Under-21 side defeated 1-2 by Lithuania in friendly match

The Malta Under-21 national team lost 1-2 to Lithuania in a friendly match at the Tony Bezzina Stadium on Sunday.

Malta coach Ivan Woods took the opportunity to change his starting formation on five places compared with the Kazakhstan qualifier of last Thursday, including Naxxar Lions goalkeeper Matthias Debono, who deputised for Hugo Sacco. Nathan Agius, Jake Engerer, Jake Micallef and Karl Mohnani were the other four newcomers, the last one already playing his 18th official U21 match for Malta. In the final stages of the match, both Deacon Abela and Shaisen Attard made their Under-21 debut by entering as substitutes.

Photo courtesy of Andre Farrugia / Malta FA

During the first half, the visitors held the upper-hand, trying to release towering centre-forward Armandas Kucys whenever possible. It was Malta who created the first danger when Jake Engerer was released on the right flank, with Mattia Veselji acrobatically volleying his cross over the crossbar.

However, four minutes later, Lithuania opened the scoring thanks to a curling shot in the far corner from the edge of the area by Kucys, who proved to be more than a headache for the Maltese rear-guard throughout the match. On 28 minutes, Veselji came again close from a Karl Mohnani cross, with the Floriana striker missing target from close-range. The Lithuanians had a few other opportunities to double, but Debono did well to limit the damage.

The second half was more eventful, also thanks to the inclusion of captain Andrea Zammit with Malta throwing all on attack to get a result. This resulted into an equaliser twelve minutes after the re-start when a Zammit free-kick was headed into his own net by Lithuanian centre-back Kristupas Kersys.

On 68 minutes, Lithuanian goalkeeper Rymvidas Kiriejevas, based in Spain with Espanyol, performed a great save to deny Engerer from close-range from another Zammit free-kick. But instead of a 2-1 advantage, Malta conceded three minutes later with substitute Dovydas Zala producing an unstoppable scorcher from the edge of the box, which gave Debono no chance.

Barely a minute later, the chances for the hosts to get back on level terms were further reduced when Jake Vassallo received a straight red card for stopping an obvious goalscoring opportunity for Lithuania. The visitors drilled the resultant free-kick high over the crossbar.

On 79 minutes, Debono performed a great save on a Deividas Dovydaitis attempt, diving spectacularly into the corner to deny his first-timer.  On the stroke of full-time, Deacon Abela could have made his U21 debut a memorable one but the Swieqi United defender’s free header at the far post incredibly missed target from another Zammit setpiece. Tempers flared straight after the final whistle as it took some minutes and a few yellow cards before peace was restored.

Malta Matthias Debono, Karl Mohnani (Nikolai Micallef 78), Jake Vassallo, Matthew Ellul (Deacon Abela 91), Jake Micallef, Andrew Borg (Shaisen Attard 91), Nathan Agius, Kurt Bondin, Aleandro Garzia, Nathan Agius (Andrea Zammit 46), Mattia Veselji (Gianluca Sciberras 76).

Lithuania Rymvidas Kiriejevas, Zygimantas Baltrunas, Nojus Stankevicius, Kristupas Kersys, Artemijus Tutyskinas, Ernestas Burdzilauskas (Karolis Zebrauskas 46), Deividas Dovydaitis, Daniel Misiunas (Darius Stankevicius 67), Titas Buzas (Dovydas Zala 67), Eridanas Baguzas (Nojus Luksys 67), Armandas Kucys.

 Darryl Agius (Malta)