Malta suffered a 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia in the first match from Group C of the European Qualifiers leading to EURO 2024 at the National Arena Todor Proeski in Skopje on Thursday.
A match which marked the debut of new Malta national teams head coach Michele Marcolini.
The team suffered the opponents’ pressure early in the game but kept them under control during the first half. In the second half, especially following the inclusion of Udinese’s Ilija Nestorovski and Burnley’s Darko Churlinov, the hosts started to shine and a goal by Napoli’s Eljif Elmas put them ahead before Churlinov doubled the score a few minutes later. Late in the game, Malta tried to react, reducing the gap through Yannick Yankam.
Marcolini opted to start with Henry Bonello in goal, Ferdinando Apap, Steve Borg and Cain Attard at the back, Joseph Mbong and Ryan Camenzuli on the flanks, Matthew Guillaumier and Bjorn Kristensen in midfield with Teddy Teuma supporting Paul Mbong and Alexander Satariano.
Photos courtesy of Mark Zammit Cordina
The hosts held the initiative in the early stages, going close on the 18th with a headers by Darko Velkoski following a cross from the right which ended just over the bar.
Aleksandar Trajkovski then had a shot from outside the area on the 26th, after an Elmas effort was blocked by Steve Borg, ending wide. Ten minutes later, Bojan Miovski tried his luck with a header following a cross by Ezgjan Alioski. Six minutes later, Miovski went close with a header off a freekick by Alioski
However, one minute in added time, Malta had a good opportunity when Paul Mbong served Alexander Satariano with a header but the latter’s conlcusion from the left was blocked by a defender.
On the hour, Eljif Elmas had a powerful shot from the left blocked by Bonello.
However, the hosts managed to break the deadlock on the 66th when off a cross by Alioski, Miovski headed the ball down for Eljif Elmas whose powerful first time effort gave goalkeeper Henry Bonello no chance.
Six minutes later, North Macedonia doubled the score when Enis Bardhi served substitute Darko Churlinov on the right and the latter rounded Camenzuli before hitting low past Bonello in the bottom right corner.
Four minutes from time, Malta pulled one back when Juan Corbalan’s cross from the right was blocked by a defender with the goalkeeper failing to get hold of the ball and Yannick Yankam placed it at the back of the net.
Enis Bardhi was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a freekick from the right on the 90th and finally three minutes in added time, Joseph Mbong had a powerful shot from outside the area neutralised by Dimitrievski.
N. MACEDONIA Stole Dimitrievski, Visar Musliu, Eljif Elmas, Ezgjan Alioski (78’ Stefan Askovski), Aleksandar Trajkovski (58’ Ilija Nestorovski), Enis Bardhi, Stefan Ristovski, Darko Velkoski (58’ Darko Churlinov), Gjoko Zajkov (90+2′ Kire Ristevski), Bojan Miovski (78’ Milan Ristovski), Jani Atanasov.
MALTA Henry Bonello, Cain Attard, Ryan Camenzuli (77’ Juan Carlos Corbalan), Steve Borg, Matthew Guillaumier, Joseph Mbong, Paul Mbong (67’ Shaun Dimech), Ferdinando Apap, Alexander Satariano (84’ Jodi Jones), Teddy Teuma (84’ Brandon Paiber), Bjorn Kristensen (77’ Yannick Yankam).
Referee: Kristo Tohver (EST)
Assistant Referees: Silver Koiv, Sten Klaasen (EST)
Fourth Official: Juri Frischer (EST)
VAR: Pawel Pskit (POL)
Assistant VAR: Marcin Borkowski (POL)