Cain Attard scored twice as Malta registered a fine 3-0 win over Cyprus in a match from Group H of the European Qualifiers leading to the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the National Stadium on Wednesday.
This was a historic first ever home win for Malta in a World Cup qualifier as Malta had only registered two wins iaway from home – 1-0 in Estonia in 1993 and 1-0 in Armenia in 2013. This was also the largest win ever for the Malta national team in a competitive match, including the European Championship qualifiers and the UEFA Nations League.
Photos: Copyright www.stephengatt.com
The boys in red were a better side right from the start, missing two golden opportunities thanks to which they could have taken the lead. The visitors hit back with two attempts towards the end of the first half but immediately after, they had a player sent off. Malta took full advantage, taking the lead just before the break and adding two goals early in the second half.
From the team which lost to Croatia in March, Malta had three changes as Birkirkara trio Cain Attard, Paul Mbong and Luke Montebello replaced injured duo Matthew Guillaumier and Bjorn Kristensen and Alex Satariano who was among the substitutes.
Henry Bonello started in goal, Kurt Shaw, Enrico Pepe and Steve Borg were employed at the back with Cain Attard and Ryan Camenzuli on the flanks, Teddy Teuma and Steve Pisani in midfield with Joseph Mbong and Paul Mbong supporting Luke Montebello in attack.
Montebello missed a good opportunity to put Malta ahead on the 8th minute when he pounced on a through pass on the right flank but his attempt was blocked by goalkeeper Neofytos Michael.
On the 26th, Malta went close once again when Luke Montebello, served by Steve Borg, sent Paul Mbong through but the young Birkirkara forward hit just wide when alone in front of the goalkeeper.
Cyprus hit back with a Costas Sotiriou effort which was deflected into a corner by Henry Bonello on the 40th. From the resulting corner, a header by Ioannis Pittas hit the upright and seconds later, Sotiriou received a second yellow for simulation and was therefore given marching orders by referee Fabio Maresca.
Malta made the most out of it as two minutes from the end of the first half, Ryan Camenzuli delivered a cross from the left and with an overhead kick, Joseph Mbong served Cain Attard who slammed the ball past the Cypriot goalkeeper.
The locals doubled the score one minute in the second half. Camenzuli served Teddy Teuma on the left and on the latter’s cross, Joseph Mbong headed the ball past Neofytos Michael.
Cyprus hit back with a freekick by Chambos Kyriakou on the 51st minute with Bonello forced to make a difficult save on a deflection by a defender.
However three minutes later, Paul Mbong exchanged the ball with Camenzuli on the left, inside the area, and his pass was deflected by a defender leaving Cain Attard to hit hard past the Cyprus goalkeeper to make it 3-0.
Malta will now travel to Slovenia and then to Russia for two matches away from home, in programme on Saturday and Tuesday respectively.
Before the game, MFA president Bjorn Vassallo presented mementoes to Andrei Agius, who made his 100th appearance for Malta in a friendly match against Kosovo last June, and Fr. Hillary Tagliaferro, to thank him for his sterling service over the past decades to Maltese football.
MALTA Henry Bonello, Kurt Shaw (59’ Zach Muscat), Ryan Camenzuli, Steve Borg, Joseph Mbong (59’ Shaun Dimech), Luke Montebello (70’ Alex Satariano), Steve Pisani, Paul Mbong (70’ Jake Grech), Enrico Pepe, Teddy Teuma (85’ Triston Caruana), Cain Attard.
CYPRUS Neofytos Michael, Andreas Karo, Marios Antoniades (64’ Fanos Katalaris), Nicholas Ioannou, Costas Soteriou, Chambos Kyriakou (71’ Loizos Loizou), Dimitris Christofi (58’ Marios Ilia), Fotis Papoulis (58’ Nikolas Panayiotou), Paris Psaltis, Kostakis Artymatas, Ionnis Pittas (58’ Grigoris Kastanos).
Referee: Fabio Maresca (ITA)
Assistant Referees: Giorgio Peretti, Daniele Bindoni (ITA)
Fourth Official: Luca Pairetto (ITA)
Video Assistant Referee: Massimiliano Irrati (ITA)
Assistant Video Assistant Referee: Alberto Tegoni (ITA)
Photos: Copyright domenic aquilina/Malta FA