Malta ended its home commitments in Group B of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with a 1-4 defeat to the Czech Republic in the match which marked the hundredth appearance with the national team for captain Michael Mifsud.
An early goal after just three minutes paved the way for the Czech Republic who are now back in contention for the runner-up spot in the group following Armenia’s 2-1 win over Bulgaria earlier in the evening. On Tuesday, they will be facing Bulgaria in Sofia, Armenia play away to Italy while Denmark host Malta.
Malta had three changes from the team which lost narrowly to Bulgaria as Jonathan Caruana, Roderick Briffa, Andrew Cohen and John Mintoff replaced Andrei Agius, Edward Herrera, Gareth Sciberras and Andre Schembri. Apart from Schembri who was suspended, Sciberras and Herrera were not fully fit and started the game on the bench while Caruana was preferred to Agius.
Before the game, the Malta captain was presented with a memento and national team shirt with the number 100 by MFA President Norman Darmanin Demajo and Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport Dr Stefan Buontempo. His goal – the thirty-eighth in the national team shirt – was one of the few positive aspects for Malta in this game.
The visitors could not have a better start as they managed to take the lead after just three minutes when David Lafata served Tomas Hubschman just outside the area and the latter’s powerful shot was deflected by Rowan Muscat with the ball not being held by Justin Haber to end at the back of the net.
On the 17th, Malta had a golden opportunity to test Petr Čech when Alex Muscat sent John Mintoff through but the latter allowed the Chelsea goalkeeper to anticipate before he could conclude. Two minutes later, Jaroslav Plašil concluded a good move with a powerful shot which was partially saved by Haber with the ball being cleared into safety by a defender.
A few seconds later, Michael Mifsud entered the penalty area from the left, pulled to a central position but his conclusion was saved at point blank by Čech. Bořek Dočkal exchanged the ball with David Lafata on the 23rd minute and the latter’s shot from the right scraped past the post.
The Czech Republic doubled the score on the 33rd minute when off a cross from the right by Frantisek Rajtoral, David Lafata anticipated Haber, heading the ball home.
Two minutes in the second half, Malta reduced the gap when Roderick Briffa served Michael Mifsud with an intelligent pass inside the area and the Malta captain slotted the ball past Čech from close-range.
However the Maltese joy was short-lived as the Czech Republic restored a two-goal lead on the 51st thanks to a rather soft goal. David Lafata somehow managed to serve Vaclav Kadlec just in front of goal and the latter placed the ball at the back of the net with a back-heel.
On the 57th Malta went close once again when a cross shot by Clayton Failla, Tomáš Sivok blocked his attempt and Rowen Muscat’s diagonal shot was deflected slightly by Andrew Cohen just past the upright.
The visitors sealed the issue with a fourth goal on the 90th when off a cross from the right by Bořek Dočkal, substitute Tomas Pekhart headed the ball home past Haber.
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MALTA Justin Haber, Jonathan Caruana (57′ Andrei Agius), Luke Dimech, Clayton Failla (87′ Ryan Fenech), Roderick Briffa, Michael Mifsud, Andrew Cohen, John Mintoff, Rowen Muscat, Ryan Camilleri (80′ Paul Fenech), Alex Muscat.
Subs not used: Henry Bonello, Justin Grioli, Gareth Sciberras, Edward Herrera, Shaun Bajada, Terence Vella.
Coach: Pietro Ghedin
CZECH REP. Petr Čech, Frantisek Rajtoral, Tomáš Sivok, Marek Suchý, Michal Kadlec, Bořek Dočkal, Tomas Hubschman, Jaroslav Plašil, Josef Hušbauer, David Lafata (85′ Petr Jiráček), Vaclav Kadlec (73′ Tomas Pekhart)(90+3′ Ondřej Vaněk).
Subs not used: Jan Laštůvka, Ondrej Celustka, Jaroslav Drobný, Tomas Horava, Ondrej Mazuch, Václav Procházka.
Coach: Josef Pesice
Referee: Referee: Matej Jug (SVN)
Assistant referees: Primoz Ahar, Marko Stancin (SVN)
Fourth official: Mitja Zganec (SVN)
Yellow Cards: Sivok, Mifsud
Scorers: 3′ Tomas Hubschman, 33′ David Lafata, 47′ Michael Mifsud, 51′ Vaclav Kadlec, 90′ Tomas Pekhart