Malta lost 1-2 to Bulgaria in another match from Group B of the 2014 FIFA World Cup but once again luck was not on Malta’s side as the locals hit the posts twice.
Playing against an even stronger opponent than Denmark, the Maltese suffered an early goal but still managed to keep the Bulgarians under control, going close to scoring twice but hitting the upright. The Bulgarians doubled the score on the hour but a goal by Edward Herrera put the Maltese back in contention although at the final whistle, the visitors took three important points home to regain the second place in the group.
National coach Pietro Ghedin made two changes to the team which lost narrowly to Denmark as the returning Luke Dimech and Alex Muscat replaced John Mintoff and the suspended Roderick Briffa.
In defence, Ryan Camilleri and Alex Muscat started on the flanks with Andrei Agius and Luke Dimech as central defenders; Gareth Sciberras and Rowen Muscat were employed as holding midfielders with Edward Herrera, Andre Schembri and Clayton Failla as midfielders behind captain Michael Mifsud. For the second half, Ghedin switched Camilleri and Alex Muscat.
The locals had a good start going close after just one minute with Michael Mifsud releasing Edward Herrera on the right and the latter’s cross, Andre Schembri just failed to connect. Bulgaria replied with a cross shot by Radoslav Dimitrov which was neutralised by Justin Haber. On the 4th, Andrei Agius headed just wide off a cross by Andre Schembri.
Bulgaria took the lead on the 9th minute thanks to a cross shot by Radoslav Dimitrov from the right slightly deflected by Haber in a desperate attempt to turn the ball into a corner.
Malta replied with a great freekick by Clayton Failla on the 15th, in an attempt to repeat the great goal against Denmark, but this time his attempt was deflected by goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov onto the upright and into a corner.
Justin Haber performed a good save on a powerful long-distance shot by Todor Nedelev on the 26th. Georgi Milanov concluded a good solo effort with a shot from the edge of the area ending just wide three minutes later.
Bulgaria threatened once again on 43 minutes when Gargorov served Milanov and off the latter’s pass from the right, Ivelin Popov tried to surprise Justin Haber with a fine flick but the Malta custodian neutralised his attempt. A minute later, a goal-bound shot by Gadzhev was deflected by Gargorov to end wide.
Seven minutes in the second half, Andre Schembri rounded four defenders on the right before hitting low with the ball hitting the foot of the upright.
Bulgaria doubled the score on the hour when Emil Gargorov released Georgi Milanov on the left inside the area, his attempt was blocked and off the rebound, Gargorov slammed the ball past Haber.
A Michael Mifsud effort was deflected into a corner on 69 minutes. Six minutes later, a fine Edward Herrera freekick was tipped into a corner by Mihaylov.
Malta reduced the gap on 78 minutes when Edward Herrera exchanged the ball with substitute Terence Vella and the Birkirkara midfielder beat the Verona goalkeeper with a low diagonal shot from the right.
Finally two minutes from time, Andre Schembri just failed to connect off an inviting cross from the right.
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MALTA Justin Haber, Gareth Sciberras, Andrei Agius, Luke Dimech, Clayton Failla (66’ Ryan Fenech), Michael Mifsud (76’ Terence Vella), Edward Herrera, Andre Schembri, Rowen Muscat, Ryan Camilleri (82’ Jonathan Caruana), Alex Muscat.
Subs not used: Andrew Hogg, Justin Grioli, Andrew Cohen, John Mintoff, Paul Fenech, Shaun Bajada.
Coach: Pietro Ghedin
BULGARIA Nikolay Mihaylov, Radoslav Dimitrov, Nikolay Bodurov, Ivan Ivanov, Veselin Minev, Svetoslav Dyakov, Vladimir Gadzhev, Ivelin Popov, Georgi Milanov (81’ Hristo Zlatinski), Emil Gargorov (61’ Dimitar Rangelov), Todor Nedelev (66’ Spas Delev).
Subs not used: Vladislav Stoyanov, Stanislav Manolev, Yordan Minev, Iliya Milanov, Aleksandar Aleksandrov, Georgi Iliev, Alexandar Tonev, Ventislav Hristov, Petar Zanev.
Coach: Lyuboslav Penev
Referee: Alexandru Dan Tudor (ROM)
Asst. Referees: Cristian Constantin Nica, Aurel Onita (ROM)
Fourth Official: Pavel Cristian Balaj (ROM)
Yellow Cards: Schembri, Rangelov, Bodurov, R. Fenech, Dyakov
Scorers: 9’ Radoslav Dimitrov, 60’ Emil Gargorov, 78’ Edward Herrera