Under-21s beaten 4-0 by North Macedonia

The Malta Under-21 selection wrapped up their 2022/23 season with an away friendly match in North Macedonia, a match won 4-0 by the hosts. It was an unimpressive display by Malta, who failed to create any attacking force, as the match was dominated by the Macedonians from start to finish. Francesco Macri’s team was only a shadow of the team who faced the Slovakian Under-20 World Cup participants in March, when Malta went down the first match by the odd goal in three but kept the strong Slovaks on a 1-1 draw in the second match.

Due to the absence of regular goalkeeper Mathias Debono, who was called up recently with the Malta national team, Santa Lucia goalkeeper Dylan Ciappara made his Under-21 debut. Later on in the match, Ciappara was substituted by Pieta’s Reeves Cini, while also Xylon Portelli (Zurrieq) made his international debut with a late substitute appearance.

Photo courtesy of Malta FA

The hosts took an early tenth minute lead through Hamza Ramani, who rounded off some good work by captain Mario Ilievski, who executed after the Malta defence failed to clear the ball at the second post. The Macedonians doubled six minutes later when Dimitar Todorovski drilled the ball behind Ciappara from a precise Behar Feta cross. Malta found it hard to threat offensively with the Macedonian rear-guard surviving without problems. A few minutes before half-time, Ciappara did well to save an on-target attempt from Feta, closing an uneventful first 45 minutes for the guests.

Malta saw most definitely more of the ball after the break, but it were the Macedonians who scored a third on 53 minutes, this time through centre-back Andrej Stojchevski, who’s rising shot had the better of Ciappara. The hosts continued to create the better chances, with Metodi Maksimov and substitute Luan Abazi coming close half-way the second half with two off-target attempts. On 80 minutes, Cini left his mark with a splendid reaction on a Hristijan Maleski header from a corner action. But five minutes later, Abazi scored Macedonia’s fourth goal after some hesitant defending from the Maltese, with a grounder from close-range.

It was the sixth and last outing for our Under-21 this season, one with mixed results, all in Friendly games. Apart from the commendable displays against Slovakia in March, Andorra was beaten 2-1 in November last year and Cyprus was held to a two all draw in October. Besides today’s defeat, there was also the heavy home loss against Montenegro (0-6).

In total thirty players were used, mostly born 2002 and 2003, who will be legible to play for the Under-21 team when the 2025 UEFA European Under 21 Championship qualifiers will start in September. Malta will face Spain, Hungary, Belgium, Scotland and Kazakhstan in Group B, another tough group.

North Macedonia Marko Alchevski (Stefan Tasev 63), Andrej Stojchevski, Imran Fetai (Viktor Krstevski 46), Stefan Despotovski (Dimitar Trajkov 83), Ivan Nikolov (Hristijan Maleski 77), Metodi Maksimov (Mihail Dimitrievski 63), Hamza Ramani (Luan Abazi 46), Dimitar Todorovski (Matej Angelov 77), Mario Ilievski (Vane Krstevski 18), Aleks Zlatkov (Reshat Ramadani 63), Behar Feta (Martin Talakov 63).

Malta Dylan Ciappara (Reeves Cini 63), Matthew Ellul, Owen Spiteri (Zean Leonardi 78), James Vella, Nikolai Micallef (Jed Valletta 78), Kurt Briffa (Karl Mohnani 46), Kurt Bondin (Nathan Agius 63), Matthew Debattista (Gianluca Sciberras 63), Jake Engerer (Dale Mifsud 63), Andrea Zammit (Xylon Portelli 78), Mattia Veselji

Referee: Alexander Vasilevski (North Macedonia)