Malta went close to earning its first point in Group F of the EURO 2012 qualifiers before a stoppage-time goal by David Siradze gave Georgia a 1-0 win at the Boris Paichadze National Stadium in Tbilisi.
The boys in red showed great determination throughout the ninety minutes in order to keep their opponents at bay. Georgia had the lion’s share of ball possession, putting the Maltese rear-guard under pressure. The Maltese defended well to keep the former Soviet Republic at bay but in added time, Georgia notched the winner.
Malta coach John Buttigieg opted to hand Ferencvaros duo Justin Haber and Andre Schembri a place in the starting line-up as they replaced Andrew Hogg and Manny Muscat. Roderick Briffa was employed as defender on the right flank.
As expected, Georgia held the initiative, going close on the 20th with a long-distance shot by Gogita Gogua which was parried by Justin Haber. Captain Kakha Kaladze then headed just wide off a corner from the right on 26 minutes. A few minutes later, a close-range effort by Kaladze was parried by the Malta goalkeeper.
For the second half, Georgia coach Temuri Ketsbaia made two changes replacing Merebashvili and Dvalishvili with Iashvili and Siradze. In fact, Aleksandr Iashvili went close with a powerful shot on 56 minutes.
Eleven minutes from time, Andre Schembri went close to putting Malta ahead with a shot from inside the area which was blocked by Georgia goalkeeper Nukri Revishvili. Two minutes later, Iashvili had a rising shot neutralised by Haber.
Finally six minutes from time, Haber managed to stop Iashvili from notching the winner after saving partially a shot from outside the area by Gogua.
One minute in added time, David Siradze notched the winner, heading home past Haber, following a cross by Kaladze which was not cleared by the Maltese rear-guard.
The next game for Malta is scheduled for November 17 against Croatia in Zagreb.
GEORGIA Nukri Revishvili, Lasha Salukvadze, Malkhaz Asatiani, Kakha Kaladze, Aleksandr Amisulashvili, Zurab Khizanishvili, Gogita Gogua, Jano Ananidze (73′ Murtaz Daushvili), Giorgi Merebashvili (46′ Aleksandr Iashvili), Levan Kobiashvili, Vladimir Dvalishvili (46′ David Siradze).
MALTA Justin Haber, Jonathan Caruana, Carlo Mamo, Gareth Sciberras (69′ Ryan Fenech), Andrei Agius, Roderick Briffa, Michael Mifsud, Andrew Cohen (90′ Massimo Grima), Shaun Bajada, André Schembri (80′ Paul Fenech), Jamie Pace.
Referee: Alan Black (NIR)
Assistant referees: Gareth Eakin (NIR), Paul Munn (NIR)
Fourth official: David Malcolm (NIR)
Yellow Cards: Khizanishvili, Cohen, Schembri, Pace, Agius