Three goals within the first sixteen minutes paved the way for a comfortable 6-0 win for Slovakia over a Malta side reduced to nine men in the final match from Group H of the European Qualifiers leading to the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the National Stadium on Sunday.
It was yet another disappointing result for Malta following the 1-7 defeat to Croatia on Thursday. Just before the first goal, Malta was denied what seemed a legitimate penalty on Alex Satariano. But Slovakia were quick to take the lead in a counter-attack a few seconds later, scoring another two goals in a few minutes. The sending-off of Ryan Camenzuli and Teddy Teuma killed any chance of Malta getting back in contention and eventually, the visitors extended the lead with another three goals.
Photo (above): Copyright www.stephengatt.com
Malta therefore finished its commitments at the bottom of Group H with a worse goal-difference than Cyprus who lost 2-1 to Slovenia in their final game. Unfortunately, the disappointing performances and heavy defeats in the last three home matches against Slovenia, Croatia and Slovakia do leave their mark on an otherwise good campaign in which Malta collected five points thanks to a win over Cyprus and draws with Slovakia and Cyprus.
Malta coach Devis Mangia opted for five changes from the team which lost to Croatia. Jean Borg and Zach Muscat replaced Andrei Agius and the suspended Enrico Pepe in defence, Matthew Guillaumier was preferred to Bjorn Kristensen in midfield while up front, Jurgen Degabriele and Luke Montebello made way for Paul Mbong and Alex Satariano.
Bonello therefore started in goal with Borg, Shaw and Muscat at the back, Attard and Camenzuli on the flanks, Guillaumier and Theuma in midfield with the Mbong brothers supporting Satariano.
On the 5th minute, Malta was denied a penalty as Alex Satariano was brought down inside the area following an assist by Paul Mbong from the left. However the referee waved play on and cautioned Satariano.
Slovakia took the lead on the 6th minute when off an intelligent pass by Tomas Suslov, David Strelec chested the ball down for the unmarked Albert Rusnak to hit low past Bonello.
Hardly a minute later, Slovakia doubled the score when off a cross by Tomas Suslov, Ondrej Duda headed home from close range.
Albert Rusnak made it 3-0 on the 16th minute with a well-placed shot from outside the area.
One minute in the second half, Malta was reduced to ten men after Ryan Camenzuli picked a second yellow card after being cautioned towards the end of the first half.
Four minutes later, Teddy Teuma was sent off when he first received a yellow card and after hitting the ball to show disapproval, the Croatian referee showed him a second yellow card.
Bonello came to the rescue with two superb saves first on Ondrej Duda and off the rebound on Lukas Haraslin on 56 minutes. Six minutes later, the malta goalkeeper performed a good save at point blank on Hancko.
The visitors increased the lead on the 69th minute. Lobotka served Suslov on the left and the latter found Ondrej Duda all alone in the middle of the area to hit home.
Three minutes later, Slovakia scored their fifth when off a cross by Duda from the right, the ball reached substitute Vernon de Marco who had just replaced Hancko a few seconds earlier, beating Bonello with a low shot from outside the area.
Ten minutes from time, Ondrej Duda completed his hat-trick, hitting low past Bonello following a good move by Suslov on the left.
Photos (below): Copyright domenic aquilina / Malta FA
MALTA Henry Bonello, Kurt Shaw, Ryan Camenzuli, Matthew Guillaumier (85’ Shaun Dimech), Joseph Mbong (85’ Triston Caruana), Paul Mbong (55’ Bjorn Kristensen), Jean Borg (78’ Karl Micallef), Alex Satariano (55’ Luke Montebello), Cain Attard, Teddy Teuma, Zach Muscat.
SLOVAKIA Martin Dúbravka, Ľubomír Šatka, Lukáš Haraslín (61’ Róbert Mak), Ondrej Duda, Albert Rusnák Tomáš Suslov, Milan Škriniar, Martin Koscelník (77’ Róbert Boženík), Dávid Hancko (71’ Vernon De Marco), Dávid Strelec (61’ Ladislav Almási), Stanislav Lobotka (71’ Jakub Hromada).
Referee: Fran Jović (CRO)
Assistant referees: Hrvoje Radić, Bojan Zobenica (CRO)
Fourth official: Dario Bel (CRO)