With a goal in each half, Slovenia defeated Malta 2-0 at the Stadion Stožice in Ljubljana to return to winning ways and condemn Malta to a sixth defeat in as many matches.
The Maltese defended well for most of the first half but a goal two minutes in stoppage time enabled the hosts forged ahead, adding another late in the game.
Malta coach Pietro Ghedin maintained faith in his players, naming an unchanged line-up from Tuesday’s friendly win against Ukraine, therefore leaving out England-based duo Sam Magri and Luke Gambin out of the starting line-up. Andrew Hogg started in goal, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius and Zach Muscat as central defenders with Alex Muscat and Clayton Failla on the flanks, Steve Pisani, Bjorn Kristensen and Ryan Fenech in midfield with captain Andre Schembri supporting Alfred Effiong in attack.
The hosts controlled the initiative although the Maltese defended well. However Slovenia went close to taking the lead on the 18th minute with an angled header by Antonio Mlinar Delamea. Andre Schembri then served Alex Muscat inside the area but Jokić deflected the ball into a corner before the Sliema defender could connect. On the other side of the pitch, Verbič concluded a good run on the left flank with a cross which was however cleared into safety by Agius.
On the 34th minute, Benjamin Verbič had a fine opportunity to put Slovenia ahead when he advanced all alone but his conclusion ended just wide. Another Verbič effort one minute from the end of the first half was partially saved by Hogg.
However two minutes in added time, Slovenia managed to break the deadlock with a fine diagonal shot from the right by Josip Iličić who avoided Zach Muscat’s marking, beating the Malta custodian.
Six minutes in the second half, Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak had to rush to the edge of the area to anticipate Alfred Effiong before he could conclude from an ideal position. Two minutes later, substitute Luke Gambin had a low shot from the edge of the area parried by the Slovenian goalkeeper.
Hogg came to the rescue with a save at point blank on substitute Milivoje Novaković on the 75th minute. A minute later, the same Novaković headed just wide off a corner from the left.
Six minutes from time, Slovenia doubled the score thanks to Milivoje Novaković who exchanged the ball with Josip Iličić, slotting the ball home from close range off the Fiorentina player’s assist from the right.
In stoppage time, Josip Iličić could have added another but his fierce shot from outside the area was blocked by Hogg.[gallery_bank type=”images” format=”masonry” title=”true” desc=”false” responsive=”true” display=”all” sort_by=”random” animation_effect=”bounce” album_title=”true” album_id=”59″]
SLOVENIA Jan Oblak, Nejc Skubic (89′ Matej Palčič), Antonio Mlinar Delamea, Rene Krhin, Josip Iličić, Jasmin Kurić, Robert Berić (64′ Milivoje Novaković), Bojan Jokić, Roman Bezjak (59′ Nik Omladič), Miha Mevlja, Benjamin Verbič.
MALTA Andrew Hogg, Steve Borg (89′ Sam Magri), Andrei Agius, Ryan Fenech, Clayton Failla, Andre Schembri (62′ Michael Mifsud), Bjorn Kristensen (46′ Luke Gambin), Alfred Effiong, Zach Muscat, Steve Pisani, Alex Muscat.
Referee: Lee Evans
Assistant Referees: Philip Thomas and Daniel Beckett
Fourth Official: Iwan Arwel Griffith