The Malta Under-19 team, coached by Antonio Jose Mendes ‘Toze’, continued to prepare for the UEFA EURO Under-19 Finals with a friendly game against Lithuania on Wednesday. The goalless draw was mostly welcomed by the visitors, who played the last 15 minutes with a player less after the dismissal of defender Azuolas Indriulis.
As the match was not planned during an international window, Malta had a few players missing who are playing their trade abroad like USA based duo Braden Flannery and Tristan Viviani, Lucas Caruana (Sampdoria) and UK-based Alfie Bridgman, usually all regulars in Toze’s first eleven. However, Lucas Scicluna (Wolves) and Boavista duo Jake Micallef and Sean Gatt were available, with the first two in the starting line-up. Also ex-Valletta player Daniel Letherby, who is playing in the USA nowadays, and winger Alex Spiteri of Northern Premier League club Loughborough Dynamo (England) were given a start.
Photos courtesy of www.stephengatt.com
During the entire match, Malta showed the better ideas, dictating play for long stretches. Ivin Farrugia came close to break the deadlock after ten minutes play, receiving the ball through a Zak Barbara free-kick but the Pieta’ defender’s close-range attempt finished wide. The Lithuanian rear-guard committed an error in the goal-kick straight after, but Lucas Scicluna could not take advantage from an ideal position. The match continued in a fast pace with the guests only dangerous on set-pieces. Just after the half hour mark, Jake Vassallo did well to block a Nidas Vosylius attempt into a corner. On 37 minutes, Scicluna, this time in an advanced role, created himself another goal scoring opportunity but blasted high from a promising angle just outside the box.
Ten minutes after the break, the match had to be stopped for about eight minutes as the heavens opened with some extreme amounts of rain coming down. When the match was re-started, Vosylius had another attempt on goal but his shot was turned into a corner, which was one of the very few opportunities Lithuania had during the match. With 15 minutes left on the clock, substitutes Sean Gatt and Shaisen Attard combined well with Lithuania defender Indiulus pulling Attard’s shirt while being sent through in the middle, with Indiulus being shown his marching orders. However, Attard’s free-kick finished wide. Two minutes later, Malta created their best chance of the match when Attard intercepted the Lithuanian build-up but produced another off-target attempt with only goalkeeper Vilius Sivickas to beat. Deep into stoppage time, Matteo Gambin crossed well from the left to the unmarked Bjorn Buhagiar, but the Malta midfielder blasted wide.
Both teams will meet again on (Good) Friday at the same venue and another 11h kick off time.
Malta Luca Camilleri, Ivin Farrugia (Deacon Abela 46), Jake Vassallo, Sven Xerri (Shaisen Attard 61), Matteo Gambin, Jake Micallef (Mattias Ellul 61), Daniel Letherby (Bjorn Buhagiar 74) Lucas Scicluna, Alex Spiteri, Zak Barbara (Jake Grech 82), Nathan Cross (Sean Gatt 74).
Lithuania Vilius Sivickas, Augustas Tamasevicius (Orlandas Jakas 56), Matas Latvys, Milanas Rutkovskis (Azuolas Indriulis 41), Nojus Audinis, Nidas Vosylius (Nedas Klimavicus 61), Martynas Setkus (Ignas Paulikas 61), Justas Pastukas (Kristoferis Banevicius 61), Ernestas Gudelevicius, Simas Civilka (Adrian Lickunas 61), Nojus Grudis.
Referee Gerard-William Zammit Young (Malta)