The Malta Independent 18 November 2018, Sunday

UEFA Nations League: Malta earn first point with 1-1 draw against Azerbaijan

Chris Cassar Monday, 10 September 2018, 22:55 Last update: about 2 months ago
Photos: Domenic Aquilina
Photos: Domenic Aquilina

Malta                    1
Azerbaijan           1

Malta: A. Hogg, J. Zerafa, S. Borg, A. Agius (F. Apap 50'), R. Fenech (R. Briffa 64'), P. Fenech, M. Mifsud, A. Schembri, J. Mbong, J.P. Farrugia (A. Effiong 77'), R. Camilleri.

Azerbaijan: K. Agayev, G. Garayev, P. Pashayev (U. Abbasov 34'), M. Medvedev, M. Madatov, E. Makhmudov (J. Imamverdijev 57'), R. Aliyev (R. Sheydaev 68'), D. Nazarov, R. Almeida, T. Khalilzade, B. Huseynov.

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Referee: Nikola Debanovic (Montenegro)

Ass. Referees: Milovan Djukic, Jovica Tatar.

Scorers: A. Agius 10' pen, T. Khalilzade 26',

Yellow cards: J. Zerafa, G. Garayev, A. Hogg, M. Mifsud

Attendance: 4,500

Malta earned a deserved draw at Ta' Qali against Azerbaijan to gain the first point of the UEFA Nations League competition. Smarting from the defeat against Faroe Islands three days ago, coach Ray Farrugia managed to field a highly motivated side, a side which wanted to prove a appoint after the criticism received after the Torshavn debacle.

Malta played a very good game yesterday, never giving the ball away and had some very good patches with some good possession football. Malta was solid in defence with Mbong and Ryan Camilleri a span above the rest. Even when Malta lost Andrei Agius, Gozitan Ferdinando Apap played his heart out to fill the gap left by Malta's goal scorer yesterday.

Joseph Mbong was very propositive in attack too, having some very good runs on the right flank. In midfield Ryan Fenech was inspired in the opening phase but gradually faded out and was substituted past the hour. Paul Fenech was the usual hard non-stop worker.

In attack Jean Paul Farrugia started like a house on fire but was eventually blotted out of the game, with the usual Michael Mifsud again outstanding, winning the penalty from which Agius put the locals in front. Andre Schembri had the usual neat touches and good distribution but never had a glimpse of goal.

Coach Ray Farrugia made three changes from the side that went down against Faroe Islands in the opening match. Ryan Camilleri, Ryan Fenech and Jean Paul Farrugia were introduced in the initial line-up taking the place of Zach Muscat, Rowen Muscat, and Alfred Effiong.

The Maltese started on a top note, pressing their opponents in their own half, and took the lead on ten minutes. Jean Paul Farrugia nodded down to Michael Mifsud who was tripped inside the box by Huseynov, and from the penalty spot defender Andrei Agius made no mistake firing in the top corner of the net.

Malta tried to control their opponents who slowly but surely started to gain ground. On 22 minutes a Rauf Aliyev shot from the edge of the area was blocked by Hogg, and two minutes later Malta was rather lucky when Mahir Madatov's close range shot hit the upright.

The equaliser was in the offing and came on 26 minutes when Hogg brilliantly punched away an Almeida freekick and from the rebound Tamkin Khalilzade fired home a beauty from the edge of the area.

After suffering this equaliser the Maltese regained control of the match and played some good football but failed to test goalkeeper Agayev.

In the opening minutes of the first half Malta lost Andrei Agius and was substituted by Gozitan Ferdinando Apap. This substitution came seconds after Malta's move on the right flank with Mbong's cross from the goal line finding Paul Fenech unmarked, but his header went inches wide finishing against the side netting.

That was practically all the second half had to offer, even though both sides tried their best to go in front. But play was effectively all in midfield with both defences coming out with flying colours as their were practically no attempts at goal.

The final whistle was welcomed by the numerous Malta supporters who left the stadium satisfied both with the performance and the first point earned. 

Malta coach Ray Farrugia reacts at the final whistle against Azerbaijan. Photo © Domenic Aquilina
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