Malta lost 3-1 to Greece in a match from Group F of the EURO 2012 Qualifiers at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus on Saturday.
Greece dominated during the first half, taking a two-goal lead. However after the break, the Maltese improved, reducing the gap and going close to equalising although the Greeks sealed the issue with a third goal which put them once again on top of Group F.
Malta coach John Buttigieg made a surprise change in the starting line-up preferring Andrew Hogg to Justin Haber. The only other change from the last game against Greece was the inclusion of Ryan Fenech who replaced Carlo Mamo. His place in defence on the left flank was taken by Shaun Bajada with Fenech playing in midfield.
Otherwise, it was the usual set-up with Jonathan Caruana and Andrei Agius as central defenders and Roderick Briffa on the right flank, John Hutchinson and Gareth Sciberras as holding midfielders, Bogdanovic on the right wing and Michael Mifsud and Andrew Schembri as the two strikers.
For Greece, with Alexandros Tzorvas, Kostas Chalkias, Michalis Sifakis, Nikos Liberopoulos, Giorgios Samaras and Avraam Papadopoulos all ruled out injured, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Giorgios Tzavellas suspended, coach Fernando Santos was forced to make several changes handing goalkeeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos and defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos their debut.
The locals went all out in search of an early goal, going close with Sotirios Ninis who hit just wide from outside the area. Katsouranis then just failed to control the ball following a cross from the right flank on the 5th minute.
Greece took the lead on the 8th minute when Ninis relased Katsouranis on the right and off the latter’s perfect pass Ionnis Fetfatzidis placed the ball at the back of the net.
Four minutes later, Fetfatzidis stole the ball off Roderick Briffa and tested Hogg with a shot from outside the area which was partially saved by the Valletta custodian with the ball being cleared into a corner. On the 18th, Greece appealed for a penalty after Fetfatzidis ended on the ground following a good run on the left flank. However the referee waved play on as Briffa’s tackle was a clean one.
Malta replied with a Ryan Fenech effort from the edge of the area ending high when served by Michael Mifsud from the left on 21 minutes. Four minutes later, a goal by Salpingidis was disallowed for the striker’s offside position.
Greece were however not to be denied on 26 minutes when debutante Kyriakos Papadopoulos headed home from close range following a freekick by Karagounis.
On 31 minutes, the score could have increased further with Torosidis heading incredibly high after a Karagounis freekick had beaten Hogg.
Just before half-time, Ryan Fenech had a close-range effort deflected into a corner and from the resulting corner, John Hutchinson’s shot was partially saved by Dimitrios Konstantopoulos and off the rebound’s Michael Mifsud hit home. However the goal was disallowed for an offside. In added time, a rising shot by Ninis ended just over the bar.
Malta pulled one back nine minutes in the second half when Shaun Bajada managed to serve Michael Mifsud inside the area and the Qormi striker slotted the ball past his former colleague at Coventry, Dimitrios Konstantopoulos.
The Maltese now gained confidence and on the hour, substitute Andrew Cohen, just a few seconds after replacing Bogdanovic, was unlucky to hit the upright with an intelligent shot from outside the area. Two minutes later, Mifsud tried his luck with a low shot which was parried by Konstantopoulos following a pass by Cohen.
Greece moved 3-1 ahead on 63 minutes when a cross from the right by Salpingidis was only partially saved by Hogg and off the rebound, the unmarked Fetfatzidis placed the ball at the back of the net.
Malta replied with a good move by Andre Schembri who managed to serve Andrew Cohen on the right and off the latter’s cross, Mifsud just failed to connect.
Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar
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GREECE Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, Vassilios Torosidis, Nikolaos Spyropoulos, Evangelos Moras, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Alexandros Tziolis, Konstantinos Katsouranis, Georgios Karagounis (70′ Pantelis Kafes), Sotirios Ninis (79′ Lazaros Christodoulopoulos), Ioannis Fetfatzidis, Dimitrios Salpingidis (90′ Konstantinos Mitroglou).
Subs not used: Stefanos Kotsolis, Ioannis Maniatis, Loukas Vyntra, Georgios Fotakis.
Coach: Fernando Santos
MALTA Andrew Hogg, Jonathan Caruana, Gareth Sciberras, Andrei Agius, Ryan Fenech, Daniel Bogdanovic (60′ Andrew Cohen), Roderick Briffa, Michael Mifsud, John Hutchinson (87′ Paul Fenech), Andre Schembri, Shaun Bajada (80′ Clayton Failla).
Subs not used: Justin Haber, Joseph Zerafa, Ivan Woods, Edward Herrera.
Coach: John Buttigieg
Referee: Pawel Gil (POL)
Assistant Referees: Piotr Sadczuk, Marcin Borkowski (POL)
Fourth Official: Robert Malek (POL)
Yellow Cards: 15′ K. Papadopoulos
Scorers: 8′ Ioannis Fetfatzidis, 26′ Kyriakos Papadopoulos, 54′ Michael Mifsud, 63′ Ioannis Fetfatzidis