(2-3, 1-0, 1-2, 0-2)
Two goals in the final session ended the chances of the Malta U-17 national team to secure a top 10 placing at the European Championships as Karl Izzo’s team were beaten 7-4 by hosts Georgia in Tbilisi yesterday.
It was a disappointing outcome to a match which saw the Maltese battling toe to toe with the hosts country throughout, with the final outcome uncertain until the latter stages.
However, Georgia’s superior edge in front of goal made all the difference in the end as the Maltese struggled to breach their opponents’ defence late on after missing a series of goalscoring opportunities to slump to defeat.
The national team will now face the Netherlands in the play-off final for the 11th and 12th position this afternoon and will be geared up to end what has been a highly-successful participation on a winning note.
In fact, Izzo’s team have already assured themselves of improving on their previous 16th placing in these continental championships.
Georgia were off to a strong start and two quick goals from Besarion Akhvlediani handed them a two-goal buffer.
The Maltese refused to panic and they managed to restore parity through goals from Nico Schiavone and Benjamin Cachia from a man-up situation.
However, the hosts struck soon after through Luka Giorgadze to take a slender 3-2 first-session lead.
The second quarter was hardly fought with both sides struggling to find a breakthrough. That until the Maltese were awarded a penalty and Jake Muscat duly converted to make it 3-3 when ends were changed.
The match remained evenly balanced on the restart with the Georgians managing to take a slender one-goal advantage into the final session after edging the third quarter by the odd goal in three with Sebastian Busuttil netting Malta’s goal.
In the fourth and final quarter, the Georgians managed to step up their defensive lines as they managed to shut out their Maltese opponents who missed a series of good scoring opportunities.
Izzo’s boys were made to pay as the Georgians netted two vital goals through Lasha Alavidze and Davit Chkheidze to seal their victory.
MALTA: M. Vassallo, J. Farrugia, N. Schiavone 1, G. Melillo, M. Carani, B. Cachia 1, L. Falzon, S. Busuttil 1, G. Farrugia, J. Bonavia, M. Chircop, J. Muscat 1, M. Rossi.
GEORGIA: G. Gvetadze, G. Eristavi, L. Alavidze 2, I. Gavasheli, D. Tevdorashvili, V. Dadvani 1, B. Akhvlediani 2, L. Giorgagze 1, A. Kiriakidi, D. Chkheidze 1, L. Chikovani, S. Tkeshelashvili, D. Tchumburidze.
Referees: Manuel Manea (Romania), Robert Horvath (Slovakia).