Olaigbe 76, Engels 90
H. Sacco, O. Spiteri, J. Vassallo, M. Ellul, K. Mohnani (79 N. Micallef), M Veselji (79 J. Engerer) A. Zammit (72 A. Brdidgman), A. Garzia, G. Sciberras (72 D. Letherby), A. Borg (86 J Carbone), K. Bondin.
M. Vandevoordt, J. Spileers, K. De Winter, A. Engels, M. Fofana (82 S. Mbangula), A. Vranckx, L. Stassin (61 K. Olaigbe), E. Matazo (77 M. Stroeykens), L. Oyen (61 O. Sylla), I. Van Der Brempt (46 H. Siquet), T. Rommens
Referee: Dzmitry Dzmitryieu (Belarus FA).
Yellow card: Sciberras.
Malta’s capitulation to Spain and Hungary in the opening European Under-21 Championship qualifiers may have triggered fears of another debacle when they fell to Belgium at the Tony Bezzina Stadium on Friday.
Defeating Kazakhstan just 1-0 at home, Belgium came into their second outing looking for a goal bonanza. However, they were made to fight hard for the points that lifted them to the top of Group B alongside Spain and Hungary.
Belgium struck two goals in the second half to turn the tables on the red-shirted players who were unable to finish off their chances.
Nine minutes into the game, some neat approach play from Belgium, led Arne Engels to head the ball against the foot of the post. The modus operandi was the same in the 22nd minute when Engels turned provider as his inswinger from a corner soared towards the far side of the box and Genoa defender Koni de Winter hit wide with a glancing header.
Having weathered Belgium’s early surge, Malta came more into the picture as the first half progressed. On the half-hour mark, Malta captain Andrea Zammit struck the ball low straight at Maarten Vandevoordt.
A few moments later, Gianluca Sciberras made headway down the right before crossing the ball towards the centre where the Belgium goalkeeper could only touch the ball away.
On the other side, after 37 minutes, Luca Oyen used his pace to power his way past a clutch of Maltese defenders before freeing Malick Fofana with an intelligent pass. But he hit the ball well over the bar.
The Gent midfielder may have killed off Malta’s enthusiasm after the break with a menacing shot, but Hugo Sacco dived to his right to turn the ball away for a corner.
Malta again grabbed the initiative with a counter-attack when Alejandro Garia’s pace was very evident on the left flank as he outsprinted his marker to despatch the ball low past Vandevoort but the ball finished just wide.
Substitute Kazeem Olaigbe was allowed to twist and turn in the box, pulling like a magnet various Maltese defenders before dragging his effort just wide.
When, after 76 minutes, the Belgium midfielder took possession in Malta’s half, danger loomed again for Ivan Woods’s men. This time, Olaigbe was quick to drill the ball home into the low corner despite Jake Vassallo’s desperate attempts to block him.
Sacco was then beaten a second time by Engels who finally hit the jackpot with a fierce free-kick just before time.
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