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Malta pay penalty against Italy in Under-19 opener

Malta's Andy Borg tries to get past Italy's Cher N’Dour. Photo: Domenic Aquilina


N’Dour 18 pen.
Esposito 32 pen.
D’Andrea 46
Vignato 90 pen.

Malta H. Sacco, A. Borg, M. Ellul (71 B. Hili), S. Xerri, J. Vassallo, J. Micallef, L. Scicluna, B. Tuma (59 N. Cross), D. Scicluna (85 B. Borg), L. Caruana (60 D. Letherby), A. Bridgman (46 T. Viviani).
Italy D. Mastrantonio, F. Missori, I. Regonesi (85 A. Dellavalle) , L. Dellavalle, C. N’Dour, P. Esposito, L. D’Andrea (64 S. Vignato), M. Kayode, L. Lipani (75 N. Pisilli), L. Amatucci (74 N. Turco), L. Koleosho (76 L. Hasa).
Referee Yigal Frid (Israel).
Yellow cards Micallef, Regonesi.
Red card Micallef (M) 38.

Missed pen. D’Andrea 43.

The Malta U-19 national team were off to a difficult start in the European Championship finals when they suffered a 4-0 defeat to Italy at the National Stadium.

The Maltese youngsters tried hard to put on a stern challenge against the Italians but their ambitions were thwarted after conceding three first-half penalties, of which the Azzurri managed to convert two, and had skipper Jake Micallef dismissed as the Italians strolled to victory.

An early goal in the second half and a fourth penalty late in the game rubberstamped Italy’s win as the Azzurri joined Portugal at the top of the group while the Maltese stayed bottom with no points alongside Poland.

Malta started brightly, pressing their opponents high up the pitch. But it was the Italians who threatened when Lorenzo Amatucci hit a thumping drive that flew past the upright.

The Italians kept pushing and on 18 minutes Mattias Ellul came to Malta’s rescue when the young defender cleared off the line an effort from Cher N’Dour.

But the visitors were not to be denied as two minutes later Italy were awarded a penalty. Alfie Bridgman was adjudged to handle the ball inside the area with referee Yigal Frid pointing to the spot.

N’Dour stepped up to send Malta goalkeeper Hugo Sacco the wrong way.

The Italian forward almost scored a second in spectacular style when he stepped up to take a free-kick but his inswinger was somehow kept out by Sacco with the aid of the upright.

Italy were handed a second penalty in very dubious circumstances on 32 minutes.

Malta skipper Jake Micallef was harshly punished for pulling Pio Esposito just inside the area and was booked by the referee. From the spot, the Italy striker made no mistake from the spot.

Things got from bad to worse for Micallef as eight minutes from the break, he brought down Esposito inside the area with the referee ordering a third penalty and dismissing the Maltese player after showing him a second yellow card.

From the spot, Luca D’Andrea blasted the ball over the bar to the relief of the hosts.

In stoppage time, Sacco came to Malta’s rescue when he kept out Esposito’s shot.

Malta had a nightmarish start to the second half as Italy added a third goal on 46 minutes. The Italians were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area and D’Andrea hit a rasping drive that beat Sacco.

The woodwork denied Italy a fourth goal on 68 minutes when Esposito’s header hit the bar, with Sacco beaten.

Italy continued to push forward in search of more goals but found Sacco on their way.

Italy were awarded a fourth penalty in stoppage time when Benjamin Hili fouled Turco inside the area and Samuele Vignato made no mistake to seal a comfortable win for the Azzurri.


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