Coming off the back of a solid win against Hungary just four days ago, and the news of the first team qualifying for next year’s Euros in the back of their minds, it was the turn of the youngsters to show their potential against a Malta side who were aiming to take some points from the Scots.
From the whistle, Malta had a point to prove and were charging down the wings with a shaky Scotland still to find their feet. In just the second minute, Scotland goalkeeper Cieran Slicker was on the halfway line, controlling a ball with his chest and then volleying it into the stand behind the dugout. This frantic football from Scotland provided Malta with the confidence to continue to push forward over the next few minutes and the Scottish defence had to work hard. In the seventh minute, Malta’s perseverance nearly paid off when Matthew Ellul had a shot on goal but was denied by Slicker.
It took this shot on goal for Scotland to spring into action. Captain Liam Morrison could be heard trying to settle his team and Alex Lowry ignited the fans in the stand with his fancy footwork. Scotland’s first chance came in the 12th minute when a mistake from the Maltese goalkeeper landed at the feet of Lowry who played in Josh Mulligan, but the shot was stopped by Sacco.
A second Scotland chance came from a convincing left-footed shot from Alex Lowry in the 16th minute, but it wasn’t to be as it skimmed the bar. Within seconds, Malta were on the attack, with Slicker under significant pressure from a lofted shot struck by Malta’s captain Andrea Zammit. Malta’s Matthia Veselji and Gianluca Sciberras linked up brilliantly down the right-hand side, but Scotland’s Mullen and McPherson had it under control, looking calm throughout.
With Alex Lowry twisting and turning through the Malta midfield, it was only a matter of time before the Maltese defence started to become frustrated, and following a pass into Scotland’s Matthew Anderson, Malta’s Matthew Ellul brought him down in the box- penalty.
Alex Lowry stepped up to the spot and confidently slotted it into the bottom left corner, putting the home side in the lead.
For the remainder of the first half Scotland dominated, with chances from a Liam Morrison header and sublime strike from Keiron Bowie. The Maltese goalkeeper had to work hard and executed some great saves to keep his team in contention.
As the second half got underway, Malta were striving for an equaliser as Scotland struggled to get on the ball, and just five minutes into the second half Malta had a penalty. Their captain Zammit stepped up and with a strong strike made it 1-1.
The equaliser spurred Malta on, and it was evident they were looking to take the three points. Substitute Nikolai Micallef, who had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes was denied by the crossbar moments later as his strike rung in the ears of Slicker.
On the hour mark, Scot Gemmill looked to his bench for some fresh legs, replacing McPherson for seventeen-year-old Rory Wilson and left-back Neilson for Michael Mellon. It was clear to see why Wilson had been called up from the U19 squad, with his speed and determination to win the ball back.
As the clock ticked on, Scotland looked more at ease but certainly were not settling for a point. It was a nail-biting final few moments, but in the 82nd minute, Josh Mulligan fired the ball across goal to find Kieron Bowie, who curved it around the Maltese goalkeeper to make it 2-1.
Post-match thoughts with Head Coach Scot Gemmill
Following the game, Head Coach Scot Gemmill sat down to discuss his feelings on the match and his players’ performance.
What are your feelings on the match?
“I was very concerned before the game because such a young team you know in these situations you have to take your chances and keep clean sheet.
“We made hard work and couldn’t get to the same level as Friday. We did make really hard work of it but they found a way to win so credit to them for that.”
How do the players feel about their performance?
“They know themselves and a lot aren’t happy with the way they played but they found a way to win and that’s a big part of their experience and development.
“They allowed a team to get a penalty and then they’re up and we go down.
“For them to experience that, when people come here expecting us to win, it’s brilliant to feel that and find a way to win but it wasn’t enjoyable.”
Do you feel it was complacency?
“I don’t think it was complacency. That’s where they are right now. A lot are 2004s and this is 2002 age group.
“They know they get the chance because we’ve got a lot missing – but they’re up for the game. To play at a really high level you can’t make errors and there were too many errors.”
Kieron will be pleased to score another goal here tonight…
“Bowie? I’m delighted for him. He’s become a father in the last few months and you can see him maturing.
“I speak to Colin Calderwood a lot at Northampton – he’s part of the staff there – and Kieron has responded.
“He’s moved up a league after promotion last year and it’s fantastic he’s playing and pushing again and he’s not settling for where he was.”
Scotland Player of the Match: Alex Lowry
A maestro in the midfield, turning players left and right and creating space for his teammates.
Malta Player of the Match: Andrea Zammit
A constant threat in the attack and challenging the Scottish goalkeeper throughout the game.
Scotland Magic Moment: A brilliant finish from winger Kieron Bowie to ensure Scotland took home the 3 points.
Malta Magic Moment: An excellent effort by Andrea Zammit from 40 yards in the first half was certainly an opportunity.
L Morrison (c)
A Zammit (c)
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