Photo: Copyright © domenic aquilina/MFA

Narrow defeat for Malta in Ploiesti

Photo: Copyright © domenic aquilina/MFA

A goal early in the second half handed Romania a narrow win over Malta in another match from Group F of the European Qualifiers leading to EURO 2020 at the Stadionul Ilie Oana in Ploiesti, Romania on Sunday.

The Maltese showed remarkable improvement over their last outing against Norway as the team was very disciplined tactically and never feared getting out of their half-pitch, creating a number of chances. A result which should boost the team’s morale ahead of next month’s clashes with Sweden and especially the direct clash for fifth place against the Faroe Islands.

Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina/MFA

Malta coach Ray Farrugia handed Luke Gambin and Jean Paul Farrugia a place in the starting line-up, replacing Paul Fenech and Jake Grech.

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, Rowen Muscat and Luke Gambin in midfield with Jean Paul Farrugia and Kyrian Nwoko in attack for a 3-5-2 formation.

Cosmin Contra, on the other hand, made wholesale changes as he opted for eight changes from the team which lost 1-2 to Spain, confirming just goalkeeper Tatarusanu, Puscas and captain Chiriches in the starting eleven.

The hosts went all out in search for an early goal and on the 10th minute, Bonello performed a good save on a Florin Andone effort. A minute later, Razvan Marin managed to pull to the left and beat Bonello with a lob but the goal was disallowed for an offside. The hosts maintained the pressure and Florin Andone’s diagonal shot from the right was deflected by Bonello into a corner and the resulting corner by Ianis Hagi from the left was parried by the Malta goalkeeper.

Bonello was prominent once again on 22 minutes with a shot from outside the area by Marin. In a swift counter-attack for Malta, Farrugia and Nwoko failed to connect off a cross from the left by Mbong.

As the Maltese managed to venture into the opponents’ penalty area, in a swift counter-attack for the hosts, Ianis Hagi’s effort from the right was blocked by Bonello and the Valletta goalkeeper was prompt to clear the ball into a corner before George Puscas could connect on 27 minutes. A minute later, off a cross by Bordeianu from the left, Puscas headed just wide.

On the 28th minute, Farrugia served Corbalan on the right, inside the area but the latter’s close range effort was blocked into a corner.

Just before half-time, Alexandru Cicaldau was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a cross shot from a close angle from the left and in stoppage time, Bordeianu’s fierce shot ended wide.

Two minutes in the second half, Romania managed to break the deadlock when off a Hagi corner from the right, George Puskas’ header gave Bonello no chance.

Malta replied with a good move between Corbalan, Rowen Muscat and Luke Gambin with the Colchester midfielder testing Tatarusanu with a powerful shot which was turned into a corner on 65 minutes. Substitute Gheorghe Grozav served another substitute Nicolae Stanciu whose powerful drive ended just wide on 75 minutes.

An angled shot by Grozav from the left was blocked by Bonello with the ball being cleared into a corner on the 83rd minute.

ROMANIA Ciprian Tatarusanu, Adrian Rus, Vlad Chiriches, Alexandru Chipciu, George Puscas (76′ Claudiu Keseru), Ianis Hagi (72′ Gheorghe Grozav), Razvan Marin (59′ Nicolae Stanciu), Mihai Bordeianu, Florin-Bogdan Stefan, Alexandru Cicaldau, Florin Andone.

MALTA Henry Bonello, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius, Joseph Mbong, Jean Paul Farrugia, Kyrian Nwoko (72′ Alfred Effiong), Rowen Muscat, Dunstan Vella (86′ Jake Grech), Juan Corbalan, Luke Gambin (81′ Joseph Zerafa), Zach Muscat.

Referee: Duje Strukan (CRO)
Assistant Referees: Goran Perica, Vedran Durak (CRO)
Fourth Official: Ivan Bebek (CRO)