Spain proved too strong for the Malta Under-21 side, scoring six goals in the second half to register a 7-1 win in a match from Group C of the UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifying round at the Estadio Municipal Alvarez Claro in Melilla on Tuesday.
A match which brought the group to an end and following the 1-1 draw between Lithuania and Northern Ireland, Malta had to settle for the bottom place in Group C.
In the first half, Malta showed composure and determination, moving the ball forward, keeping possession at times against this Spanish side who pressed relentlessly forcing the Malta back line to defend deep for most of the 90 minutes.
Three changes in the starting eleven by Malta coach Gilbert Agius from the 1-3 defeat on Friday at home to Slovakia, with Karl Mohnani, Joseph Zammit and Bradley Sciberras in from the start to replace Aleandro Garzia, Andreas Vella and Andrea Zammit as Garzia and Vella were unavailable while the Valletta FC forward was included as a second-half substitute.
It took eight minutes for Spain to break the deadlock, Gil’s overhead kick was unsuccessful, the ball dropping to Roberto Navarro who controlled brilliantly before squaring his shot from the edge of the box in the bottom corner to put our opponents ahead.
Spain’s pressure after the lead kept relentless seeing on several occasions the sight of goal, yet the Malta rear-guard maintained its shape and composure to deny their opponents numerous times.
Malta came close in the 31st minute, a perfect build-up ended with Mattia Veselji receiving the ball, but his conclusion from outside the area was a comfortable catch for Spain keeper Julen Agirrezabala.
Spain doubled the score two minutes in the second half when off a cross by Bryan Gil, Rodrigo Riquelme rounded Mohnani and served captain Abel Ruiz who tapped the ball home.
Eight minutes later, the hosts scored the third goal when off a cross by Riquelme from the right, Manu Sánchez placed the ball at the back of the net.
Spain made it 4-0 on the 64th thanks to Abel Ruiz who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Amara Sylla following a cross by Julen Lobete from the right. Five minutes later, Spain scored the fifth goal when off a cross by Novoa, Carnello served Roberto Navarro who hit home past the Malta goalkeeper.
Substitute Julen Lobete increased the lead on the 73rd minute with a low shot from outside the area and five minutes later, Alejandro Frances delivered a cross from the right, Sanchez headed the ball in the direction of Carnello who headed the ball down for Julen Lobete to hit home past Sylla.
Malta pulled one back six minutes from time thanks to a great goal by Andrea Zammit who beat substitute goalkeeper Miguel Morro with a perfect lob from midfield.
SPAIN Julen Agirrezabala (Miguel Angel Morro 67), Alejandro Francés, Unai Vencedor, Abel Ruiz (Hugo Novoa 67), Rodri, Bryan Gil (Julen Lobete 58), Urko González (Jon Pacheco 51), Guillermo Rosas, Roberto Navarro, Manu Sánchez, Rodrigo Riquelme (Sergio Camello 67).
MALTA Amara Sylla, Karl Mohnani (Zean Leonardi 53), Christian Gauci, Adam Bradshaw, Marcus Grima, Ayrton Attard (Jean Paul Attard 68), Shaun Dimech, Mattia Veselji (Andrea Zammit 68), Joseph Zammit, Carlo Zammit Lonardelli, Bradley Sciberras (Jake Ghio 46).
Referee: Juri Frischer (EST)