Malta takes on Azerbaijan in friendly match

malta-in-azerbaijan130813pzcAfter claiming a historic win in Armenia in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier in June, Malta hopes to extend its positive run in friendly matches as the team led by Pietro Ghedin takes on Azerbaijan at the Bakcell Arena in Baku on Wednesday, kick-off at 18:00 CET.

This game forms part of the national team’s preparation ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Denmark and Bulgaria at Ta’ Qali.

Since the 1-1 draw with FYR Macedonia at Ta’ Qali in August 2010, Malta played seven friendly matches, maintaining an unbeaten run in a goalless draw with Switzerland, a 2-1 win over the Central African Republic, a 2-1 win over Liechtenstein, a 2-0 win over Luxembourg away from home, a 3-2 win over San Marino away from home, 1-0 win over Liechtenstein away from home and a goalless draw with Northern Ireland at Ta’ Qali.

Although the results in friendly matches are not the top priority, it will definitely help the team maintain the morale high. The 1-0 win over Armenia in Yerevan, courtesy of an early goal by Michael Mifsud and an excellent display by the whole team and in particular by goalkeeper Justin Haber, will certainly make the team believe even more in itself and look forward to the coming matches with optimism.

For this game, Ghedin has once again at his disposal defender Andrei Agius and midfielder Ryan Fenech who had both missed the Armenia match. Andrei Agius was engaged in the promotion play-offs with US Latina but is now a player of Sassari Torres. Ryan Fenech, on the other hand, was unavaialable as he was getting married.

Missing from the trip are however Valletta defenders Luke Dimech and Jonathan Caruana and Sliema’s Alex Muscat.

Sliema Wanderers goalkeeper Henry Bonello is back after recovering from a long-term injury while Nicky Vella of Tarxien Rainbows makes it to the squad for the first time. Apart from Nicky Vella, Maltese-Australian defender Jacob Borg who has now joined Sliema Wanderers, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino and Mark Scerri are the only uncapped players.

Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar

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The players at the disposal of Pietro Ghedin are:
goalkeepers Henry Bonello, Justin Haber, Nicky Vella;
defenders Andrei Agius, Jacob Borg, Ryan Camilleri, Clayton Failla, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino;
midfielders Shaun Bajada, Roderick Briffa, Paul Fenech, Ryan Fenech, Edward Herrera, John Mintoff, Rowen Muscat, Mark Scerri, Gareth Sciberras;
fowards Andrew Cohen, Michael Mifsud, Andre Schembri

This will be the fourth clash between Malta and Azerbaijan but the first to be played in Azerbaijan. Under the guidance of Pietro Ghedin, Malta had defeated Azerbaijan 5-0 in 1994. In 2000, Malta registered a 3-0 win while in 2002, Malta won 1-0.

The match in Baku will be controlled by Alexandre Aliyev from Kazakhstan.