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Malta fall to Spain in opening U-21 Euros qualifier

Malta's Andrea Zammit attempts to take the ball off Spain's Pablo Barrios (left). Photo: Andre Farrugia

Spain cruise to 6-0 victory

MALTA              0

SPAIN                6

Lopez 5

Veiga 14, 18

Akomach 49

Torre 70

Turrientes 71

MALTA H. Sacco, J. Vassallo, Matthew Ellul, M. Veselji (65 J. Engerer), B. Hili (76 N. Micallef), A. Zammit (87 G. Sciberras), A. Garzia, Mattias Ellul, A. Borg, B. Tuma (76 B. Borg), K. Bondin (65 J. Micallef).

SPAIN P. Cunat, A. Martinez (56 Novoa), R. Marin (65 S. Bajcetic), A. Frances, I. Akomach (55 P. Torre), B. Turrientes (72 J. Guerra), I. Monzon, G. Veiga (55 F. Perez), A. Fernandez, P. Barrios, D. Lopez.

Referee Lionel Tschudi (Switzerland FA).

Yellow card A. Borg, Hili.

Spain broke little sweat as they beat Malta 6-0 in their Under-21 European Qualifier on Friday at the Tony Bezzina Stadium.

Ivan Woods’ debut as Malta U-21 coach could not have been tougher as his side started its European qualifying campaign against five-time European Championship winners Spain who were looking for another positive run in a group composed of the two teams as well as Hungary, Belgium, Scotland, and Kazakhstan.

Hugo Sacco, Jake Vassallo, Benjamin Hili, Andy Borg, and Basil Tuma were all starters in Malta’s lineup, having made the leap from the Under-19 squad after having played in this summer’s European Championship held in Malta. Brooklyn Borg, the other player in that U-19 squad, started on the bench.

Ilyas Akomach, who captained the Spanish side in the July tournament returned to Malta with the next age group as Samuel Omorodion, the only other player to make the cut that side, started on the bench. 

Three minutes after kick-off, Malta could have conceded with the first shot of the game when Spain captain Alejandro Frances fired low, but Sacco dived low to stop the shot.

 However, two minutes in, Diego Lopez opened proceedings nonetheless with a header that Sacco could do nothing about.

It was all Spain in the opening minutes of the match and on 14 minutes, Gabriel Veiga, who surprised many with a move to Saudi Arabia club Al-Ahli this summer, made it two for Spain. From a corner, Malta’s defence miskicked a clearance towards Veiga who fired first-time into the net.

The Spanish assault continued and 18 minutes in, Veiga got his brace with a low blow after a pin-point cross from Alvaro Fernandez.

On 35 minutes, Pablo Barrios tried his luck with Spain’s next shot but in what was an unusual sight so far, the Spaniard hit well wide.

Right before the break, Barrios was once again on the flank making a low delivery into the area, but Malta escaped a fourth goal when the ball drifted past two Spanish forwards who both slid in front of goal.

After the change of ends, Spain remained the dominant force in the game and Akomach produced a moment of beauty when he dribbled past two Malta defenders and fired home past Sacco after just four minutes.

54 minutes in, Mattia Veselji finally made Spanish goalkeeper Pablo Cunat work for the first time in the fixture when after a run on the flank, he put in a cross into the area but the Spain shotstopper was alert to stop it with a low dive.

Five minutes later, Sacco came to Malta’s rescue on the other end when Pablo Torre shot low from in between a crowded area but the young Malta goalkeeper stretched to parry away the effort.

Torre made no mistake on his next try, however, as Spain made it five on 70 minutes. Torre, a second-half substitute, met a loose ball after a header ricocheted off a Malta defender, and fired home from close range.

Seconds later, Spain got their sixth goal as another rush lead the ball to Hugo Novoa who put in a cross for 8 to volley into the net as the game was all but over.

Andrea Zammit tried for a consolation goal late in the day, but his long-distance effort went wide off the mark as Spain kept up their prowess until the final whistle.

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