Malta settle for goalless draw with Belarus

Despite a brilliant first half, Malta had to settle for a goalless draw with Belarus in a friendly match at the National Stadium on Tuesday.

Michele Marcolini’s side continued where they had left in the friendly match against Slovenia on Thursday with a fine performance which saw them dominate their opponents during the first half, creating several goal scoring opportunities and hitting the woodwork. However, in the second half, the two teams shared the exchanges in what proved to be another important test for Malta ahead of the UEFA Nations League commitments starting in September.

Marcolini opted for six changes from the team which drew with Slovenia as Kurt Shaw and Enrico Pepe replaced Steve Borg and Jean Borg as central defenders, Carlo Zammit Lonardelli was employed on the right flank instead of Juan Corbalan, Nikolai Muscat was preferred to Steve Pisani while Kemar Reid and Kyrian Nwoko started in attack in lieu of Luke Montebello and Paul Mbong. 

Henry Bonello started in goal with Shaw, Zach Muscat and Pepe at the back, Zammit Lonardelli and Joseph Mbong on the flanks, Muscat, Matthew Guillaumier and Yannick Yankam in midfield with Reid and Nwoko up front. 

Photos courtesy of

The locals were clearly a better side in the first half and on the 7th minute, a cross shot by Zammit Lonardelli from the right deflected by a defender and saved with particular difficulty by goalkeeper Sergei Ignatovich. Two miomites later, Kemar Reid rounded a defender inside the area and diagonal shot just wide. Zach Muscat had a powerful shot from the right saved by the Belarus goalkeeper following a freekick by Matthew Guillaumier on the 14th. Two minutes later, Kyrian Nwoko was unlucky to hit the upright with a header following a cross from the right by Zammit Lonardelli. 

Belarus replied with a shot from outside the area by Evgeni Yablonski which ended just wide on the 20th. However the locals threatened once again with a shot from outside the area by Nikolai Muscat which was partially saved by Ignatovich on the 24th and two minutes later, Yannick Yankam’s header off another cross by Zammit Lonardelli sailed along the goal line. 

In the second half, Belarus showed remarkable improvement and the two teams were now sharing the exchanges. Substitute Vladislav Morozov went close for Belarus with a shot from outside the area which was saved in two attempts by Rashed Al Tumi on the 66th. 

Malta replied with a Matthew Guillaimier effort from outside the area which was deflected into corner and from the resulting corner by Brandon Paiber, Kurt Shaw rose high to head the ball but once again there was a deflection into a corner. Hardly a minute later, off a cross by Cain Attard, Zach Muscat’s powerful header was parried by the Belarus custodian. 

Dunstan Vella tried his luck with a curved shot from inside the area ending just wide on the 77th and four minutes from time, following a fine assist by Nevin Portelli from the left, Zach Muscat tested Ignatovich with a shot from inside the area. In added time, Al Tumi performed a good save on a Kirill Kaplenko freekick.

MALTA Henry Bonello (46’ Rashed Al-Tumi), Kurt Shaw, Matthew Guillaumier, Joseph Mbong (84’ Myles Beerman), Kemar Reid, Enrico Pepe, Kyrian Nwoko (65’ Nevin Portelli), Nikolai Muscat (65’ Brandon Paiber), Yannick Yankam (46’ Dunstan Vella), Zach Muscat, Carlo Zammit Lonardelli (65’ Cain Attard).

BELARUS Sergei Ignatovich, Kirill Pechenin (77’ Ilya Chernyak), Denis Polyakov, Sergei Politevich, Danila Nechaev (46’ Sergei Karpovich), Max Ebong (60’ Valeri Gromyko), Evgeni Yablonski (46’ Kirill Kaplenko), Nikita Korzun, Pavel Zabelin, Maxim Kireev (84’ Yegor Karpitski), Artem Shumanski (60’ Vladislav Morozov).

Referee: Martin Dohal (SVK)
Assistant Referees: František Ferenc, Dušan Stofik (SVK)
Fourth Official: Alex Johnson

Photos below courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA