Scotland scored a goal early in the first half and another early in the second half to beat Malta 2-0 at Hampden Park in a match from Group F of the European Qualifiers leading to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. A win which puts Gordon Strachan’s side in joint-third place with Slovenia on 14 points, one behind second-placed Slovakia.
The Maltese rear-guard was under constant siege in the opening minutes with Scotland taking a well-deserved lead. Eventually the boys in red improved and it was only in the beginning of the second half that the hosts managed to score the second goal to seal the issue and secure the three points.
Malta coach Pietro Ghedin made only one change to the team which lost 0-4 to England as he named the returning Alfred Effiong in the starting line-up with Jean Paul Farrugia starting on the bench. Hogg started in goal with Magri, Agius and Muscat as central defenders, Borg and Zerafa on the flanks, Pisani, Kristensen and Ryan Fenech in midfield with Schembri supporting Effiong in attack.
The first attempt at goal occurred after just five minutes with Stuart Armstrong’s low shot ending just wide. Two minutes later, James McArthur had a shot from the edge of the area blocked by Zach Muscat. A James Forrest effort was deflected into a corner on the 8th minute.
Scotland maintained the pressure and Andy Robertson had a diagonal shot from the left deflected into another corner and from the resulting corner by Leigh Griffiths, Christophe Berra headed home from close range to put the hosts ahead on the 9th minute.
Scotland continued to hold the initiative but the Maltese started to gain confidence and venture out of their half-pitch but goalkeeper Craig Gordon remained untested.
Four minutes in the second half, Scotland doubled the score when off a cross by Robertson from the left, Armstrong was unlucky to hit the foot of the upright with Leigh Griffiths tapping home from close range.
James Forrest, served by Phillips had a shot from outside the area deflected into a corner by Hogg six minutes later. The Malta goalkeeper then neutralised a Griffiths effort from the right.
Malta went close to reducing the gap on the 76th minute when Joseph Zerafa’s angled shot from the left was blocked and off the rebound, Alfred Effiong’s effort was saved in two attempts by the Scottish custodian.
The hosts threatened with an Armstrong effort from outside the area but Hogg performed a good save four minutes from time. Three minutes later, Matthew Phillips concluded a good run on the left with a rising shot which ended just over the bar.[gallery_bank type=”images” format=”masonry” title=”true” desc=”false” responsive=”true” display=”all” sort_by=”pic_id” animation_effect=”bounce” album_title=”true” album_id=”70″]
SCOTLAND Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson, Christophe Berra, Charlie Mulgrew (56′ Grant Hanley), James McArthur (46′ James Morrison), Stuart Armstrong, Scott Brown, Leigh Griffiths (70′ Chris Martin), Matthew Philipps, James Forrest.
MALTA Andrew Hogg, Sam Magri, Steve Borg (86′ Alex Muscat), Andrei Agius, Ryan Fenech, Andre Schembri (71′ Luke Gambin), Zach Muscat, Bjorn Kristensen (85′ Paul Fenech), Joseph Zerafa, Alfred Effiong, Steve Pisani.
Referee: Jakob Kehlet (DEN)
Assistant Referees: Henri Larsen, Heine Sorensen (DEN)
Fourth Official: Michael Tykgaard (DEN)