Under-21s beaten by Slovakia U-20

The Maltese Under-21 team played a friendly match against a powerful Slovakian Under-20 team, who came from one nil down to beat Malta by the odd goal in three at the Centenary Stadium on Friday.

While the Slovakians prepare for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia (20 May-11 June), the Maltese used the match in their preparation for the UEFA 2025 European Championship Qualifying campaign, which will kick-off in September at home against Spain. Malta has been drawn in another difficult group with, apart from Spain, also Belgium, Scotland, Hungary and Kazakhstan.

Photos courtesy of Joe Borg

Malta, under temporary guidance of Italian caretaker coach Francesco Macri, took an early lead after just two minutes play when Owen Spiteri headed past goalkeeper Samuel Belanik from an Andrea Zammit corner. The strong Slovaks quickly took over the initiative by creating a few off-target attempts. However, on 36 minutes, Alex Lacza equalised from close-range, finishing off some good work by Dominik Holly from the right side of the box. One minute before half-time, the Slovaks scored a second, which eventually proved to be the winner, thanks to Adam Gazi, finishing off past Matthias Debono from a precise Dominik Snajder pass.

On the hour, Slovakia could have added a third through Gazi, who nearly capitalised on a defensive error from the hosts, but the unmarked striker blasted high from an ideal position. Not much later, the visitors missed another sitter through Holly, nearly rounding off from a Mate Szolgai cross. Although the Slovaks pressed hard for a third goal, Malta managed to keep the visitors at bay until the very end. Malta had a good opportunity deep into stoppage time when a Gianluca Sciberras shot was deflected by a Slovakian defender but Belanik saved the effort.

On Monday, both teams will meet again, this time at the MFA Training Grounds, kick off 12h.

Malta U21 Matthias Debono, Nikolai Micallef (Kurt Briffa 65), Owen Spiteri, Zean Leonardi, James Vella, Matthew Debattista (Gianluca Sciberras 80), Aleandro Garzia, Kurt Bondin (Matthew Ellul 65) , Jake Engerer (Nathan Agius 57), Andrea Zammit (Dale Mifsud 80), Mattia Veselji (Jed Valletta 57).

Slovakia U20 Samuel Belanik, Marek Uljaky, Nicolas Sikula, Sebastian Kosa (Jakub Luka 90+3), Alex Lacza (Matus Kosecek 71), Dominik Holly, Samuel Kopasek, Dominik Snajder, Mate Szolgai, Adam Gazi (Balint Csoka 85), Timotej Jambor

Referee: Alex Johnson (Malta)