No mistakes for Italy in their opening match as they beat Malta 2-0. Bollini: “An excellent second half”The Azzurrini take all three points in their first qualifying match. Sebastiano Esposito and Alessio Riccardi score the goals for Italy
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
A tricky first match, made even more difficult by the pitch conditions and an extremely defensive opponent who rarely looked to venture into Italy’s half. By the full-time whistle Italy had beaten Malta 2-0 in Misano Adriatico in their first match in the Qualifying Round. It’s the first step on the long road of the qualification process, which will end in July with the Under-19 European Championship taking place in Northern Ireland.
The Azzurrini’s Head Coach Alberto Bollini gave his thoughts on the game: “It was a deserved victory againt an opponent which played with nine players inside the defensive third: it’s not easy to find space during the attacking phase in situations like this. We played very well in the second half, we probably deserved more from it. These guys who’ve come into the team made their contribution and showed once again that when you’re in the National Team, the blue shirt is the most important thing to you.”
Malta’s defensive compactness substantially slowed down Italy’s attacking play during the first half: the Azzurri forward partnership of Esposito and Piccoli had their work cut out for them against the 5-4-1 formation which the Malta Coach Muscat had sent out his team with. Riccardi did well to move between the defensive lines but struggled to trouble the Malta rearguard.
Italy’s first chance came in the 21st minute when Esposito’s free-kick from the edge of the area deflected off the wall and hit the bar. Piccoli generated a shooting opportunity for himself in the 35th minute but his shot grazed the post and went wide.
The first half was drawing to a close when Esposito made the breakthrough for Italy. The only 17-year-old in Bollini’s squad picked up the ball on the edge of the area, fashioned a chance for himself and put the ball past Sylla. It almost got even worse for Malta as Okoli almost scored an own goal, but his header from Esposito’s free-kick hit the bar and stayed out.
The flow of the match remained unchanged as the second half began. Malta continued to defend, seemingly more concerned with not embarrassing themselves rather than seeking to find the equaliser. Italy however remained dynamic and Sylla was kept busy by the Azzurrini attack. Salcedo’s entrance into the game in the 56th minute provided an energy boost to Italy’s attack and this helped Italy finish off the game in the 65th minute. Riccardi received the ball 25 metres out from goal, juggled the ball with his right before placing a shot into the left-hand corner of the goal.
Italy have their second group-stage match on Saturday as they take on Cyprus with mathematical qualification already a possibility. Riccardi emphasised the need for Italy to keep up their hard work: “We will need to play in the same way against Cyprus: we showed today that we’re a real group, we don’t fall apart when faced with adversity.”
Italy 2-0 Malta
ITALY(4-3-1-2): Brancolini; Colombini, Gozzi Iweru, Okoli (73’ Armini), Pierozzi (56’ Ponsi); Ricci, Rovella, Gyabuaa (56’ Salcedo); Riccardi (73’ Fagioli); Piccoli (73’ Petrelli), Esposito. Substitutes: Russo, Ntube, Greco, Cangiano. Coach: Bollini
MALTA (5-4-1): Sylla; Vella (77’ Borg), Attard, Gauci, Zammit Lonardelli, Mohnani; Ghio, Dimech (86’ Sixsmith), Mbong (76’ Tonna), Grech; Satariano. Substitutes: Farrugia, McKay, Portelli, Veselji, Spiteri, Ellul. Coach: Muscat
Referee: Al-Hakim (SWE). Assistants: Beigi (SWE) and Bell (NIR). Fourth Official: McNabb
Goals: 43’ Esposito, 65’ Riccardi
Notes: around 550 spectators. Stoppage time: first half 1’, second half 4’Bookings: Attard and Esposito
Goalkeepers: Federico Brancolini (Fiorentina), Alessandro Russo (Sassuolo);
Defenders: Nicolò Armini (Lazio), Lorenzo Colombini (Inter), Paolo Gozzi Iweru (Juventus), Michael Ntube (Inter), Memeh Caleb Okoli (Atalanta), Edoardo Pierozzi (Fiorentina), Fabio Ponsi (Fiorentina);
Midfielders: Nicolò Fagioli (Juventus), Jean Freddi Greco (Torino), Manu Emmanuel Gyabuaa (Atalanta), Federico Marigosu (Cagliari), Alessio Riccardi (Roma), Samuele Ricci (Empoli), Nicolò Rovella (Genoa);
Forwards: Sebastiano Esposito (Inter), Elia Petrelli (Juventus), Roberto Piccoli (Atalanta), Eddie Anthony Salcedo Mora (Hellas Verona).
Staff – Head of delegation: Evaristo Beccalossi; Coordinator: Maurizio Viscidi; Coach: Alberto Bollini; Secretary: Aldo Blessich; Assistant coach: Giovanni Valenti; Athletic coach: Vito Azzone; Goalkeeping coach: Graziano Vinti; Match analyst: Mirko Magistro; Doctors: Luca Labianca and Emanuele Fabrizi; Physiotherapists: Giuseppe Galli and Roberto Cardarelli; Tutors: Giorgio Orlando and Marco Lista.
*Group 6 schedule and results (all times CET)
Matchday one (13 November)
Cyprus 1-2 Slovakia
ITALY 2-0 Malta
Matchday two (16 November)
Slovakia vs. Malta (12:00 - Misano Adriatico)
ITALY vs. Cyprus (15:00 - Santarcangelo di Romagna)
Matchday three (19 November)
ITALY vs. Slovakia (15:00 - Misano Adriatico)
Malta vs. Cyprus (15:00 - Santarcangelo di Romagna)
*The top two of each group along with the best third-placed side out of all the groups will progress to the final stage.