Malta holds Azerbaijan in 1-1 draw in Baku

Malta earned a point in a 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan at the Baku Olimpiya Stadionu in Baku in a match from League D Group 3 of the UEFA Nations League on Sunday.

It was by far the best performance so far in the group. The boys in white played their hearts out, even when faced by the pressure of the Azeris who were aiming for a second consecutive after the 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands in their bid to keep the pace with leaders Kosovo.

The team defended well but when it was the time to attack, they were never afraid to do so. Malta managed to take the lead and after conceding the goal, Juan Corbalan was also unlucky to hit the crossbar mid-way through the second half.

Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina/MFA

The only negative aspect was the yellow cards received by Andrei Agius and Steve Borg who were their second in the competition and will now miss the next game against Kosovo next month.

Farrugia welcomed back Ryan Camilleri and Joseph Zerafa after both missed last Thursday’s 1-3 defeat to Kosovo. Andrew Hogg started in goal with Steve Borg, Andrei Agius and Ryan Camilleri at the back, Joseph Mbong and Joseph Zerafa on the flanks, Rowen Muscat and Paul Fenech in midfield with Juan Corbalan and Alfred Effiong – who was replacing the suspended Michael Mifsud – supporting Andre Schembri in attack.

The Maltese tried to put some pressure on the hosts in the opening minutes but Azerbaijan soon threatened on the 3rd minute with a good move by Araz Abdullayev whose shot from outside the area was blocked by Hogg. Mahir Madatov took the rebound, controlled the ball and tried his luck with a shot which was blocked once again by the Malta custodian. One minute later, Nahir Nazarov’s freekick was deflected by Hogg onto the crossbar.

On the 8th minute, Badavi Huseynov surprised goalkeeper Kamran Agayev with a back pass but the goalkeeper cleared the ball off the gaol line anticipating Andre Schembri’s sliding tackle.

A Rahil Mammadov goal was disallowed for a dubious offside position on the 20th minute and a minute later, Mahir Madatov’s cross from the left from an angled position beat Hogg but missed the target.

On the half-hour, Madatov advanced into the area, with only the goalkeeper to beat, but Ryan Camilleri’s timely tackle saw the ball end into a corner.

Malta managed to take the lead on the 37th minute. Juan Corbalan entered the penalty area from the left and tested Agayev with an angled shot. The goalkeeper blocked his attempt but Corbalan took the rebound and served Rowen Muscat who flicked the ball home past the Azeri goalkeeper.

Azerbaijan increased the pressure and after having a number of shots blocked by defenders, on the 42nd minute, Abdullayev had a fierce shot from inside the area blocked by Hogg. Four minutes later, Medvedev’s fine shot from outside the area was deflected into a corner by Hogg. A minute later, off a cross by Nazarov from the left, Madatov headed the ball down with Hogg blocking his attempt with Dadasov hitting wide from close range.

The hosts equalised seven minutes in the second half when off a cross from the right by Madatov, Araz Abdullayev controlled the ball with his shoulder before hitting low past Hogg.

Five minutes later, Dadasov rose high to head the ball just wide following an inviting cross from the left. In a swift counter-attack for Malta on the 63rd, Effiong headed wide off a cross by Schembri from the right. However three minutes later, Azerbaijan almost forged ahead when off Tamkin Khaliladze’s cross, Rufat Dadasov headed the ball down with the ball hitting the foot of the post.

On the 70th, Juan Corbalan received the ball in a central position inside the area but his conclusion hit the crossbar.

In the remaining minutes, the hosts increased the pressure but the Maltese committed no mistakes to hold on to a draw.

Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina/MFA

Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina/MFA

AZERBAIJAN Kamran Agayev, Gara Garayev, Pavlo Pashayev, Maksim Medvedev, Araz Abdullayev, Dmitri Nazarov, Rufat Dadasov, Mahir Madatov (77’ Javid Imamverdiyev), Rahul Mammadov (46’ Tamkin Khalilzade), Richard Almeida, Badavi Huseynov.

MALTA Andrew Hogg, Joseph Zerafa, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius, Paul Fenech, Joseph Mbong, Andre Schembri (86’ Jean Paul Farrugia), Rowen Muscat (70’ Roderick Briffa), Juan Corbalan, Ryan Camilleri, Alfred Effiong (82’ Jake Grech).

Referee: Ivan Bebek (CRO)
Assistant referees: Tomislav Petrović, Miro Grgić (CRO)
Additional assistant referees: Mario Zebec and Goran Gabrilo (CRO)
Fourth official: Goran Pataki (CRO)