The Malta Independent 23 August 2019, Friday

Euro 2020: Morata brace gives Spain victory over Malta in packed Ta' Qali Stadium

Henry Brincat Tuesday, 26 March 2019, 23:39 Last update: about 2 months ago
Photos: Domenic Aquilina
Photos: Domenic Aquilina

Malta                0
Spain                2

Malta: H. Bonello, J. Caruana (K. Micallef 85), S. Borg, M. Guillaumier, J. Mbong (R. Muscat 65), P. Fenech, K. Nwoko, J. Corbolan, J. Mintoff (M. Mifsud 69), J. Zerafa, Z. Muscat

Spain: K. Arrizabalaga, J. Gaya, S. Nihuez, A. Morata (Rodrigo 79), M. Asensio, S. Canales, M. Hermoso, J. Bernat (I. Muniain 56), S. Ramos, Rodri (J. Navas 65), S. Roberto


Referee: A. Dallas (Scotland)

Asst refs: F. Connor, D. McFarlane (Scotland)

4th official: K. Clancy (Scotland)

Scorers: A. Morata 31, 72

Yellow cards: J. Corbolan 72

Attendance: 16,542

A vastly superior Spain moved to the top of Group F after easily disposing of tiny Malta yesterday evening, winning with a goal in each half.

Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata scored their two goals which gave them the three points for a second consecutive win. They are now the undisputed Group leaders on 6 points.

Despite the defeat, Malta remained third in the Group together with Romania on 3 points, ahead of Norway and Faroe Islands, who remain with no points after the first two matches. Sweden are second on 4 points.

The stadium at Ta' Qali was almost packed to capacity and the tremendous atmosphere helped to make it a memorable evening as was the case when other top teams like England, Italy and Germany were playing here.

Malta coach Ray Farrugia had to do without the valuable services of the suspended Andrei Agius. His place was taken by Zach Muscat. Also dropped was veteran striker Michael Mifsud who was replaced by John Mintoff, who was making a return to the national side after a long absence. (Mifsud came on as a substitute in the second half). Also dropped from the starting lineup from the Faroe Islands match was midfielder Rowen Muscat, who was replaced by flank defender Joseph Zerafa. Muscat, however, came on as a substitute for Mbong in the second half. Farrugia also gave a debut to Hamrun's Karl Micallef who replaced Jonathan Caruana in the second half.

Spain missed coach Luis Enrique who had to go back home urgently on Monday night for family reasons. His assistant Roberto Moreno took over the responsibility to lead the side.

As was widely expected, Spain dominated right from the start of the match till the end. They enjoyed the lion's share of the proceedings and their traditional short passing often put the locals in difficulty.

Led by captain Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid from the back, the Spaniards played the match mostly in our half and they rarely, if ever, gave our boys the opportunity to move forward with purpose.

The Maltese had to defend for very long stretches - suffice to say that not even our lone striker Kyrian Nowko managed to move further than the middle line on more than three occasions during the opening 45 minutes. And the boys in red were never allowed to test Arrizabalaga in the Spanish goal.

Despite the continuous pressure, Farrugia's boys defended with purpose and apart from Morata's goal, the Spaniards never really tested goalie Henry Bonello.

In the second half, the match followed the same pattern with Spain constantly on attack against the resolute Maltese players who did their best to keep their illustrious opponents at bay.

In some way or another, Malta managed to limit the damage by suffering just another goal, thus keeping the score to a respectable level.

At the end, despite Spain's huge dominance, the result was better than all of us expected.

The first action arrived on the 4th minute - a Sergio Ramos header off an Asensio freekick going well over the bar.

The first shot on goal arrived in the 16th minute. Saul Niguez saw his low shot from the edge of the area going just wide.

Moments later Sergio Roberto served Niguez who had another effort going over.

In the 30th minute, Alvaro Morata had a header from an Asensio cross well saved by Bonello.

A minute later, the same Morata had better luck as he beat Bonello with a low angled shot after receiving a long pass from Mario Hermoso.

As Spain maintained their ascendancy, it was Rodri who completely missed the target following a good cross from Niguez.

On 40 minutes, it was Asensio who shot well over the bar from a freekick on the edge of the area.

In the 58th minute, Spain threatened again through Morata who received a good cross from Roberto only to see his header going wide.

A minute later, Bonello dived sideways to save a shot from Asensio.

On the hour Asensio had another shot blocked by Bonello and the rebound by Rodri was cleared to corner by Zach Muscat.

On 69 minutes, Malta were awarded a freekick in three quarters pitch, but Paul Fenech's cross was defended well by the Spaniards.

Three minutes later, Morata scored his and Spain's second goal, heading into the net from close in following a fine cross by Jesus Navas.

Bonello had to save with some difficulty a long distance shot from Ramos on 77 minutes.

Spain again went close in the 86th minute when a Canales shot went just wide of Bonello's left upright.

Malta finally had something to shout about, although it was only a weak shot from Corbolan which was easily controlled by goalie Arrizabalaga.

And that was followed in stoppage time by a Michael Mifsud shot which, however, went over the bar.

And before the end, it was again Bonello who thwarted Asensio from scoring a third goal for his side, turning his shot to corner in style.

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