Mistake proves costly as Malta loses narrowly to Ireland

Malta lost 0-1 to the Republic of Ireland in a friendly match at the National Stadium on Sunday.

This match was the final test for Malta ahead of next year’s European Qualifiers leading to EURO 2024 where Malta will be facing England, Italy, Ukraine and North Macedonia.

The visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of ball possession and were definitely the better side but unfortunately it had to be a mistake which handed them victory.

Interim Malta coach Gilbert Agius made four changes from the team which drew with Greece as Ferdinando Apap, Bjorn Kristensen, Alexander Satariano and Jodi Felice Jones replaced Steve Borg, Paul Mbong, Shaun Dimech and Jurgen Degabriele.

Henry Bonello started in goal with Ferdinando Apap, Enrico Pepe and Jean Borg as the three central defenders, Joseph Mbong and Ryan Camenzuli on the flanks, Bjorn Kristensen, Matthew Guillaumier and Teddy Teuma in midfield with Jodi Jones and Alex Satariano up front. 

Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA

The Irish showed great determination right from the start and after just five minutes, following a cross by Matt Doherty, Callum Robinson  had a low effort deflected into a corner. Four minutes later, a Jamie McGrath freekick from the left was saved by Bonello. Malta replied with a fine assist by Satariano for Jodi Jones but the latter’s low shot was parried by Kelleher in the 12th. Four minutes later, Teuma served Mbong whose powerful shot from outside the area ended high.

The visitors threatened once again on 28 minutes with a powerful drive by Jamie McGrath and two minutes from the end of the first half, had the best opportunity to forge ahead when Matt Doherty served Alan Browne with the ball reaching Chiedozie Ogbene who failed to connect from close range. Two minutes in added time, Bonello performed a good save on a James McClean corner.

Ten minutes in the second half, Ireland managed to break the deadlock as Callum Robinson pounced on an erratic back pass by Guillaumier and pulled to a more central position before slotting the ball past the helpless Bonello.

Just past the hour, the Malta custodian performed another good save on an Alan Browne header off a freekick by McGrath from the right.

Robinson almost doubled the score as he intercepted a pass by Pisani but his lob was parried by Bonello on the 78th and four minutes from time, substitute Callum O’Dowda was unlucky to hit the foot of the upright with a diagonal shot following a swift run on the left.

MALTA Henry Bonello, Jean Borg, Ryan Camenzuli, Ferdinando Apap (73’ Kurt Shaw), Matthew Guillaumier, Joseph Mbong, Enrico Pepe, Alexander Satariano (73’ Luke Montebello), Teddy Teuma (88’ Kyrian Nwoko), Bjorn Kristensen (20’ Dunstan Vella)(52’ Stephen Pisani), Jodi Jones (67’ Luke Gambin).

IRELAND Caoimhin Kelleher, Seamus Coleman, Matt Doherty, John Egan, Josh Cullen, Callum Robinson (85’ Mark Sykes), Alan Browne (67’ Jeff Hendrick), James McClean (67’ Callum O’Dowda), Nathan Collins, Jamie McGrath, Chiedozie Ogbene (77’ Evan Ferguson).

Referee: Chrysovalantis Theouli CYP
Assistant Referees: Ioannis Lazarou, Marios Dimitriadis CYP
Fourth Official: Trustin Farrugia Cann