The Malta Independent 18 September 2019, Wednesday

Football – Yesterday’s Friendly: Finland turn defeat into victory in second half

Malta Independent Thursday, 4 March 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

Malta: J. Haber, A. Muscat, A. Agius, R. Fenech, D. Bogdanovic, R. Briffa (T. Cilia), M. Mifsud (S. Bajada), A. Cohen (I. Woods), C. Failla (S. Bezzina), K. Scicluna (J. Caruana), J. Pace (P. Fenech).

Finland: P. Enckelman (O. Fredriksson), V. Lampi, N. Moisander, J. Raitala, R. Eremenko, K. Hamalainen (J. Kolkka), J. Litmanen (M. Vayrynen), T. Sparv (T. Tainio), J. Johansson (T. Pukki), R. Porokara, T. Kallio (J. Lyyski).

Referee: Mauro Bergonzi (Italy), Asst refs: Mariano Debono, Ingmar Spiteri, 4th official: Marco Borg.

Scorers: M. Mifsud, R. Eremenko pen., M. Vayrynen,

Yellow cards: R. Fenech.

Two second half goals enabled Finland to turn defeat into a victory yesterday at Ta’ Qali.

A four-minute spell midway through the second half proved fatal for Malta as the Finns scored their goals through some lack of concentration in our defence.

Mifsud had shot Malta ahead early in the first half, but then Eremenko equalised from a penalty and Vayrynen scored what proved to be the winner soon after.

The match had a negative aspect in the sense that it resulted in a defeat and we also missed a penalty, but it also had its positive aspect as well.

In fact it is worth mentioning that Michael Mifsud established a new record as Malta’s best ever scorer. His goal yesterday was the 24th for the national team in 75 appearances.

Also worth mentioning was the inclusion in the Finland team of veteran striker Jari Litmanen. The 39-year-old, well known locally and in Europe mostly for his stints with Ajax, Barcelona and Liverpool, played the first half only, but failed to make an impact.

Buttigieg opted for a 4-4-2 starting formation which had the returning Haber between the posts, Muscat, Agius, Scicluna and Failla as the back four, Fenech, Pace, Cohen and Briffa as midfielders and with Bogdanovic and Mifsud as the two strikers.

In the first half, the Maltese had a strong start and despite playing against the wind, they seemed to possess better technically-equipped players as Finland struggled to get to grips.

After seeing Finland striking the crossbar and missing an early penalty, Malta took the lead with an opportunistic goal from Michael Mifsud who made the most of a Finnish defensive lapse.

In the second half, things started changing for the worse for Malta after some substitutions. Earlier, Bogdanovic also had a good chance to make it 2-0.

In the opening 20 minutes, Finland rarely appeared able to score but in the space of four minutes they not only equalised, but also went ahead.

It was a real pity that an encouraging performance had another negative ending.

Despite facing the strong wind, Malta started on attack and on the second minute the Reds were awarded a freekick. Fenech’s inswinger was close to the far post with Andrei Agius just missing connecting with the ball.

On the ninth minute Malta threatened again. Off a Briffa cross, Daniel Bogdanovic’s great header ended in the goalie’s waiting hands.

After Finland hit the crossbar through a Hamalainen header on 12 minutes, Malta was awarded a penalty soon after as Mifsud entered the area and was tripped by Lampi. However, the opportunity went begging as Mifsud’s shot from the spotkick was saved by the goalie and Bogdanovic’s rebound went wide.

Malta - and Mifsud - however, made amends on 16 minutes when from a Clayton Failla cross, the Finnish defence failed miserably in clearing the ball which ended at Mifsud’s feet. The latter made no mistake from three metres.

Finland were dangerous on the 38th minute when Porokara went past Muscat on the right, but his low cross found Hamalainen in an offside position, right in front of Haber. In any case, Haber managed to block the effort.

Five minutes from the interval whistle, at the other end, Mifsud elected to shoot from an angled position on the edge of the area – his shot went wide.

Jut before the interval, Muscat cleared in extremis off a low cross from Porokara, denying Kallio the chance to have a pot at goal from an ideal position.

Soon after the start of the second half, Finland were unlucky not to get an equaliser when a fierce 30-metre shot from substitute Tainio hit the crossbar with Haber completely beaten.

On the 54th minute. Bogdanovic took a loose ball in his stride, advanced unhindered, but then had his final shot blocked by the onrushing substitute goalie Fredriksson.

Finland never appeared too dangerous but they managed to equalise on 65 minutes through a penalty after a tackle by substitutes Bezzina and Caruana on Hamalainen. Eremenko made no mistake beating Haber with a low shot.

Finland scored again four minutes later. Porokara crossed from the left and the unmarked Vayrynen headed home.

The two sides effected several substitutions but till the end the visitors controlled the situation well and never allowed the locals to have another pot at goal.

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