Malta earned the first point in Group F of the European Qualifiers leading to the 2018 FIFA World Cup thanks to a 1-1 draw with Lithuania at the National Stadium on Thursday. A game which marked the last home game for Malta in Group F and also the last home game for coach Pietro Ghedin.
All in all it was a fair result as both sides had their fair share of scoring opportunities with the locals having an edge over their opponents during the first half and the visitors showing better ideas in the second half.
With Ryan Fenech suspended and Bjorn Kristensen ruled out injured along with Michael Mifsud and Jean Paul Farrugia, Malta coach Pietro Ghedin opted to make three changes from the team which lost to Scotland as Ryan Camilleri replaced Sam Magri in defence while Paul Fenech and Luke Gambin deputised by Kristensen and Ryan Fenech.
Malta managed to take the lead on the 23rd minute thanks to a long-distance effort by Andrei Agius which hit the foot of the post before ending at the back of the net.
Lithuania were unlucky not to level matters a few seconds later but Deivydas Matulevicius was unlucky to hit the upright with Hogg beaten. Just before half-time, the visitors went close once again with a shot from outside the area by Egidijus Vaitkunas but the Malta goalkeeper neutralised his attempt.
After sustaining a head injury towards the end of the first half, Andre Schembri had to leave his place on the field of play to Clayton Failla.
Eight minutes in the second half, Lithuania levelled matters thanks to Vykintas Slivka who received a pass from the right and catching Andrew Hogg slightly out of place he managed to beat him with a rising shot from just outside the area.
On the hour, Hogg came to the rescue with a great save into a corner on a Novikovas freekick. Malta replied with a great freekick by Clayton Failla on the 71st minute which was palmed out by goalkeeper Emilijus Zubas. Seven minutes later, Malta threatened once again with a freekick by Failla from which a header by Andrei Agius was turned into a corner by the Lithuanian goalkeeper.[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=”78″]
MALTA Andrew Hogg, Joseph Zerafa, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius, Paul Fenech (90+2′ Cain Attard), Andre Schembri (46′ Clayton Failla), Luke Gambin (85′ Clyde Borg), Zach Muscat, Ryan Camilleri, Alfred Effiong, Stephen Pisani.
LITHUANIA Emiljus Zubas, Tomas Mikuckis, Egidijus Vaitkunas, Deivydas Matulevicius (80′ Lukas Spalvis), Arvydas Novikovas, Vykintas Slivka, Edvinas Girdvainis, Mantas Kuklys, Nerijus Valskis (46′ Marius Papsys), Fiodor Cernych, Vytautas Andriuskevicius.
Referee: Zaven Hovhannisyan (ARM)
Assistant Referees: Mesrop Ghazaryan, Vanik Simonyan (ARM)
Fourth Official: Suren Baliyan (ARM)
Yellow Cards: Kuklys, Girdvainis, Muscat