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Malta U-21 fall to home defeat to Lithuania

Malta U-21 striker Andrea Zammit (right) surges forward against Lithuania.

MALTA U-21                     1

J. Zammit 78

LITHUANIA U-21            3

Gauci 64 og

Dovydaitis 80

Steponavicius 90

MALTA U-21

C. Formosa; A. Vella, C. Gauci, M. Grima, A. Attard (81 J. Attard), P. Mbong, A. Zammit (81 J. Valletta), A. Garzia, C. Zammit Lonardelli, M. Ellul, J. Engerer (74 J. Zammit).

LITHUANIA U-21

G. Baliutavicius; A. Tutyskinas, V. Armalas, A. Doiznikov (69 D. Dovydaitis), E. Gasiunas, M. Burba (84 K. Kerys), N. Petkevicius (84 F. Steponavicius), T. Kalinauskas (76 B. Anisas), G. Zabita, G. Gineitis, D. Jansonas.

Referee Thorvaldur Arnason (Iceland FA).

Yellow cards Engerer, Gauci, Gineitis, Ellul.

A solid showing from the Malta U-21 selection was not enough for them to avoid a 3-1 home defeat against Lithuania in the European Championship qualifiers at the Centenary Stadium.

Gilbert Agius’s side looked poised to take a point when debutant Joseph Zammit cancelled out a one-goal deficit after an unfortunate Christian Gauci own goal had handed Lithuania the lead.

However, Lithuania’s impact substitutes Deividas Dovydaitis and Faustas Steponavicius earned their team their second win of the campaign to join both Malta and Northern Ireland on six points.

For this game, coach Agius deployed Cain Formosa between the sticks behind the defensive line formed by Matthew Ellul, Carlo Zammit Lonardelli and Gauci.

Captain Ayrton Attard and Marcus Grima formed the usual central midfield tandem flanked by Floriana duo Andreas Vella and Alejandro Garzia.

Jake Engerer, Paul Mbong – who joined the U-21s following the Azerbaijan friendly with the seniors, and Andrea Zammit composed the attacking department.

Mbong came close to opening the score for the home side when he received a cut-back from Andrea Zammit but his effort was smothered by the Lithuania goalkeeper.

Moments later, Jake Engerer let fly a long-range shot but could not hit the target.

Malta’s best chance in the first 45 minutes came from a Zammit curling effort that glanced past Lithuania’s goal.

Agius’ boys continued to pile the pressure on the away side with captain Ayrton Attard firing a shot from the edge of the area but once again the Lithuanian goalkeeper was alert to avert the danger.

Lithuania’s reply in the first half was registered by Tomas Kalinauskas whose freekick sailed over the bar.

Malta’s Attard tried his luck with another effort from a long distance just to see Lithuania’s custodian deny him once again.

After the interval, the game took another turn with Lithuania starting to inch their way up the field and posing more of a threat.

Gineitis struck a shot that went wide from Formosa’s goal as the Baltic side were increasing the pressure on Malta.

The San Ġwann goalkepeer came to Malta’s rescue with a wonderful save to deny captain Nauris Petkevicius who tried his luck with a towering header.

Nonetheless, the Maltese goalkeeper could do nothing when Gauci diverted a Lithuanian cross into his own net.

Malta almost levelled terms when in an identical situation to Lithuania’s goal, Vilius Armalas almost converted a Zammit’s cross into an own goal but he was lucky to see his interception strike the post.

In search of an equaliser, Malta coach Agius deployed winger Joseph Zammit, who is on the books of Nadur Youngsters and was making his U-21 debut, and the Gozitan player left an immediate impact when he converted an Andreas Vella’s through ball into an equaliser.

Malta’s joy was cut short, though, when substitute Dovydaitis struck a low drive that went past Formosa.

In the closing stages, Dovydaitis worked a well-engineered transition before sending the ball to forward Steponavicius who slotted the ball into the net from point-blank range.

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