Georgia scored twice in the final seven minutes to beat Malta 2-0 in a friendly match at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi on Wednesday.
Although the hosts, playing their first game since the appointment of Kakha Tskhadadze as their new coach, held the upper hand throughout the game, Malta went close to taking the lead a few minutes before Georgia managed to break the deadlock, adding a second goal in added time.
Being a friendly match just three days before an important EURO qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku, Malta coach Pietro Ghedin made several changes from the team which held Bulgaria in a friendly match last November.
Andrew Hogg, Paul Fenech, Roderick Briffa and Zach Muscat were left out of the starting line-up with Clayton Failla unavailable after he withdrew from the squad. Nigerian-born striker Alfred Effiong and Ryan Camenzuli made their debut when they were included as substitutes.
In fact, Ghedin opted to start with Justin Haber in goal, Jonathan Caruana, Andrei Agius and Ryan Camilleri in defence with Steve Borg and Steve Bezzina on the flanks, Bjorn Kristensen, Rowen Muscat and Andrew Cohen in midfield with Andre Schembri supporting Jean Paul Farrugia on attack. Schembri wore the captain’s armband in the absence of the suspended Michael Mifsud and Roderick Briffa who was rested.
The hosts had the first attempt at goal on the 17th as Tornike Okriashvili from outside the area which was turned into a corner by Haber following a deflection by Andrei Agius.
Eleven minutes in the second half, Okriashvili hit the crossbar with a fine shot from the left.
Georgia continued to hold the initiative with the Maltese defending well but eleven minutes from time, Malta could have forged ahead when Steve Borg sent Alfred Effiong through and the latter anticipated the goalkeeper with a low shot but was unlucky to hit the foot of the upright.
However seven minutes from time, Georgia took the lead when off a Levan Kenia freekick from the left, Jaba Kankava flicked the ball with his arm past goalkeeper Justin Haber but this went unnoticed by the Latvian referee despite the harsh protests by the Maltese players.
Two minutes in added time, Valeri Qazaishvili received a through pass on the left, rounded a defender after entering the area and hit low past Haber to double the score.
GEORGIA Giorgi Loria (46′ Nukri Revishvili), Guram Kashia, Solomon Kvirkvelia (46′ Levan Kenia), Aleksandr Amisulashvili, Aleksandre Kobakhidze (85′ Nika Dzalamidze), Giorgi Navalovski, Kakhi Makharadze, Jaba Kankava, Giorgi Chanturia (63′ Valeri Qaziashvili), Tornike Okriashvili (70′ Mate Vatsadze), Levan Mchedlidze (71′ Bachana Tskhadadze)
MALTA Justin Haber, Jonathan Caruana, Steven Bezzina, Steve Borg (90′ Ryan Camenzuli), Andrei Agius, Jean Paul Farrugia (60′ Alfred Effiong), Andrew Cohen, Rowen Muscat, Andre Schembri, Ryan Camilleri (46′ Zach Muscat), Bjorn Kristensen (71′ Mark Scerri).
Referee: Alexandrs Anufrijevs (LAT)
Assistant Referees: Romas Platonovs, Raimonds Tatriks (LAT)
Fourth official: George Vadachkoria (GEO)