Two penalties paved the way for Italy as they defeated Malta 4-0 in a match from Group A of the UEFA Under-19 Championship finals at the National Stadium on Monday.
The locals, making their debut in the finals of such a competition, tried their best to keep their opponents under control but two penalties within the first thirty two minutes put Italy two goals ahead and the dismissal of Jake Micallef a few minutes later complicated matters even further. In all, Italy were awarded four penalties by the Israeli referee, scoring three.
Italy went close to taking the lead with a Cher N’Dour diagonal shot which was however cleared off the goal line by Sven Xerri.
However, they managed to break the deadlock on the 19th minute when they were awarded a penalty after Alfie Bridgman handled the ball following a Luca Lipani header and from the penalty spot, Cher N’Dour converted.
Six minutes later, a great freekick by N’Dour was neutralised by goalkeeper Hugo Sacco aided by the upright.
However, on the 32nd, Italy doubled the score when they were awarded another penalty after Jake Micallef brought Pio Esposito down inside the area with the same Pio Esposito making no mistake from the penalty spot.
Another foul by Jake Micallef on Esposito cost the Malta captain a second yellow card and another penalty five minutes from half-time but Luca D’Andrea hit sky high from the penalty spot.
However, two minutes in the second half, Luca D’Andrea made it 3-0 with a freekick from the right which was deflected by a defender to deceive goalkeeper Hugo Sacco.
Pio Esposito was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a header following a cross from the right on the 68th minute. Seven minutes later, Sacco turned into a corner a powerful drive by Missori and eleven minutes from time, the Malta goalkeeper performed a good save on Pisilli.
Deep into stoppage time, Israeli referee Yigal Frid awarded Italy a fourth penalty for a foul by Benjamin Hili on Nicolo Turco and from the penalty spot, Samuele Vignato converted to make it 4-0.
On Thursday, Malta hosts Poland at 21:15 while Italy face Portugal at 18:00, both matches scheduled at the Centenary Stadium.
Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA
MALTA Hugo Sacco, Andy Borg, Mattias Ellul (71′ Benjamin Hili), Sven Xerri, Jake Vassallo, Jake Micallef, Lucas Scicluna, Basil Tuma (59′ Nathan Cross), Dylan Scicluna (85′ Brooklyn Borg), Lucas Caruana (59′ Daniel Letherby), Alfie Bridgman (46′ Tristan Viviani).
ITALY Davide Mastrantonio, Filippo Missori, Iacopo Regonesi (85′ Alessandro Dellavalle), Lorenzo Dellavalle, Cher N’Dour, Pio Esposito (76′ Nicolo Turco), Luca D’Andrea (65′ Samuele Vignato), Michael Kayode, Luca Lipani (76′ Niccolo Pisilli), Lorenzo Amatucci, Luca Koleosho (76′ Luis Hasa).
Referee: Yigal Frid ISR
Assistant referees: Yossi Babayoff ISR, Deniss Ševcenko LVA
Fourth official: Genc Nuza KOS