MALTA U-23 0
ITALY U-23 3
Italy U-23 put on a strong display as they defeated the Malta women’s national team 3-0 in a friendly game, at the Centenary Stadium.
The Italians made sure of the victory with two first-half goals through Elisa Polli and Miriam Longo. Melissa Bellucci added a third in the second half to wrap up victory.
For this friendly, coach Mark Gatt made only one change from the previous game against Denmark in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers.
Forward Leah Ayres was handed her full debut for the senior national team after her cameo appearance against the Scandinavian side, last Friday.
On the other hand, Italy’s line-up included Juventus goalkeeper Roberta Aprile, Milan’s Miriam Longo and Elisa Polli of Inter.
Italy made their intentions clear from the start as they tried to peg the Maltese back into their own half. Midfielder Melissa Bellucci tested goalkeeper Jodie Attard from long range but the Maltese custodian was alert to avert the danger.
Moments later, Italy’s Beatrice Merlo darted towards goal before seeing her effort smothered into Attard’s hands.
In the 15th minute, Dorianne Theuma was denied an Olympic goal when her direct corner was cleared on the goal line by Italy’s Tecla Pettenuzzo.
At the other end, the Malta goalkeeper denied Sofia Colombo when the Italian midfielder exploited the space behind the Maltese backline but her close-range effort was blocked by the Swieqi United player.
Italy broke the deadlock past the half-hour mark when Polli was at the receiving end of a deflected ball before slotting past Patricia Ebejer, who replaced Attard earlier in the half.
Ylenia Carabott, who replaced Ayres midway into the first half, was unlucky not to level terms when her close-range header went inches wide of Italy’s goal.
On the brink of half-time, Italy doubled their lead when Longo capitalised from point-blank range.
At the restart, coach Gatt deployed Jade Flask, Maia Debono and Martina Borg as he continued to rotate this squad in this friendly match.
Italy captain Michela Catena tried her luck from a free-kick on the edge of the area but sailed over the bar.
A Merlo header thenstruck the crossbar in the 64th minute as Italy continued to pile the pressure on the home side.
While Theuma came close to grab an Olympic goal in the first half, it was Bellucci who managed to produce a goal directly from a corner as Italy found a third on 66 minutes.
From then on, Italy administered their advantage easily to wrap up a comfortable win.
MALTA: J. Attard (29 P. Ebejer); A. Said (73 R. Bajada), E. Lipman (46 J. Flask), J. Dimech, D. Theuma (46 M. Borg) (79 F. Chircop), R. Cuschieri, S. Zammit, C. Zammit, B. Borg (46 E. Xuereb), N. Sciberras (46 M. Debono), L. Ayres (29 Y. Carabott).
ITALY U-23: R. Aprile (79 N. Lauria); F. Cafferata (69 B. Vergani), E. Santoro, T. Pettenuzzo, M. Longo (69 A. Bragonzi), E. Polli, M. Bellucci, B. Merlo, S. Colombo (69 A. Regazzoli), M. Monnecchi (79 A. De Rita), M. Catena.
Referee: Jo-Anna Vassallo.
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