The Malta Under-19 team defeated Albania 2-1 at the Tony Bezzina Stadium in the second of two friendly matches between the two teams. On Thursday, Albania won 2-0 at the Gozo Stadium but this time, Malta emerged as deserved winners thanks to great tactical discipline throughout the match.
When compared with the first match, coach Antonio Jose Mendes ‘Toze’ made three changes in the starting line-up. Midfielder Bjorn Buhagiar, striker Nathan Cross and Italy based Lucas Caruana (Sampdoria) replaced Lucas Scicluna and Gzira duo Andrew and Brooklyn Borg.
Photos courtesy of www.stephengatt.com
Malta took an early seventh minute lead when a Lucas Caruana free-kick from the right wing was rounded off by Alfie Bridgman from close-range. Ten minutes later, Luca Camilleri did well to save a Adijat Seferi attempt, the visitors’ first goalscoring opportunity. On 23 minutes on the other side, with only Albanian goalkeeper Elliot Krasniqi to beat, Nathan Cross was inches away of connecting to a through-pass, which could have easily been Malta’s second goal. Although the Albanians had a slight upper-hand, the Malta team kept the visitors at bay, However, on 42 minutes, a grounder by Gent Elezaj had the better of Camilleri, giving away the equaliser.
The match continued to b a balanced affair after the break, with initially very little goalmouth action. Substitute Luca Scicluna’s grounder from the edge of the area after another neat Malta build up was saved by Krasniqi without much trouble on 67 minutes. Eight minutes later, Sven Xerri did well to block a Samuele Kasa attempt. Which was the visitors’ first real opportunity after the break. On 80 minutes, Malta scored the winner when Xerri rose high from a Scicluna corner, a great goal and deserved victory.
Now that the Euro U19 Final Tournament is fast approaching, the two matches against Albania have proven to be another very satisfying test for the squad. The strength of the Albanians, with many players plying their trade abroad, is not to be underestimated but the Malta team clearly showed they are on the right track, not only showing they can compete, but even dictate play.
Malta Luca Camilleri, Braden Flannery, Jake Micallef, Jake Vassallo, Zven Xerri, Benjamin Hili (Matteo Gambin 59), Lucas Caruana (Zak Barbara 77), Bjorn Buhagiar (Andrew Borg 77), Tristan Viviani (Lucas Scicluna 66), Nathan Cross (Brooklyn Borg 77), Alfie Bridgman (Sean Gatt 59).
Albania Elliot Krasniqi, Arlind Kurti, Elton Fikaj, Ervin Bashi, Ardit Nuredini (Ermal Meta 77), Orgito Ruci (Endi Shulku 83), Erald Krasniqi (Skerdi Xhixho 61), Gent Elezaj (Franc Rabeta 83), Adijat Seferi (Ersi Zaganjori 61), Lorent Talla (Smail Kadrijaj 61), Samuele Kasa (Andi Gjoka 83)
Referee: Ishmael Barbara (Malta)