Defensive blunder paves the way for Russia win

A defensive blunder paved the way for a 2-0 win for Russia over Malta in another match from Group H of the European Qualifiers leading to the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the Otkrytie Arena in Moscow.

Despite this soft goal which put Russia ahead early in the game, it was yet another fine display by Devis Mangia’s side who managed to put the hosts under pressure during the second half. A penalty in the dying minutes sealed the issue for Vitaly Karpin’s side.

Photos: Copyright domenic aquilina/ Malta FA

With Enrico Pepe ruled out injured, Mangia reverted to almost the same line-up of the game against Cyprus with the only other change from that game being the absence of Kurt Shaw from the starting eleven. There were, in fact, six changes from the team which lost narrowly to Russia as Henry Bonello started in goal with Kurt Shaw, Zach Muscat and Steve Borg starting at the back, Cain Attard and Ryan Camenzuli on the flanks, Steve Pisani and Teddy Teuma employed in midfield with Joseph Mbong and Paul Mbong supporting Luke Montebello in attack.

Russia took the lead on the 10th minute when Steve Borg, pressed by Aeksei Ionov, tried to pass the ball back to goalkeeper Henry Bonello but Fedor Smolov pounced on his short pass and hit low past the Malta goalkeeper.

Malta replied with a good move by Paul Mbong, concluded with a shot from outside the area ending just over the bar on the 15th minute and in the 27th, a goal bound effort by Andrei Agius was blocked by a defender.

On the 33rd Malta risked once again with another back pass which put Bonello under pressure but the hosts failed to make the most out of this opportunity.

However, just before the end of the first half, Luke Montebello was unlucky not to equalise when he intercepted a backpass by Diveev for the goalkeeper but his angled shot from the left scraped past the post.

Two minutes in the second half, Joseph Mbong tested Guilherme with a shot from outside the area.

On 62 minutes, Guilherme performed a great save on the Hamrun winger’s close-range effort following a cross by Camenzuli from the left and an assist by Luke Montebello from the right. Two minutes later, the Russian goalkeeper performed another good save on Joseph Mbong who rounded Kuzyaev before trying his luck with a shot from outside the area. 

The Russians replied with a Smolov effort which was parried by Bonello on the 69th. Three minutes later, a shot from outside the area by Osipenko was neutralised by the Malta goalkeeper.

Malta risked conceding another soft goal on the 76th with a back pass from midfield by Zach Muscat for Bonello which scraped past the post. 

However six minutes from time, Russia were awarded a penalty after Ryan Camenzuli blocked a conclusion with his hand and from the penalty spot, Zelimkhan Bakaev converted. Camenzuli was cautioned meaning he will miss the next game against Slovenia at Ta’ Qali.

In added time, Osipenko had a close range effort cleared off the goal line by Nikolai Muscat.

RUSSIA Guilherme, Igor Diveev, Vyacheslav Karavaev, Maksim Osipenko, Dmitri Barinov, Fedor Smolov (71’ Anton Zabolotny), Aleksei Miranchuk, (58’ Ilya Samoshnikov) Arsen Zakharyan (46’ Zelimkhan Bakaev), Aleksei Ionov (79’ Rifat Zhemaletidinov), Aleksandr Erokhin (46’ Roman Zobnin), Daler Kuzayaev.

MALTA Henry Bonello, Ryan Camenzuli, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius (86’ Kurt Shaw), Joseph Mbong, Luke Montebello (66’ Alex Satariano), Steve Pisani (66’ Triston Caruana), Paul Mbong, Teddy Teuma (86’ Nikolai Muscat), Cain Attard (75’ Shaun Dimech), Zach Muscat.

Referee: Ali Palabiyik (TUR)
Assistant Referees: Ceyhun Sesiguzel, Serkan Olguncan (TUR)
Fourth Official: Yasar Kemal Ugurlu (TUR)


  1. We need to be more disciplined at the back. We concede too many silly goals from our own mistakes. We had a few chances to score. with a bit of luck we would have got a goal or two. A bit disappointed how we lost these last two games but the National team has improved considerably under the guidance of Mangia. Bravo.

  2. The first time I saw Malta passing the ball around in the penalty area with Russian players nearby, I thought it looked very dangerous. The second time I was starting to think maybe it could be executed without a disaster happening. The third time, that was revealed to be an illusion. Sooner or later, one of those passes had to be off target and I don’t understand the strategy. With several Russian players charging forward to put pressure on the Maltese players, there was better room further up the pitch, where an erroneous pass might have been slightly more likely, but probably also much less costly.

    That being said, I was impressed with how the team managed to fight on in spite of this setback, sometimes even dominating this difficult away game, though the most dangerous attempt was probably Zach Muscat’s outrageous backpass. Again, Joseph Mbong showed his class on several occasions during the game.The penalty… What on Earth was Camenzuli supposed to do and where was VAR to overturn this seemingly incorrect decision? The hosts deserved their win, but this is a Maltese team with a totally different mentality from the old days, when the floodgates would have opened after the opening goal.

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