Malta earns first point thanks to a 1-1 draw with Latvia

Malta earned its first point in Group D1 of the UEFA Nations League thanks to a 1-1 draw with Latvia at the National Stadium on Sunday.

Following the 3-2 defeat to the Faroe Islands, the Maltese were eager to bounce back with a positive result. The performance during the first half was quite good as the locals managed to take the lead although an unfortunate own goal restored equilibrium. During the second half, the visitors held the lion’s share of ball possession but still, they rarely threatened the Malta rear-guard.

Photos: Copyright © Jonathan Bugeja

Malta will be in action next month, first with a friendly against Gibraltar at Ta’ Qali before two Nations League clashes away from home against Andorra and Latvia.

Malta coach Devis Mangia made two changes from the team which lost to the Faroe Islands as Enrico Pepe and Teddy Teuma replaced Andrei Agius and Steve Pisani. For Pepe, this was his debut for Malta after being awarded Maltese citizenship on sporting merit last month. 

The Maltese went close on the 4th minute with a cross by Mbong from the right with Nwoko hitting wide. Three minutes later, the locals were unlucky not to take the lead when Ryan Camenzuli received the ball of an erratic clearance but his powerful drive from the left hit the foot of the upright with the goalkeeper beaten.

Latvia hit back with a cross by Jānis Ikaunieks on the 14th minute from which a low shot by Artūrs Zjuzins saved by goalkeeper. 

A minute later, Malta took the lead when Joseph Mbong rounded Raivis Jurkovskis on the right and served Kyrian Nwoko who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Pāvels Šteinbors from close range.

Photo: Copyright © Jonathan Bugeja

On the 24th, Raivis Jurkovskis received an assist by Ikaunieks but his conclusion was blocked by Steve Borg.

Latvia equalised on the 25th minute when off a corner from the left, Matthew Guillaumier was unlucky to deflect the ball past Bonello for an own goal.

The visitors threatened once again on 38 minute with a close range effort by Raimonds Krollis which was blocked by Bonello but in a swift counter attack for Malta, Teddy Teuma served Luke Gambin who controlled the French-born midfielder’s cross from the left and hit low with the goalkeeper turning the ball into a corner.

In the second half, shots at goal were few and far in between with the visitors holding the initiative most of the time. However on 75 minutes, Kyrian Nwoko received the ball in a central position just inside the area ending just wide.

Seven minutes from time, Jānis Ikaunieks tested Bonello with a powerful freekick from the right.

MALTA Henry Bonello, Ryan Camenzuli, Steve Borg (85’ Andrei Agius), Matthew Guillaumier (89’ Steve Pisani), Joseph Mbong, Kyrian Nwoko, Enrico Pepe, Teddy Teuma, Jurgen Degabriele (60’ Jake Grech), Luke Gambin, Zach Muscat.

LATVIA Pāvels Šteinbors, Kaspars Dubra, Antonijs Černomordijs, Eduards Emsis, Jānis Ikaunieks, Roberts Savaļnieks (67’ Ritvars Rugins), Raivis Jurkovskis, Andrejs Cigaņiks, Alvis Jaunzems, Artūrs Zjuzins (86’ Krišs Kārkliņš), Raimonds Krollis (62’ Dāvis Ikaunieks).

Referee: Stéphanie Frappart (FRA)
Yellow Cards: Zjuzins, Mbong, Krollis, Guillaumier, Černomordijs