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Resilient Malta Under 21 lose at the death against Slovakia

MALTA                      1

Attard 44

SLOVAKIA                3

Pokorny 45; Iko 90, 90+

MALTA         

A. Sylla; A. Vella, C. Gauci, A. Bradshaw, M. Grima, A. Attard (84 J. Attard), A. Zammit (80 J. Zammit), S. Dimech, A. Garzia, M. Veselji (86 S. Mackay), C. Zammit Lonardelli.

SLOVAKIA

I. Krajcirik; T. Nemcik, A. Obert, P. Pokorny, F. Lichy, R. Galcik (64 A. Goljan), D. Strelec (64 T. Bobcek), J. Kadak (81 A. Tucny), A. Kapralik (64 P. Iko), I. Mesik (80 S. Nebyla), P. Kovacik.

Referee Snir Levy (Israel FA).

Yellow cards Mesik, Kokorny, Vella, Garzia, Goljan, Bobcek.

Red card Garzia (M) 85.

Two stoppage-time goals from Slovakia dashed Malta’s hopes of securing an impressive point in the European Championship qualifiers at the Centenary Stadium.

Slovakia, who created numerous goalscoring opportunities, made their pressure count with a Patrik Iko brace during the six additional minutes given by the fourth official.

This was Malta’s fifth defeat in this qualification campaign as they remain third on six points, level with Lithuania and Northern Ireland.

Led by Gilbert Agius, Malta will now bring the curtains down on their assignments with an away trip to Spain next Tuesday.

On the other hand, Slovakia have ensured themselves a place in the runners-up play-offs as they are aiming to make it to their third tournament in their history.

Slovakia were keen to strike an early blow but they had to wait until the 22nd minute when Filip Lichy latched onto a low cross just to see his effort go wide.

Moments later, Roland Galcik followed up with a long-range drive but could not find a way to beat Amara Sylla between the sticks.

Malta’s first proper appearance in the offensive half was initiated by Marcus Grima who picked up a ball in the midfield before putting Ayrton Attard on course towards goal. The Hibernians midfielder found Andrea Zammit between the lines but the Valletta winger’s poor control blew the chance.

Slovakia replied through David Strelec who was at the receiving end of a lucky deflection but failed to capitalise from close-range.

Strelec forced Sylla into action with a shot from tight angle as Slovakia continued to pile the pressure on the Maltese backline.

Three minutes from half-time, Galcik combined well before firing his effort over the bar.

Nonetheless, it was Malta who drew first blood when captain Attard met an inch-perfect cross by Andrea Zammit to guide the ball past the Slovakia goalkeeper.

However, Malta’s joy was cut short when Peter Pokorny found the leveller for Slovakia with a fortunate deflection that beat Sylla just before the break.

After the interval, Sylla came to Malta’s rescue when a Pokorny header hit team mate Adam Obert and ricocheted towards goal just to be blocked by the Birkirkara custodian.

Sebastian Nebyla almost put Slovakia ahead with his first touch of the ball but his lob sailed over the bar before Tomas Bobcek had an effort on goal that went in vain.

Malta’s task of negotiating a draw with Slovakia became even tougher when wingback Alejandro Garzia was given the marching orders after a second yellow card offense, moments after picking up his first caution.

Two minutes from time, Sylla produced another fine save to keep out a Goljan freekick that was directed towards the far post.

Yet, Slovakia managed to claim the three points through a Patrik Iko brace with a couple of headers that handed his national team the three points.

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