Norway kept the pace with Group H leaders Italy thanks to a 2-0 win over Malta at the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo on Saturday.
As expected, the Norwegians were all out in search of the three points as they continue to chase a place in the EURO 2016 next summer. They were constantly on the attack, hardly allowing the Maltese to shoot at goal. In fact, they had no less than twenty-three attempts at goal and had seventeen corners in their favour.
For Malta, the performance was definitely not among the best in this campaign but all in all, the team managed to avoid a heavy defeat against a traditionally tough opponent for Malta.
Malta coach Pietro Ghedin made two changes from the team which drew with Azerbaijan as Zach Muscat and Paul Fenech were named in the starting line-up with Ryan Camilleri and Michael Mifsud being among the substitutes. Hogg started in goal with Borg, Agius and Zach Muscat as central defenders, Alex Muscat and Failla on the flanks, Briffa, Fenech and Rowen Muscat in midfield
The hosts managed to take the lead on the 19th minute when off a corner from the left, Hovland headed the ball down for Alexander Tettey whose first effort from close-range was blocked as Hogg, Zach Muscat and Failla tried to stop his attempt but the ball bounced on the same Norwegian player to end at the back of the net.
One minute from halt-time, Paul Fenech intercepted a pass by a Norwegian defender and released Alfred Effiong on the left but the latter’s shot was turned into a corner by goalkeeper Nyland. Just before half-time, Hogg performed a good save on a Søderlund header following a cross by Elabdellaoui from the right.
Two minutes in the second half, Vegard Forren was unlucky to hit the upright with a fine header off a corner from the right.
However Norway doubled the score seven minutes in the second half when off an assist by Markus Henriksen from the left, the ball was slightly deflected by Steve Borg to deceive Hogg and Alexander Søderlund hit home.
Real Madrid teenager Martin Ødegaard almost added another four minutes later off another assist by Henriksen but the Malta goalkeeper turned the ball into a corner.
NORWAY Ørjan Nyland, Even Hovland, Alexander Tettey, Stefan Johansen, Alexander Søderlund (76′ Joshua King), Markus Henriksen, Omar Elabdellaoui, Per Ciljan Skjelbred (54′ Martin Ødegaard), Haitam Aleesami, Jo Inge Berget (84′ Valon Berisha), Vegard Forren.
MALTA Andrew Hogg, Alex Muscat (55′ Joseph Zerafa), Andrei Agius, Paul Fenech, Clayton Failla, Roderick Briffa, Rowen Muscat, Andre Schembri (80′ Bjorn Kristensen), Steve Borg (83′ Ryan Camilleri), Alfred Effiong, Zach Muscat.
Referee: Arnold Hunter (NIR)
Assistant Referees: Richard Storey (NIR), Gareth Eakin (NIR)
Additional Assistant Referee: Raymond Crangle (NIR), Mervyn Smyth (NIR)
Fourth official: Stephen Bell (NIR)