A goal by Jurgen Degabriele early in the second half handed Malta a narrow win over Azerbaijan in a friendly match at the National Stadium on Friday.
A match which forms part of the team’s preparation ahead of the UEFA Nations League Group D2 commitments starting in June where Malta will be facing San Marino and the loser of the play-out between Estonia and Cyprus.
The locals were a better side throughout the ninety minutes, creating the better chances to register a deserved win which should serve as a morale booster ahead of the forthcoming commitments after the two disappointing defeats in the final two matches from the European Qualifiers against Croatia and Slovakia last November.
Mangia started with Henry Bonello in goal, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius and Jean Borg at the back, Joseph Mbong and Ryan Camenzuli on the flanks, Matthew Guillaumier and Brandon Paiber in midfield with Teddy Teuma supporting Alex Satariano and Jurgen Degabriele up front.
Before the game, Andrei Agius was presented with a memento as he was making his final appearance for Malta following his decision to retire from the national team. This was his 103rd appearance for Malta.
Andrei Agius went close to making this game an even more memorable one for him on the 8th minute forcing goalkeeper Salahat Agayev to make a brilliant save on a fine first time effort from the right which was turned into a corner in style. Eight minutes later following an assist by Alex Satariano from the right, a Ryan Camenzuli effort was blocked by a defender. An Andrei Agius freekick ended just over the bar on the 25th.
One minute in added time, the locals were unlucky not to take the lead when off a cross by Ryan Camenzuli from the left, Jurgen Degabriele hit the foot of the upright.
Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA
Six minutes in the second half, Azerbaijan threatened with a Ramil Sheydaev effort from outside the area which scraped past the post following a deflection by a defender. Malta replied with a header by Satariano following a cross by Teuma from the right. A rising shot by Eddy ended just over the bar on 54 minutes.
Malta finally managed to take the lead on the 55th minute when Teuma sent Jurgen Degabriele through on the right and the latter, overcame the challenge by Medveded and beat Agayev with a diagonal shot.
On the 64th, Joseph Mbong went close with a diagonal shot when served by Matthew Guillaumier on the right. Three minutes later, Teuma served Luke Montebello with an inteligent back heel pass but the Birkirkara forward hit just wide.
On the 78th minute, Montebello delivered a cross from the left but Brandon Paiber’s header was parried by the Azerbaijan goalkeeper. Four minutes later, a shot from the right by Satariano was parried by Agayev. The visitors replied with a Renat Dadasov effort which ended just over the bar.
Malta will be in action once again on Tuesday, facing Kuwait in another friendly match at the National Stadium, kick-off at 19:00.
MALTA Henry Bonello, Ryan Camenzuli, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius (42’ Zach Muscat), Matthew Guillaumier, Joseph Mbong, Brandon Paiber (81’ Dunstan Vella), Alex Satariano (88’ Steve Pisani), Teddy Teuma, Jurgen Degabriele (65’ Luke Montebello), Jean Borg (88’ Ferdinando Apap).
AZERBAIJAN Salahat Agayev, Gara Garayev, Azer Alahli, Maksim Medvedev (76’ Renat Dadasov), Hojjat Haghverdi, Emin Makhmudov (64’ Rustam Akmedzade), Ramil Sheydaev (79’ Amin Seydiyev), Abbas Huseynov (64’ Dmitri Nazarov), Eddy, Filip Ozobic (76’ Turat Bayranmov), Aleksey Isaev (64’ Badavi Huseynov).
Referee: Cesar Soto Grado (ESP)
Assistant Referees: Jose Enrique Naranjo Perez, Angel Nevado Rodriguez (ESP)
Fourth Official: Emanuel Grech (MLT)