Football: Malta set to appeal on `overtime'

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The Independent Online
DAVE WORRELL'S late, late winner, which put the Republic of Ireland Under-21 team's first European Championship campaign victory on the board on Tuesday, is likely to spark an official protest from Malta to Uefa, European football's governing body, over the referee, Ladislav Gadosi.

The drama at Arklow came in the 96th minute, with Worrell, the captain, snatching a 2-1 victory for the Irish youngsters. But Ray Farrugia, the Malta manager, was furious the Slovakian official had allowed so much stoppage time.

Farrugia refused to comment officially, but Luis Micallef, Malta's public relations officer, said: "It looks certain we will make a complaint to Uefa, although it will probably end up as only a gesture of principle. We know we won't qualify for the European finals, we will probably finish bottom of the group.

"But our players are very upset about being beaten like this - especially as the referee refused us an obvious penalty a few minutes before Ireland's second goal."

Ian Evans, the Republic Of Ireland manager, had some sympathy with the distraught Maltese. He said: "If I had been their manager I would probably have wanted to know why the game wasn't already over before Worrell scored.

"We got out of jail, if you like, and, of course, I was more than happy with the referee's time-keeping.

"To be honest, there were a few more hold-ups when Malta's players went down apparently injured even after the board went up to show five minutes' stoppage time.

"But I'm just pleased at the way our lads kept having a go. We were not at our best and found it hard to break down a side that just threw bodies in the way and stopped us playing any way they could, but I feel we deserved nothing less than the win."

Ireland's courageous effort in drawing 2-2 with Croatia last month looked like being wasted as Malta survived an early blitz and went ahead through striker Malcolm Licari on 27 minutes.

Darryl Clare came up with a quick equaliser, but Saviour Darmanin defied a barrage of largely unimaginative attacks until the Blackburn defender Worrell hit his overtime strike.

It was a big relief for Evans' team, especially after the referee had ruled in their favour with a free-kick on the edge of penalty area in the 88th minute when Thomas Morgan's mistimed tackle appeared to bring down Malta's George Mallia inside the box.

But it was a happy ending for a 4,000-plus crowd in Arklow, where schoolchildren were given the afternoon off and shops and offices closed early to celebrate the arrival of international football in the little seaside town that does not even have a senior club.

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