The Development Tournament for Under-16 boys, launched by UEFA in 2012 and lastly held in Malta in 2019, kicked off on Thursday with a match between hosts Malta and Gibraltar at the Tony Bezzina Stadium. The match ended in a 1-1 score, with Gibraltar winning 4-2 on penalties. The other two participants are San Marino and Liechtenstein, who will kick off their commitments at the same venue this afternoon.
The tournaments are held with the aim to pick up some international experience for the players, with the emphasis on players development rather than winning. The events have a special educational and cultural role. Players learn about key UEFA values such as respect and fair play and, through mixing at the tournaments, discover different countries and cultures.
Malta escaped after only three minutes when a Javan Peacock header was denied by the woodwork. On twelve minutes, Keyon Ewurum was brought down in the box and Malta captain Liam Delicata beat Gibraltar custodian Thomas Recagno from the penalty spot. Gibraltar captain Jaiden Bartolo could have equalised on 19 minutes but his grounder missed target. Not much later, in an attempt to clear the ball from a Malta corner, Matthew Hamilton hit the post. A wonderful individual action of Ewurum on 43 minutes deserved better but his shot sailed high. On the other side, a 30-meter distance scorcher by Kai Mauro ended against the crossbar.
The second half was less eventful with the increasing wind certainly playing its part. Gibraltar kept on sharing the exchanges after the break but initially without creating much danger in Malta’s half. The hosts came close to double their lead on 65 minutes when an angled shot by Aiden Zammit just missed target. The guests increased the pressure towards the end and Hamilton should have done better two minutes into stoppage time but his effort was saved by Niklas Vella. However, Gibraltar were rewarded a penalty in the very last seconds of the game when Bartolo was brought down in the box. Vella saved Bartolo’s effort from the spot but the same player drilled home the rebound. Eventually, Gibraltar took the penalties better.
Malta Niklas Vella, Kewell Fardell, Lucas Okeke, Kean Scicluna, Shaun Carabott (Sasha Glumac 67), Kayden Farrugia (Nic Briffa 67), Aiden Zammit, Liam Delicata (Lenny Mattocks 88), Nicholas Agius (Peter Ohaka 67), Felippe Bugeja, Keyon Ewurum.
Gibraltar Thomas Recagno, Javan Peacock, Tayler Carrington, Kai Mauro, Matthew Hamilton, Jeremy Perera (Jerome James Linares 84), Dylan Duo (Kaleem Smith 63), Sebastian Diaz (John Rush 71), Joachim Ostheider (Ashton Hancock 63), Lee Chipolina, Jaiden Bartolo
Referee: Joseph Scerri (Malta)
Photo: Copyright www.stephengatt.com / Malta FA