Haley Bugeja brace hands Manuela Tesse winning start

Haley Bugeja scored twice as Malta came from behind to beat Luxembourg 2-1 in the first of two friendly matches against Luxembourg at the Centenary Stadium on Friday.

This was the first international commitment for National Teams Head Coach Manuela Tesse after having taken the reigns from Mark Gatt in the beginning of January of this year. Since then Tesse was present in most of the domestic league matches, and had the opportunity to meet the team for the first time last week.

Photos courtesy of Mark Zammit Cordina

Tesse has made few changes to the starting eleven when compared to the last international match that the girls had against Montenegro in September. She opted to include Swieqi’s Jade Flask and Emma Xuereb together with Mgarr United’s Brenda Borg and Hibernians’ Nicole Sciberras, leaving on the bench veterans Dorianne Theuma and Charlene Zammit and Mgarr United’s Maia Debono. Rachel Cuschieri missed this international window due to injury.

The hosts started well, and after just five minutes, Haley Bugeja served Jade Flask a perfect pass. The latter followed closely, but saw her diagonal shot go slightly off target. Malta was the better team during the first half, however against the flow of play Luxembourg were given a penalty following a hands ball by Ann Marie Said. Marta Estevez broke the deadlock from the penalty spot on the 13th minute.

Malta went near to grab the draw, when Maria Farrugia passed on to Brenda Borg whose shot from a tight angle was not taken advantage of by Haley Bugeja who failed to connect.

Hard working Haley Bugeja’s solo act was easily saved by the Luxembourg goalkeeper on the 22nd minute. On the 35th minute mark, Bugeja was fouled and Malta were awarded a penalty. From the 11-metre spot, Haley Bugeja made no mistake to make the score 1-1.

Jade Flask was unlucky tonight as she hit the post one more time on the stroke of 40. Eighteen minutes later, Luxembourg had a powerful direct freekick which found Malta stalwart Janice Xuereb attentive. Seconds later on the other end, substitute Kailey Willis was served by veteran Dorianne Theuma however her powerful header went wide. The hosts scored what proved to be the winning goal on the 67th minute, when the persevering Maria Farrugia sent a diagonal ball to Haley Bugeja whose powerful header went past the Luxembourg goalkeeper Schlime.

As expected Malta were more adventurous following the goal however they failed to increase the score. Malta will meet Luxembourg once again next Monday 20th February at the Centenary Stadium (kick-off 11.00am)

MALTA Janice Xuereb, Ann Marie Said (Rebecca Bajada), Emma Lipman, Stephania Farrugia (Charlene Zammit), Jade Flask (Kailey Willis), Maria Farrugia (Mariah Sciberras), Shona Zammit, Brenda Borg, Emma Xuereb, Nicole Sciberras (Dorianne Theuma), Haley Bugeja (Ylenia Carabott)
Coach: Manuela Tesse

LUXEMBOURG Lucie Schlime, Kimberley Dos Santos, Ashley Delgado, Andreia Nachado, Eva Fernandes (Mariana Lourenco), Marisa Soares (Joana Lourenco), Laura Miller, Leila Schmit (Charlotte Schmit), Caroline Jorge, Marta Estevez (Yana Lentz), Amy Thompson (Leticia Mateus).
Coach: Daniel Santos

Referee: Maria Marotta (Italy)