Coach Ray Farrugia was in raptures after a 2-1 success in Lithuania gave Malta their first away win in UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying at the 44th attempt and moved them top of 2011-13 Group 2.
Already on a high following a 0-0 draw in Finland in their opening game in the section on Friday, Malta recovered from conceding a Marius Miškinis goal before the break in Siauliai. Terence Vella converted from the spot after Miškinis was sent off for a foul, and captain Rowen Muscat completed the turnaround before Karolis Chvedukas's dismissal reduced the hosts to nine men.
Our performance, especially in the second half, was the best I have seen from a Maltese selection ever," Farrugia told UEFA.com. "I am proud to be Maltese. I want to thank my players and my staff, in particular my right hand man Ronald Vella, because we are all doing a great job."
'Zazu' first led the U21 side from 1988 until 2002, before returning to the helm in January with the intention of bringing some spirit to a team that had ended the last two qualifying campaigns with a combined total of three points, losing their last ten competitive fixtures. "I want my team to think positive," Farrugia said. "We are doing our best to instil a winning mentality in our up-and-coming youngsters. That is the way forward."
The former Pietà Hotspurs FC and Sliema Wanderers FC coach has clearly managed to do that. Previous Malta sides would have struggled to cope with the physical and mental demands of playing two away internationals in five days, but Farrugia always believed his boys were up for the challenge. They take on Slovenia and Finland at home in their next qualifiers, on 1 and 6 September.
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