The Malta Under-21 side suffered the second defeat in six days, losing 1-2 to Finland in another match from Group 2 of the the UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifying round at the Hibernians Stadium on Tuesday.
The visitors scored twice inthe first half and after the break, the dismissal of Mark Scerri complicated matters for Ray Farrugia’s side although Terence Vella managed to reduce the gap late in the game.
Farrugia made three changes from the team which lost to Slovenia last Thursday as Daniel Balzan, Rowen Muscat and Steve Pisani replaced Steve Sultana, Clyde Borg and Triston Caruana. However Muscat had to abandon the field injured early in the game and was replaced by Caruana.
Finland managed to take the lead on the 10th minute when off a cross from the left, Lauri Dalla Valle managed to beat Daniel Balzan with a fine shot which saw the ball ending in the top left corner.
Malta’s reaction consisted of a powerful drive by Bjorn Kristensen which was turned into a corner with particular difficulty by goalkeeper Sahlgren on 28 minutes. Seven minutes later, Kristensen headed just high off a corner by Caruana from the left.
One minute from the end of the first half, Finland scored the second goal when Roope Riski intercepted a back-pass by Yessous Camilleri for the goalkeeper and the Finnish striker slotted past Balzan with a low shot.
Ten minutes in the second half, Yessous Camilleri tried his luck with a good header but the ball ended just wide. A minute later, the Maltese were reduced to ten men after Mark Scerri received a red card for a tackle on Schuller for what seemed a rather harsh decision by the Irish referee.
Malta pulled one back ten minutes from time when Jean Paul Farrugia served Terence Vella whose fine lob from the right beat goalkeeper Sahlgren.
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MALTA Daniel Balzan, Zach Muscat, Owen Bugeja (46’ Jean Paul Farrugia), Yessous Camilleri, Matthew Gauci, Rowen Muscat (24’ Triston Caruana), Mark Scerri, Bjorn Kristensen, Leighton Grech, Steve Pisani (67’ Miguel Ciantar), Terence Vella.
Coach: Ray Farrugia
FINLAND Saku Pekka Sahlgren, Mikko Sumusalo, Tero Mantyla, Rasmus Schuller (62’ Duarte Tammilehto), Roope Riski (81′ Juho Lahde), Petter Penannen, Denis Abdulahi, Tuoms Rannankari (62’ Tapio Heikkila), Timi Lahti, Lauri Dalla Valle, Petter Forsell.
Coach: Mika Laurikainen
Referee: Neil Doyle (IRE)
Assistant referees: Ciaran Delaney, Allen Lynch (IRE)
Fourth official: Tomas Connolly (IRE)
Yellow Cards: L. Grech, T. Mantyla, M. Sumusalo, M. Gauci, Kristensen
Red Cards: 56’ Scerri
Scorers: 10′ Lauri Dalla Valle; 44′ Roope Riski, 80′ Terence Vella