Navarro 8, 69
Ruiz 47, 64; Sanchez 55
Lobete 73, 78
J. Agirrezabala (67 M. Angelo Moro); G. Rosas, A. Frances, U. Gonzalez (51 J. Pacheco), M. Sanchez, R. Sanchez, U. Vencedor, R. Navarro, B. Gil (57 J. Lobete), A. Ruiz (68 H. Novoa), R. Riquelme (67 S. Camello).
A.Sylla; C. Zammit Lonardelli, A. Bradshaw, C. Gauci, K. Mohnani (53 K. Leonardi), S. Dimech, A. Attard (69 J. Attard), B. Sciberras (46 J. Ghio), M. Grima, J. Zammit, M. Veselji (68 A. Zammit).
Referee Juri Fischer (Estonia FA).
Yellow cards Mohnani, Zammit.
The Malta U-21’s selection ended its European qualifications commitments with a 7-1 defeat at the hands of Spain.
The match was held at the Estadio Municipal Alvarez Claro of Melilla, in Spain’s autonomous city situated on the Morocco-Spain border.
As expected, Spain cruised over Malta with their dominant possession-based football.
Yet, the Maltese side managed to have their say in this game thanks to a wonder goal from Andrea Zammit in the closing stages of the encounter that has drawn the plaudits from the spectators.
Zammit’s goal was a landmark strike as it was Malta U-21s tenth goal of the campaign, the highest tally in all 16 participations so far with the previous best being nine goals netted in 2017.
The defeat against Spain saw Malta finish their qualifying campaign fifth with six points to show for their efforts after recording two victories against Northern Ireland.
Russia, who were in Malta’s group, were automatically placed bottom following the UEFA ruling on Russian national teams after the Ukraine invasion.
On the other hand, Spain finished their qualifying group with a perfect record as they start as one of the favourites to collect their sixth European championship in this category come next year.
For this game, Malta coach Gilbert Agius made three changes in the starting formation as Karl Mohnani, Bradley Sciberras and Joseph Zammit were all given the nod.
Tottenham Hotspur loanee Bryan Gil, scorer of four goals in 10 U-21 games, threatened Amara Sylla’s goal with a thumping volley that was deflected into corner.
Alejandro Frances followed up Gil’s effort with a long-range shot that sailed over the bar as Spain continued to gain momentum in the early stages of the game.
The home side capitalised on their pressure in the eighth minute when Robert Navarro fired a low drive from the edge of the area.
Ten minutes later, Spain were denied a second when Sylla stopped Navarro’s shot from inside the penalty area before Abel Ruiz lifted his shot over the bar.
Navarro could have scored his second of the game but surprisingly failed to hit the target with the goal at his mercy.
Despite Spain’s clear superiority, Malta produced a shot on goal through Mattia Veselji but the Spanish custodian was alert to avert the danger.
After the interval, Spain immediately doubled their lead when Riquelme beat Mohnani and his low cross was met by Abel Ruiz who slotted into an empty net.
Rodri Sanchez managed to profit from a Zean Leonardi’s short clearance to beat Sylla for Spain’s third in the 55th minute.
The hosts continued to pile up the pressure on the Maltese and they managed to find a way to score a fourth through for his second of the game.
Navarro scored his second goal the encounter as well after capitalising on good passing combination with Sergio Camello.
Spain continued to seize their chances and Julen Lobete grabbed the sixth goal for his team with a long strike that Sylla failed to block clearly. Lobete also grabbed a personal brace with a close-range volley that beat the Maltese goalkeeper on his near post.
Malta did pull one back and they did so in some style when substitute Andrea Zammit caught Spain’s goalkeeper outside goal and fired a splendid lob from half-pitch.
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