A defensive blunder early in the game and two quick-fire goals early in the second half handed Northern Ireland a comfortable 3-0 win over Malta at the Wörthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt, Austria on Sunday in the first of three friendly matches for Devis Mangia’s side in nine days.
As expected, the lack of match fitness left its mark on the Malta national team, considering that apart from Teddy Teuma, all the players in the squad were inactive for over two months, only resuming regular training sessions two weeks ago.
With a number of players being unavailable, including Steve Borg, Zach Muscat, Matthew Guillaumier, Paul Mbong and Luke Gambin, Mangia opted to start with Henry Bonello in goal, Ferdinando Apap, Andrei Agius and Kurt Shaw at the back, Joseph Mbong and Ryan Camenzuli on the flanks, Teddy Teuma and Bjorn Kristensen in midfield with Shaun Dimech supporting Luke Montebello and Alex Satariano.
Photo: Copyright Stephen Gatt/Malta FA
Ferdinando Apap and substitutes Jean Borg, Dunstan Vella and Rowen Muscat were making a return after quite a long spell while Dexter Xuereb made his debut for the national team.
The Maltese suffered a cold shower after less than two minutes when Jordan Jones pounced on an erratic clearance from the right by Apap and controlled the ball on the edge of the area before slotting past goalkeeper Bonello.
Joseph Mbong tried his luck with a powerful drive from the right ending just wide on the 17th minute.
Four minutes later, Kurt Shaw was adjudged to have fouled Gavin Whyte; referee Sebastian Gishamer ordered a penalty but Josh Magennis’ effort from the penalty spot was blocked by Henry Bonello.
Malta replied with a great cross by Mbong from the right which found Luke Montebello all alone on the left but the latter’s attempt hit the side netting on the 24th minute. Six minutes from the end of the first half, Montebello returned the compliment with a cross from which Mbong headed wide.
Seven minutes in the second half, Northern Ireland doubled the score when following a cross from the left, Dallas served the unmarked Gavin Whyte on the right who hit past Bonello.
Two minutes later, the Irish delivered the killer blow as they scored the third goal thanks to Alistair McCann, released on the right by Paddy McNair.
Malta will be in action once again on Friday as they take on Kosovo at the same venue.
N. IRELAND Bailey Peacock-Farell, Ciaron Brown, Stuart Dallas (Conor Bradley 85), Craig Cathcart, Paddy McNair, Jordon Thompson (Alfie McCalmont 85), Nial McGinn (George Saville 61), Gavin Whyte (Shane Ferguson 73), Ali McCann, Jordan Jones (Liam Boyce 73), Josh Magennis (Dion Charles 61).
Coach: Ian Baraclough
MALTA Henry Bonello, Kurt Shaw, Andrei Agius, Ferdinando Apap (Jean Borg 70), Ryan Camenzuli, Joseph Mbong (Dexter Xuereb 70), Bjorn Kristensen (Rowen Muscat 82), Teddy Teuma (Dunstan Vella 61), Shaun Dimech, Luke Montebello (Jurgen Degabriele 61), Alex Satariano (Jean Paul Farrugia 82).
Coach: Devis Mangia
Referee: Sebastian Gishamer (Austria)