Following a most disappointing performance and result against the Czech Republic, what seemed heading to another nightmare performance, turned out a rather pleasant surprise although Malta lost 1-2 to Austria at the Wörthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt on Tuesday.
A defensive blunder after just four minutes put the Austrians ahead who managed to double the score fourteen minutes later. In fact, the Maltese were under constant pressure in the first twenty minutes but they soon started to gain confidence and control their opponents. Luke Gambin, in his second appearance for Malta after making his debut on Friday, left a very good impression for Malta.
Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar
Despite the heavy defeat to the Czech Republic, Malta coach Pietro Ghedin made just two changes as he replaced Cain Attard and Alfred Effiong with Ryan Camilleri and Jean Paul Farrugia. Henry Bonello started in goal with Andrei Agius, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino and Zach Muscat as the three central defenders, Ryan Camilleri and Clayton Failla on the flanks, Gareth Sciberras, Bjorn Kristensen, Roderick Briffa and Luke Gambin in midfield with Jean Paul Farrugia as the only striker.
Austria managed to take the lead after just four minutes when Andrei Agius tried to dribble Marko Arnautovic but failed with the latter hitting home with a low shot from the left.
The hosts doubled the score on the 18th minute when Zlatko Junuzovic intelligently served Alessandro Schöpf and the latter rounded Ryan Camilleri before hitting low past Bonello.
On the 64th minute, Malta went close to reducing the gap with an angled shot by Clayton Failla from the left which ended inches wide after winning a clash for the ball with Florian Klein.
However three minutes from time, Malta pulled one back thanks to an own goal by David Alaba when he tried to return the ball back to goalkeeper Ramazan Özcan when pressed by Mifsud but caught the goalkeeper out of place who could only try to clear the ball well after travelling past the goal-line.
A minute later, Lukas Hinterseer had the opportunity to restore the two-goal lead but his close-range shot was blocked by Bonello. In added time, a David Alaba rising shot from just outside the area ended just over the bar.
AUSTRIA Heinz Lindner (46′ Ramazan Özcan), Aleksandar Dragovic, Martin Hinteregger, Marko Arnautovic (46′ Marcel Sabitzer), Zlatko Junuzovic, Martin Harnik (64′ Lukas Hinterseer), Markus Suttner, Julian Baumgartlinger (46′ Stefan Ilsanker), Florian Klein, Alessandro Schöpf (63′ David Alaba), Marc Janko (72′ Rubin Okotie).
MALTA Henry Bonello (90′ Justin Haber), Andrei Agius, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Zach Muscat, Ryan Camilleri (79′ Steve Pisani), Clayton Failla, Luke Gambin, Gareth Sciberras (83′ Llywelyn Cremona), Roderick Briffa, Bjorn Kristensen (77′ Rowen Muscat), Jean Paul Farrugia (67′ Michael Mifsud).
Referee: Mattias Gestranius (FIN)