A goal after six minutes paved the way for a most comfortable 7-1 win for Croatia in another match from Group H of the European Qualifiers leading to the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the National Stadium on Thursday.
This was by far the worst performance by the team since the appointment of Devis Mangia as national coach. It was the first time Malta conceded seven goals in a home match since the 0-7 defeat to Sweden in a World Cup qualifier in 2004 although Malta had lost 7-0 to Spain in a EURO 2020 qualifier in 2019.
Photos: Copyright www.stephengatt.com
The team committed too much mistakes especially in defence allowing the Croatians, who were eyeing a comfortable win ahead of the decisive clash for the top spot in the group against Russia on Sunday, to score at regular intervals and claim the three points with particular ease.
Mangia made five changes to the team which drew with Cyprus as Andrei Agius, Bjorn Kristensen and Joseph Mbong were all named in the starting line-up after missing the last match or matches while Kurt Shaw and Jurgen Degabriele were also handed a start.
Bonello started in goal with Shaw, Agius and Pepe as the three central defenders, Attard and Camenzuli on the flanks, Kristensen and Teuma in midfield with Mbong, Montebello and Degabriele employed upfront.
The visitors had a first attempt at goal on the 3rd minute with an Andrej Kramaric effort from outside the area ending high.
Three minutes later, they forged ahead thanks to a relatively soft goal. Modric intercepted a pass by Ryan Camenzuli from the left and served Kramaric who found Ivan Perisic all alone to hit home.
Gvardiol and Degabriele had goals disallowed for offsides after the goal check by VAR.
On the 22nd minute, Croatia doubled the score courtesy of a Duje Caleta-Car header off a freekick by Modric from the left.
But on the 31st minute, Malta reduced the gap when Jurgen Degabriele delivered a cross from the left and Marcelo Brozovic in an attempt to clear the ball into safety headed the ball past goalkeeper Ivo Grbic.
Eight minutes later, Croatia went 3-1 ahead when Kramaric pounced on a long through pass on the right and advanced into the area, serving the unmarked Mario Pasalic who deposited the ball inside the empty net.
One minute in added time, Luka Modric scored a fourth goal when Majer intercepted a clearance by Agius and served Pasalic whose intelligent assist for the Real Madrid midfielder saw the latter hit low past the Malta goalkeeper.
One minute in the second half, Croatia increased the lead further when off a cross by Juranovic from the right, Kramaric’s header was partially saved by Bonello and off the rebound, Lovro Majer hit home from close range.
Andrej Kramaric intercepted a back pass by Steve Pisani for Bonello on the 53rd minute and catching the goalkeeper out of the area, hit low to deposit the ball into the empty net and make the score 6-1.
Lovro Majer scored Croatia’s seventh goal on the 64th with a rising shot from the left when served by Marko Livaja.
Malta will be in action once again on Sunday in the final match from Group H, hosting Slovakia at 15:00.
MALTA Henry Bonello, Kurt Shaw (83’ Karl Micallef), Ryan Camenzuli, Andrei Agius, Joseph Mbong (69’ Shaun Dimech), Luke Montebello (62’ Alex Satariano), Enrico Pepe, Teddy Teuma (63’ Matthew Guillaumier), Jurgen Degabriele, Bjorn Kristensen (46’ Steve Pisani), Cain Attard.
CROATIA Ivo Grbić, Borna Sosa, Ivan Perišić (54’ Mislav Oršić), Duje Ćaleta Car, Andrej Kramarić (54’ Bruno Petković), Luka Modrić (54’ Nikola Vlašić), Marcelo Brozović (46’ Kristijan Jakić), Mario Pašalić (62’ Marko Livaja), Lovro Majer, Joško Gvardiol, Josip Juranović.
Referee: Deniz Aytekin (GER)
Assistant referees: Christian Dietz, Dominik Schaal (GER)
Video Assistant Referee: Christian Dingert (GER)
Assistant Video Assistant Referee: Günter Perl (GER)
Fourth official: Florian Badstübner (GER)
Photos (below): Copyright domenic aquilina/Malta FA