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Tuma scores first international goal but Malta fall to Portugal

Portugal forward Miguel Fale hits towards goal ahead of Lucas Scicluna's challenge. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

PORTUGAL      2

Fale 8

Golcalves 74

MALTA              1

Tuma 71

PORTUGAL D. Pinto, G. Esteves, G. Bras, L. Gomes, M. Fernandes (65 C. Borges), J. Concalves, Y. da Rocha, D. Prioste (46 H. Felix), J. Meireles (65 R. Ribeiro), M. Fale, H. Nabian (65 M. Marques).

MALTA H. Sacco, A, Borg (68 B. Buhagiar), S. Xerri, J. Micallef, M. Ellul, L. Caruana (68 B. Borg), L. Scicluna, D. Letherby (78 I. Farrugia), B. Hili (53 T. Viviani), B. Tuma, N. Cross (68 S. Gatt).

Referee Joonas Jaanovits (Estonia FA).

Yellow cards Caruana, Letherby, Ellul.

Basil Tuma scored Malta’s first and only goal for Malta on Sunday as Malta fell to Portugal 2-1 in a David-and-Goliath contest at the Gozo Stadium. Simultaneously, Italy secured their passage into the next round at the expense of Poland.

Alberto Bollini’s side needed at least a draw to make it through the group phase and the 1-1 stalemate against the Poles was enough for them to advance. Poland, on their part, failed to make it to the group stage in this tournament once again.

While Malta had been already confirmed out of the next round after two defeats to Italy and Poland, Portugal went into the fixture already knowing that they would top the group.

But they did not hold back, and Miguel Fale made the score 1-0 after just eight minutes with a low shot into the corner of the net which Hugo Sacco could not reach.

28 minutes in, Dylan Scicluna could have undone all the positive play for Malta who had kept Portugal at bay, but Sacco was alert to head away a mistimed backpass.

The Malta goalkeeper saved the day again on the halfhour mark after he blocked away a close effort from Luis Gomes from a corner.

While it was Portugal who looked the more dominant side, keeping most of the ball in the Malta half, the young Maltese looked towards Tuma and his speed to push in attack. However, it barely troubled Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Pinto.

After the break, Portugal looked for a quick show of force but Goncalo Esteves’ long-ranger shot went well wide.

Malta finally hit their first shot in the 60th minute when Letherby held the ball outside the area but his effort went wide.

At the other end, new Portugal substitute Hugo Felix drifted past his marker after a counterattack, but his final touch went over just as well two minutes later.

71 minutes in, Malta scored a massive goal when Tristan Viviani put in a long ball towards Tuma. Goalkeeper Pinto ran out of position but could only manage a clearance straight into a charging Tuma. The Malta forward made no mistake in hitting accurately into the empty net for his, and Malta’s first goal in the competition.

In spite of this, Portugal regained the lead just three minutes later when Carlos Borges put in a tight cross and with Goncalves completely unmarked in front of goal, Sacco could do nothing to stop the easy goal.

Portugal could have made it three in injury time when the inspired Esteves pushed through the Malta defence before laying the ball to Borges but his effort went wide.

At the Ta’ Qali Stadium, both Italy and Poland had two key absences in their starting formations. The Azzurrini were missing Luca Lipani, scorer against Portugal, while Poland had to do without Wiktor Matyjewicz. Both players were suspended one game following their dismissals on Matchday Two.

Poland forged ahead through Igor Strzalek, with the aid of Italy’s goalkeeper Davide Mastrantonio whose block on Poland’s no.20 shot was not enough to prevent the Poles from taking the lead.

Italy levelled terms through Luis Hasa who slotted from point-blank range, capitalising on a brilliant solo effort by Monza’s Samuele Vignato.

Portugal and Italy now face either Spain or Norway, depending on who takes the top spot in tomorrow’s Group B finale.

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