Transformed Malta undone by Ukraine’s second half penalty

Following a highly-disappointing performance against England, Malta were a completely transformed side but a controversial penalty eighteen minutes from time condemned Michele Marcolini’s side to a narrow defeat to Ukraine in a match from Group C of the European Qualifiers leading to EURO 2024 at the Stadion Antona Malatinského in Trnava.

Marcolini made three changes to the team which lost to England on Friday as Jean Borg and Ryan Camenzuli were preferred to Ferdinando Apap and Cain Attard while Yannick Yankam replaced the unavailable Bjorn Kristensen. Towards the end of the first half, Malta lost goalkeeper Henry Bonello due to an injury and he was replaced by Matthew Grech who was therefore making his debut.

The performance by the Maltese was definitely an improved one as they created several goal-scoring opportunities and unfortunately, a penalty had to make the whole difference.

Malta therefore remains at the bottom of the table without any points after four matches while Ukraine move second in the group, three points ahead of Italy and North Macedonia.

Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA

The hosts made their intenions clear and after four minutes, a low shot by Vladyslav Vanat was blocked by Bonello and Andriy Yarmoloenko off the rebound had close-range effort blocked by Jean Borg into a corner Malta replied with a shot from outside the area by Jodi Jones from outside the area which was parried by Trubin.

On the 16th minute, Vladyslav Vanat hit just wide off an inviting cross by Tsygankov but seven minutes later, Malta threatened once again with a Teddy Teuma effort deflected by defenders into a corner Two minutes later, off a cross by  Camenzuli from the left, Yankam headed in the direction of Jodi Jones whose first time effort just wide

Tsygankov went close with a shot from outside the area which ended just over the bar on 38 minutes. Three minutes later, Matviyenko released Tsygankov on the left and off the latter’s cross, Bonello saved, anticipating Vanat. However the latter’s tackle left the Malta goalkeeper injured and had to be replaced by Matthew Grech.

Grech was immediately called into action five minutes in added time, partially saving a powerful drive by Malinovskiy. Vanat took the rebound and served Tsygankov who placed the ball at the back of the net but the goal was disallowed for an offside.

Six minutes in the second, Ukraine were awarded a penalty. Konoplia delivered a cross from the right, Teuma chested the ball down and shots by Yarmolenko and Vanat were blocked with Stepanenko’s effort blocked by Jean Borg’s arm. After VAR check, the referee ordered a penalty but Andriy Yarmolenko hit the crossbar from the penalty spot.

On the hour, Zach Muscat, served by Mbong from the right, delivered a cross from which Yannick Yankam controlled before testing the Ukrainian goalkeeper with a fine shot from inside the area.

Matthew Grech performed a good save on an angled shot by Yarmolenko following a freekick on 64 minutes and a minute later off a cross from the right, Vitaliy Buyalskiy’s header was parried by the Sirens goalkeeper.

Ukraine were awarded another penalty on the 69th minute after Jean Borg was adjudged to having floored Yarmolenko inside the area for what seemed a rather harsh decision. Viktor Tsygankov converted to put Sergiy Rebrov’s side ahead.

Finally four minutes in added time, Matthew Grech performed another good save on Tsygankov.

UKRAINE Anatoliy Trubin, Serhiy Kryvtsov, Taras Stepanenko, Andriy Yarmolenko (80’ Serhiy Sydorchuk), Ruslan Malinovskyi (63’ Vitaliy Buyalskiy), Vladyslav Vanat (63’ Artem Dovobyk), Illia Zabarnyi, Viktor Tsygankov (90+5’ Oleksandr Svatok), Yukhym Konoplia, Georgiy Sudakov, Mykola Matviyenko (46’ Vitaliy Mykolenko).

MALTA Henry Bonello (45+3’ Matthew Grech), Ryan Camenzuli, Steve Borg, Matthew Guillaumier, Joseph Mbong (87’ Jurgen Degabriele), Kyrian Nwoko (46’ Alexander Satariano), Teddy Teuma (87’ Jake Grech), Jodi Jones (62’ Shaun Dimech), Yannick Yankam, Zach Muscat, Jean Borg.

Referee Ruddy Buquet (FRA)
Assistant Referees: Nicolas Danos and Aurélien Drouet (FRA)
Fourth official: Bastien Dechepy (FRA)
Video Assistant Referee: Benoît Millot (FRA)
Assistant Video Assistant Referee: Eric Wattellier (FRA)