Malta suffered a 0-4 defeat to Slovenia in a match from Group H of the European Qualifiers leading to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
This was the largest defeat for Malta since the arrival of Devis Mangia as national coach. Following some fine performances in recent outings, the team was given a reality check and now needs to turn its focus on the game against Cyprus at the AEK Arena in Larnaca on Monday.
Photos (above): Copyright www.stephengatt.com
Unfortunately Joseph Mbong and Alexander Satariano were cautioned and since these were their second yellow cards, they are ruled out of the trip to Cyprus through suspension.
Malta had three changes from the team which lost 2-0 to Russia as Kurt Shaw, Enrico Pepe and Shaun Dimech replaced Steve Borg, Andrei Agius and the suspended Ryan Camenzuli. Henry Bonello started in goal with Kurt Shaw, Enrico Pepe and captain Zach Muscat at the back, Cain Attard was employed on the left flank and Joseph Mbong on the right Steve Pisani partnered with Teddy Teuma in midfield with Shaun Dimech and Paul Mbong supporting Luke Montebello in attack.
Malta went close on the 5th minute when off a cross by Cain Attard from the left, a low shot by Montebello ended was saved by the goalkeeper. Four minutes later, Joseph Mbong delivered a cross from the right and Cain Attard’s close range effort was deflected into a corner by Bijol. Slovenia replied with a Jaka Bijol header off a cross by Lovric from the left on the 18th minute.
Sandi Lovric had a goal disallowed for an offside on the 21st minute. A decision which was confirmed by VAR.
However six minutes later, Slovenia were not to be denied when off a cross by Jure Balkovec from the left, Josip Ilicic slotted the ball past Bonello.
Malta missed a good chance four minutes from the end of the first half with Luke Montebello heading wide off a cross by Teddy Teuma from the left.
Five minutes in the second half, Slovenia doubled the score when Bijol served Lovric whose elegant assist for Andraż Sporar saw the Middlesbrough striker chest the ball down before beating Bonello with a fine volley. The goal was initially disallowed by the referee but the decision was changed after VAR review.
On the hour, Josip Ilicic made it 3-0 when he received a pass by Lovric on the right, rounded a defender before hitting past Bonello.
Kurt Shaw headed just wide off a corner from the left on 65 minutes but two minutes later, Slovenia scored the fourth goal thanks to substitute Benjamin Sesko who rose high to head home off a cross from the left by Lovric.
Two minutes in added time, Slovenia could have added another but Domen Črnigoj was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a conclusion from outside the area.
Photos (below): Copyright domenic aquilina / Malta FA
MALTA Henry Bonello, Kurt Shaw, Joseph Mbong (68’ Adam Magri Overend), Luke Montebello (80’ Jurgen Degabriele), Stephen Pisani (68’ Triston Caruana), Paul Mbong (57’ Alex Satariano), Enrico Pepe, Teddy Teuma, Cain Attard, Shaun Dimech (57’ Luke Gambin), Zach Muscat.
SLOVENIA Jan Oblak, Jure Balkovec, Jaka Bijo, Josip Iličić (72’ Luka Zahović), Sandi Lovrić (71’ Jon Stanković), Andraž Šporar (61’ Benjamin Šeško), Jasmin Kurtić (82’ Timi Elšnik), Miha Mevlja, Žan Karničnik, Benjamin Verbič (61’ Domen Črnigoj), Adam Gnezda Čerin.
Referee: Tasos Sidiropoulos (GRE)
Assistant Referee: Polychronis Kostaras, Lazaros Dimitriadis (GRE)
Fourth Official: Anastasios Papapetrou (GRE)