Two goals in the first half handed Norway a 2-0 win over Malta at the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo in another match from Group F of the European Qualifiers leading to EURO 2020.
A win which puts Norway in third place on 8 points, one ahead of Malta’s opponents on Sunday – Romania. Spain lead the way with 15 points, followed by Sweden on ten as the leaders defeated Romania 2-1 away from home while Sweden found no difficulty in beating the Faroe Islands 4-0, also away from home.
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The Maltese opted for a cautious approach with the team ending up on the receiving end for almost the whole ninety minutes.
Farrugia made three changes to the team which lost 0-4 to Romania in June as Dunstan Vella, Jake Grech and Kyrian Nwoko replaced Joseph Zerafa, Luke Gambin and Alfred Effiong.
Henry Bonello started in goal with Steve Borg, Andrei Agius and Zach Muscat at the back, Juan Corbalan and Joseph Mbong on the flanks, Dunstan Vella and Paul Fenech in the middle with Jake Grech and Rowen Muscat supporting Kyrian Nwoko.
Zach Muscat had to abandon the pitch injured on the 20th minute after colliding with Henry Bonello in an unfortunate incident and was replaced by Ferdinando Apap.
The locals made their intentions clear right from the start, putting the Maltese under constant pressure and on the 20th minute, Even Hovland’s header just missed the target off an inviting corner by Odegaard from the right. On the half hour, Joshua King tested Bonello with a shot from outside the area but the Malta goalkeeper performed a good save.
However Norway were not to be denied three minutes later when off a thrown in from the left, Hovland headed the ball in the directoion of Sander Berge whose diving header beat Bonello.
The hosts maintained the momentum and went close four minutes from the end of the first half with a fine effort by Stefan Johansen but the ball was deflected by Bonello onto the crossbar.
Just before the end of the first half, Norway doubled the score. Referee Dumitri Muntean ordered a penalty after Nwoko pushed Hovland down inside the area and Joshua King made no mistake from the penalty spot.
One minute in the second half, Odegaard could have made it 3-0 with a close-range effort, off a cross by Johansen, but Bonello neutralised his attempt. A header by Joshua King from the left was somehow deflected by the Malta custodian a few minutes later. Bonello came to the rescue once again on the hour with a save on a Johansen free kick.
Six minutes from time, substitute Tarik Elyounoussi concluded a good move on the right with a low shot which hit the side netting. In an isolated opportunity for Malta, Jean Paul Farrugia headed just over the bar off a cross by Joseph Mbong on the left. Deep into stoppage time, Odegaard tried his luck with a powerful drive from outside the area which however missed the target.
NORWAY Rune Jarstein, Haitam Aleesami, Even Hovland, Havard Nordveit, Joshua King (58′ Bjorn Johnsen), Stefan Johansen (75′ Mathias Normann), Omar Elabdellaoui, Sander Berge, Ole Kristian Selnaes, Martin Odegaard, Erling Braut Haaland (66′ Tarik Elyounoussi).
MALTA Henry Bonello, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius, Jake Grech (77′ Alfred Effiong), Joseph Mbong, Paul Fenech (64′ Jean Paul Farrugia), Kyrian Nwoko, Rowen Muscat, Dunstan Vella, Juan Corbalan, Zach Muscat (20’ Ferdinando Apap).
Referee: Dumitri Munean (MDA)
Assistant Referees: Vlad Lifciu, Andrei Bodean (MDA)
Fourth Official: Veaceslav Banari (MDA)