Northern Ireland’s Under-19s enjoyed an emphatic victory in the first of two friendlies against Malta’s U19s this week.
Gerard Lyttle’s side were in sizzling form as they scored six without reply at the Malta Football Association training complex in Ta’ Qali. Charlie Lindsay and Callum Marshall both scored doubles.
Northern Ireland set their stall out straight away with positive and dominant play.
After two minutes Aaron Wightman whipped in a dangerous cross which Lindsay just failed to connect with.
Minutes later Jamie McDonnell steered a header wide and the midfielder then teed up Darren Robinson, whose shot was pushed away by the Malta keeper.
Robinson turned playmaker when he lofted an excellent ball over the home defence for Makenzie Kirk to run on to. Kirk cut inside his marker and let fly, however his effort was off target.
On 30 minutes Northern Ireland deservedly took the lead with a well worked goal. Robinson played an excellent through ball to Wightman who beat his opponent before firing in a low cross which Kirk tucked home.
Three minutes later they were two up. This time Conor Scannell won the ball high up the pitch and slipped it to Kirk. He put McDonnell through and he scored with a low drive which went in off the inside of the post.
The second half started in the same vein, with Northern Ireland playing at a high intensity.
The third came when the Malta keeper cleared the ball to Lindsay and he drove it into the net from 30 yards.
Goal number four was a peach. Lindsay took an excellent pass in his stride, cut inside a defender and produced a lovely chip over the keeper.
He almost completed his hat-trick minutes later, however his snapshot skimmed the top of the bar.
Substitute Marshall grabbed goal number five shortly after coming on from the bench. He closed down a Malta defender who was trying to find his keeper with a back pass. Marshall pounced on the loose ball and stroked the ball home.
Marshall notched his second of the game to make it 6-0. He went on a fine run before unleashing a low drive into the bottom corner.
Lyttle used seven subs during the second half. The substitutions included the introduction of Ryan Donnelly, the youngest member of the squad. The 15-year-old is a first year at the Irish FA JD Academy.
Afterwards the U19s/U17s boss said he was delighted withhis team’s performance.
And he added: “Our game plan was to play with great intensity, to press aggressively high up the pitch and to win the ball and create goalscoring opportunities. We also looked to move the ball quickly and to switch play and create overloads in the wide areas. We did all of that magnificently.”
This week’s friendlies against Malta are part of ongoing preparations for Euro qualifiers this autumn.
Gerard Lyttle’s team will face the Maltese again tomorrow (10 June) at the Malta FA complex in Ta’ Qali. Kick-off is at 20.30 local time (19.30 UK time).
Northern Ireland U19s v Malta (game one): Pierce Charles, Aaron Wightman, Ruairi McConville, Michael Forbes (captain), Matty Carson, Darren Robinson, Jamie McDonnell, Conor Scannell, Makenzie Kirk, Charlie Lindsay, Conor Falls. Substitutes (used): Patrick Kelly, Callum Marshall, Josh Roney, Callum Wilson, SamGlenfield, Ryan Donnelly, Reece Jordan; (not used) Stephen McMullan (GK), Darragh McCloskey, Daithi McCallion.
Malta U19s: Karl Sargent, Ivin Farrugia, Benjamin Hill, Lucas Caruana, Jake Micallef (captain), Mattias Ellul, Jake Vassallo, Andrew Borg, Sean Gatt, Brooklyn Borg, Alfie Bridgman. Substitutes: Luca Camilleri (GK), Matteo Gambin, Daniel Letherby, Deacon Abela, Tristan Viviani, Nathan Cross, Jake Grech, Jamie Scerri, Shaisen Attard, Zak Barbara, Sven Xerri.