After two fine performances away from home from which Malta earned four points, the Under-21 side disappointed in its first outing on home soil, losing 1-4 to ten-man Slovenia.
Slovenia therefore take the top spot in group 2 of the UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifiers with six points, two ahead of Finland and Malta.
The visitors had the first attempt at goal with a close-range shot by Enej Jelenic blocked by Malta custodian Steve Sultana on the 10th minute. Malta replied with a good move by Terence Vella on the right flank, served by Leighton Grech, ended with a rising shot which missed the target.
Tristan Caruana then just failed to connect off a Terence Vella cross from the right on 22 minutes. Five minutes later, the Hibernians midfielder missed another fine opportunity off an inviting cross by Leighton Grech from the right. On the other side of the pitch, Jelenic tested Steve Sultana with a shot from outside the area.
Slovenia took the lead on 32 minutes when in attack for the visitors, Robert Beric pounced on a short clearance by a defender and beat Steve Sultana with a diagonal shot from the right.
On minute from the end of the first half, Slovenia were reduced to ten men after Nejc Mevlja was given marching orders after receiving a second yellow card for a foul just outside the area.
However one minute in added time, Rajko Rep doubled the score for Slovenia with a low shot following a corner from the right by Kevin Kampl. This second goal was a cold short for the locals.
For the second half, coach Ray Farrugia made two changes replacing Clyde Borg and Triston Caruana with Rowen Muscat and Steve Pisani.
Malta missed another good chance on 56 minutes when Leighton Grch sent Bjorn Kristensen through but the Hibs midfielder’s low effort was blocked by goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
The Slovenians were quick to punish the Maltese as less than a minute later, Dejan Lazarevic beat Sultana with an angled shot from the left to make it 3-0.
Malta pulled one back on 79 minutes thanks to a diagonal shot by Zach Muscat from the right when served by Leighton Grech.
However three minutes from time, Slovenia scored the fourth goal thanks to Enej Jelenic whose diagonal shot from the right gave Steve Sultana no chance.
The Malta Under-21 side will be in action once again on Tuesday, hosting Finland at the Hibernians Stadium, kick-off at 16:00.
Photos: Copyright © www.stephengatt.com
no images were found
MALTA Steve Sultana, Zach Muscat, Owen Bugeja, Yessous Camilleri, Matthew Gauci, Clyde Borg (46’ Rowen Muscat), Mark Scerri, Bjorn Kristensen, Leighton Grech, Tristan Caruana (46’ Steve Pisani), Terence Vella (64’ Miguel Ciantar).
Coach: Ray Farrugia
SLOVENIA Jan Oblak, Boban Jovic, Mitja Resek (66’ Dejan Trakjovski), Kevin Kampl, Nejc Mevlja, Rajko Rep, Dejan Lazarevic, Antonio Delamea-Mlinar, Enej Jelenic, Miha Mevlja (46’ Nemanja Mitrovic), Robert Beric (84’ Leon Crnicic).
Coach: Tomaz Kavcic
Referee: Arytom Kuchin (KAZ)
Assistant referees: Yevgeniy Belskiy, Bagytpek Kopzhassarov (KAZ)
Fourth official: Igor Khissamudinov (KAZ)
Yellow Cards: Camilleri, N. Mevlja, Kampl, Ciantar, Jelenic, Gauci
Red Cards: 44’ N. Mevlja
Scorers: 32’ Robert Beric, 45+1’ Rajko Rep, 57’ Dejan Lazarevic, 79’ Zach Muscat, 87’ Enej Jelenic