-changed Malta U-21 side fell easy prey to Romania as the latter boosted their hopes of a play-off spot with a convincing victory that was all but wrapped up by the end of the first half.
It was always going to be difficult for Vella who in the pre-match build up said that the team was never in a more difficult situation due to the several changes effected to the team due to COVID-19.
Captain Aidan Friggieri together with defenders Gary Camilleri and Darren Borg were the only players who had started the 3-1 defeat to Denmark last Friday that were again reconfirmed by Vella in his starting formation.
Inevitably, the Maltese, having to field a number of young players, were no match to the Romanians who strolled to an impressive win.
Vella fielded his team in a 4-4-2 formation with San Gwann’s Cain Formosa between the sticks aided by Borg, Camilleri, Owen Spiteri and Christian Gauci. Liam McKay, Keith Attard, Matthew Spiteri and James Scicluna covered the middle of the pitch while Friggieri and Omar Elouni ran upfront.
As expected, Romania began to put pressure from the start and after 13 minutes, Alexandru Matan’s cross was surprisingly put over from right in front of goal by George Ganea.
Winger Matan then took matters into his own hands four minutes later to put the team ahead with an impressive solo goal. Receiving the ball inside the area, he swiveled past three defenders before firing into the top corner. With this, the floodgates opened.
On 26 minutes, Romania went on the counter and while Matan went crashing into two Malta defenders in his run, Dennis Man was on hand to move past Formosa and hit into the net.
Romania went a man down just after half an hour as Tudor Baluta was sent off for a second yellow but that little mattered as soon after Ganea paid for his earlier mistake by slotting home from a Man pass.
This was not enough for them as they made it four before the half when Camilleri upended Stefan Vladoiu in the box and referee Visar Kastrati pointed to the spot. Man sent Formosa the wrong way as Malta now faced a mammoth task in the second half.
On the restart, Romania got back to their ways, asserting their dominance on the game but it was Malta who got the next goal with a counter of their own.
Elouni met a cross with just enough effort on the header to put the ball into the net in what was actually Malta’s first attempt on target.
The rest of the match was a marathon of substitutions while chances for both teams became a few and far between as Romania strolled to victory.