The Malta Under-21 national team had a perfect start in Group C of the UEFA Under-21 Championship, defeating Northern Ireland 4-1 at the Centenary Stadium on Friday.
Coach Gilbert Agius therefore claimed his first win in a competitive match after being appointed as coach earlier this year and led the team in two friendly matches against Qatar Under-23 and Bosnia Herzegovina.
Following a quiet start, the boys in red forged ahead mid-way through the first half, adding another two goals before half-time. During the second half, Northern Ireland tried to get back in the game and pulled one back but Malta restored a comfortable three goal lead.
Malta managed to take the lead on 24 minutes when off a cross by Ayrton Attard, Alejandro Garzia headed the ball down for Jake Engerer to hit home from close range.
On the 36th, Mattia Veselji doubled the score for Malta, slotting the ball past goalkeeper Liam Hughes following an assist from the left.
Three minutes later, Sam Mclelland brought Mattia Veselji down inside the area and from the penalty spot, the same player converted.
Thirteen minutes in the second half, substitute Patrick Lane reduced the gap for the visitors, concluding a good move with a rising shot which gave goalkeeper Cain Formosa no chance.
Six minutes from time, Ayrton Attard, served by Adam Magri Overend, sealed the issue for Malta with a fourth goal, beating the Northern Ireland goalkeeper with a shot in the top left corner.
The team will now travel to Moscow to face Russia at the Arena Khimki on Tuesday.
MALTA Cain Formosa, Adam Magri Overend, Christian Gauci (90+3’ Karl Mohnani), Marcus Grima, Ayrton Attard (85’ Jean Paul Attard), Mattia Veselji, Alejandro Garzia, Carlo Zammit Lonardelli, Matthew Ellul (73’ Owen Spiteri), Bradley Sciberras (85’ Jamie Sixsmith), Jake Engerer (85’ Jamie Carbone).
N. IRELAND Liam Hughes, Trai Hume, Aaron Donnelly, Kofi Balmer, Sam Mcclelland (46’ David Kyle Mclelland), Ethan Galbraith, Jack Scott (86’ Harry Anderson), Caorian Boyd-Munce (46’ Olsin Smyth), Ryan Waide, Barry Crowe (46’ Patrick Lame), Carl Johnston (86’ Harry Anderson).
Referee: Milovan Milacic (MNE)
Assistant Referees: Aleksandar Djikanovic, Dragan Vujovic (MNE)
Fourth Official: Predrag Radovanovic (MNE)