The Malta women’s national team dropped the first points in the UEFA Women’s Nations League League C Group 1 after being held in a goalless draw by Moldova at the Stadionul Zimbru in Chisinau on Friday.
With one game to go, Malta continues to lead the standings, three points ahead of Latvia. Malta hosts Latvia at the Centenary Stadium on Tuesday, kick-off at 16:00, needing a point to win the group and secure promotion to League B.
On the other hand, a win for Latvia would put them on level points with Malta with the goal-difference in the direct encounters determining which side would take promotion although the team placing second could still earn a chance for promotion in the promotion and relegation play-offs.
It was in the sixteenth minute that Malta had its first goal scoring opportunity when a Farrugia pass found Bugeja who managed a cross shot in between two Moldavian defenders but her effort did not connect with any of the on rushing Maltese strikers.
Four minutes later, a well taken Cuschieri freekick saw the Moldavian defence heading the ball away.
Moldova had two goal scoring opportunities in the space of two minutes when Chiper tested Xuereb who saved into a corner and from the ensuing corner Toma’s effort from inside the box ended high.
Malta responded with two back to back corners, one by Said who found Borg at the edge of the box, but her shot was blocked into a corner and Cuschieri’s set-piece found S. Farrugia with a header that went well over the post.
In the 42nd minute the Maltese players were awarded a freekick for a foul on Bugeja right outside the Moldavian’s box but Cuschieri’s direct freekick ended high. In the dying minutes of the first half, Moldova increased their pressure on the Maltese side, but found Xuereb ready to protect Malta’s goal.
Coach Mnauela Tesse made one substitution during half time when Sultana replaced Carabott.
Two minutes into the second half, Malta created a great opportunity when Farrugia managed to go past a defender, drifted the ball towards Cuschieri who drove her finish high over the bar.
Malta continued to put pressure on the hosts with another sublime freekick by Cuschieri, with Bugeja heading outside the post.
Moldova responded with a shot at goal by Tabur which also ended off target, they continued to operate with counter attacks to find a solid Maltese defence, propelled and still unbeaten in this competition, by keeper Janice Xuereb.
In the 75th minute a Rachel Cuschieri effort from outside the box ended slightly wide and two minutes later a cross by Bugeja found Sultana whose effort was deflected into a corner.
Moldova had a player sent off in the 80th minute when Gutu received a second yellow card, and with ten minutes left to play Malta pushed forward but were constantly denied by the accurate defensive blocks operated by our opponents.
MOLDOVA Margarita Panova, Valeria Virlan, Veronica Cojuhari (89′ Mihaela Catarau), Carolina Tabur (90+2′ Elina Coceanovschi), Claudia Chiper, Felicia Gutu, Madalina Badiceanu, Nadejda Colosnicenco, Anastasia Cernitu (61′ Cristina Musteata), Anastasia Sivolobova, Anastasia Toma.
MALTA Janice Xuereb, Ann-Marie Said, Emma Lipman, Stephania Farrugia, Ylenia Carabott (46′ Alishia Sultana), Rachel Cuschieri, Maria Farrugia (87′ Kailey Willis), Brenda Borg, Emma Xuereb, Nicole Sciberras, Haley Bugeja.
Referee: Louise Thompson NIR
Assistant referees: Victoria Finlay, Rachel Greer NIR
Fourth official: Jamie Robinson NIR