Malta started off the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a narrow defeat to Armenia. A narrow defeat which brought to an end a positive run of three consecutive wins.
The Armenians were a better side throughout the ninety minutes but the Maltese controlled their opponents well with goalkeeper Andrew Hogg performing some fine saves.
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National coach Pietro Ghedin made one change from the team which defeated San Marino in a friendly match last month as Luke Dimech replaced Ryan Camilleri with Jonathan Caruana starting the game on the bench.
Dimech joined Andrei Agius as central defenders with Steve Borg and Alex Muscat on the flanks, Roderick Briffa and Gareth Sciberras as holding midfielders behind Daniel Bogdanovic, Andre Schembri and Andrew Cohen with captain Michael Mifsud as the only striker.
The visitors had the first attempt at goal with Marcos Pizzelli trying his luck with a shot from outside the area ending high on the 16th minute. Two minutes later, Levon Airapetian went close with a rising shot which scraped past the post after that Movsisyan failed to connect off a cross from the right. A low shot by Mkitaryan from outside the area was neutralised by Hogg on the 24th minute.
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Malta replied with a good run by Daniel Bogdanovic on the right flank but his cross shot, deflected by a defender, ended just over the bar on 27 minutes.
On the half-hour, Armenia had the best goal scoring opportunity when Yura Mosisyan served Marcos Pizzelli whose fine rising shot was blocked by Hogg aided by the posts and Alex Muscat came to the rescue clearing the ball off the goal line. Six minutes later, Movsisyan served Mkhitaryan from the right and the latter’s low shot was blocked by Steve Borg.
Seven minutes in the second half, Andrew Hogg performed a good save on a Aras Ozbiliz effort, saving the ball in two attempts before Pizzelli could connect.
Armenia managed to break the deadlock on the 70th minute when off an inviting cross by Movsisyan from the left, susbtitute Artur Sarkisov who had replaced Marcos Pizzelli six minutes earlier, flicked the ball home past goalkeeper Andrew Hogg.
The Malta goalkeeper was prominent with a good save into a corner on Mkhitaryan off a freekick from the right by Ozbiliz on the 85th. Two minutes later, a fierce shot by Mkhitaryan was neutralised by the former Valletta goalkeeper.
Malta will be in action once again on Tuesday, facing Italy at the Stadio Alberto Braglia in Modena.
Photos: Copyright © Joe Borg / MFA
MALTA Andrew Hogg, Alex Muscat, Gareth Sciberras, Andrei Agius, Luke Dimech, Daniel Bogdanovic, Roderick Briffa (85′ Shaun Bajada), Michael Mifsud, Andrew Cohen (74′ Ryan Fenech), Andre Schembri, Steve Borg.
Subs not used: Justin Haber, Jonathan Caruana, Etienne Barbara, Edward Herrera, Ryan Camilleri.
Coach: Pietro Ghedin
ARMENIA Gevorg Kasparov, Sargis Hovsepyan, Robert Arzumanyan (79′ Valeri Aleksanyan), Hrayr Mkoyan, Artak Yedigaryan (52′ Davit Manoyan), Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Karlen Mkrtchyan, Levon Airapetian, Aras Ozbiliz, Marcos Pinheiro Pizzelli (64′ Artur Sarkisov), Yura Movsisyan.
Subs not used: Artur Harutyunyan, Artur Yedigaryan, Artur Yuspashyan, Kamo Havhannisyan, Zaven Badoyan, Alex Henrique da Silva.
Coach: Vardan Minasyan
Referee: Rene Eisner
Assistant Referees: Klaus Strasser, Richard Huebler
Fourth official: Gerhard Grobelnik
Yellow Cards: 39′ Sciberras, 44′ Mkoyan, 71′ Dimech, 82′ Hovspeyan