Malta suffered its fifth defeat in Group F of the European Qualifiers leading to the 2018 FIFA World Cup as it lost 1-3 to Slovakia at the National Stadium on Sunday.
A goal after less than two minutes put Slovakia ahead but Malta managed to equalise. For most of the first half, the Maltese seemed able to control their opponents well but a few minutes from half-time, Slovakia regained the lead, adding another late in the game to seal the issue.
With Andrei Agius ruled out through suspension and Rowen Muscat injured, Ghedin made three changes, including Cain Attard and Paul Fenech in the starting line-up while preferring Jean Paul Farrugia to Michael Mifsud.
Andrew Hogg therefore started in goal with Zach Muscat, Sam Magri and Ryan Camilleri as the three central defenders, Cain Attard and Joseph Zerafa on the flanks, Paul Fenech, Gareth Sciberras and Luke Gambin in midfield with Andre Schembri and Jean Paul Farrugia in attack. Captain for the day was Gareth Sciberras who on the eve of the game announced that this would be his final appearance for the national team before retiring at the end of the season.
The visitors had a perfect start, taking the lead after just ninety seconds when Vladimir Weiss exchanged the ball with Adam Nemec on the left before unleashing a powerful shot which ended in the top right corner.
However Malta levelled matters on the 14th minute when Jean Paul Farrugia took advantage of an erratic pass by Milan Škriniar, as the latter tried to clear the ball into safety, advanced into the area and slotted past goalkeeper Matúš Kozáčik.
Malta went close once again on the 35th minute with an assist by Luke Gambin from the right for Andre Schembri but Škrtel deflected the ball into a corner.
However Slovakia regained the lead four minutes from the end of the first half when Weiss served Ján Greguš whose long-distance shot beat Hogg.
Just before half-time, Andre Schembri had a low shot from the edge of the area neutralised by the Slovak custodian.[gallery_bank type=”images” format=”masonry” title=”true” desc=”false” responsive=”true” display=”all” sort_by=”pic_id” animation_effect=”bounce” album_title=”true” album_id=”43″]
On the 57th, the visitors could have added another but off a Marek Hamšík freekick, Adam Nemec was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a header from close range.
The Maltese were reduced to ten men eleven minutes from time after Jean Paul Farrugia received a second yellow card for adjusting the ball with his arm before hitting home. The goal was disallowed and referee Ali Pabiyik showed the Sliema Wanderers striker the way to the dressing room.
The Slovaks took full advantage and increased the lead six minutes from time when Marek Hamšík released Adam Nemec on the left and the latter slotted the ball past Hogg.
Adam Nemec was however sent off on the 90th minute after hitting Zach Muscat to receive a second yellow card.
In stoppage time, Marek Hamšík could have increased the lead further but his angled shot from the left was blocked by Hogg into a corner.
MALTA Andrew Hogg, Samuel Magri, Gareth Sciberras, Paul Fenech, André Schembri (90′ Luke Montebello), Luke Gambin (73′ Bjorn Kristensen), Jean Paul Farrugia, Ryan Camilleri (81′ Clifford Gatt Baldacchino), Joseph Zerafa, Zach Muscat, Cain Attard.
SLOVAKIA Matúš Kozáčik, Peter Pekarík, Martin Škrtel, Ján Greguš, Vladimír Weiss (86′ Albert Rusnák), Adam Nemec, Patrik Hrošovský, Milan Škriniar, Tomáš Hubočan, Juraj Kucka (74′ Michal Ďuriš), Róbert Mak (50′ Marek Hamšík).
Referee: Ali Pabiyik (TUR)
Assistant Referees: Cem Satman, Serkan Olguncan (TUR)
Fourth Official: Halil Umut Meler (TUR)
Yellow Cards: Škrtel, Nemec, Farrugia, Camilleri
Red Cards: 79′ Farrugia, 90′ Nemec