An early goal paved the way for a comfortable 3-0 win for Azerbaijan over Malta at the Bakcell Arena in Baku, therefore bringing to an end the Maltese positive run in friendly matches which went back three years.
This defeat also brings the national team back to earth following the historic win over Armenia in Yerevan last June in view of next month’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Denmark and Bulgaria.
National coach Pietro Ghedin handed Mark Scerri his debut, including him in the starting line-up in an unusual role as right back with Ryan Camilleri joining Andrei Agius as central defenders and Clayton Failla on the left. Roderick Briffa and Gareth Sciberras were employed once again as holding midfielders with Edward Herrera, Andre Schembri and Andrew Cohen playing in midfield behind Michael Mifsud.
Clifford Gatt Baldacchino and Jacob Borg were also handed their debut when they were included as substitutes.
Azerbaijan managed to take the lead on the 5th when following a corner from the left, Ismayilov deflected the ball slightly for Rufat Dadashov to head the ball home despite Mark Scerri’s attempt to clear the ball off the goal line.
The hosts doubled the score on 63 minutes thanks to Rauf Aliyev who concluded a good move on the left flank by avoiding the challenge by three defenders, beating Justin Haber with an angled shot.
Four minutes later, Andrei Aguis was sent off by referee Alexandre Aliyev after pulling an opponent down just after being awarded a foul in favour.
Azerbaijan scored the third goal on 71 minutes when off a cross by Shukurov from the right, Rufat Dadashov anticipated Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, flicking the ball past Haber.
Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar
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AZERBAIJAN Kamran Aghayev, Badavi Huseynov (88′ Maksim Medvedyev), Rasim Ramaldanov, Mahir Shukurov (78′ Rashad Sadigov), Rauf Aliyev, Ruslan Abishov, Araz Abdullayev, Ufuk Budak (46′ Elnur Allahverdiyev), Afran Ismayılov, Gara Garayev (61′ Rahid Amirguliyev), Rufat Dadashov (80′ Vugar Askerov).
Coach: Berti Vogts
MALTA Justin Haber, Ryan Camilleri, Gareth Sciberras (88′ John Mintoff), Andrei Agius, Clayton Failla, Roderick Briffa (76′ Rowen Muscat), Michael Mifsud, Andrew Cohen (69′ Clifford Gatt Baldacchino), Edward Herrera (62′ Ryan Fenech), Andre Schembri (73′ Paul Fenech), Mark Scerri (46′ Jacob Borg).
Coach: Pietro Ghedin
Referee: Alexandre Aliyev (KAZ)
Assistant referees: Alibek Aubekirov, Sanjar Iskakov (KAZ)