The Malta Independent 23 September 2023, Saturday
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Euro 2020: Norway dominate and take the points with two late first half goals

Chris Cassar Thursday, 5 September 2019, 22:46 Last update: about 5 years ago
Photo: Domenic Aquilina
Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Norway           2
Malta               0

Norway: R. Jarstein, H. Aleesami, E. Hovland, H. Nordtveld, J. King (B. Johnsen 58'), S. Johansen (M. Normann 76'), O. Elabdellaoui, S. Berge, O. Selnaes, M. Odegaard, E. Haland (T. Elyounoussi 67')

Malta: H. Bonello, S. Borg, A. Agius, J. Grech (E. Effiong 77'), J. Mbong, P. Fenech (J.P. Farrugia 64'), K. Nwoko, R. Muscat, D. Vella, J. Corbolan, Z. Muscat (F. Apap 20')

Referee: Dumitri Muntean (Moldova)

Ass. Referees: Vlad Lifciu, Andrei Bodean (Moldova)

Scorers: S. Berge 33', J. King 45' pen,

Yellow cards: J. King 32', K. Nwoko 44',

Attendance: 11,269

Malta was soundly beaten on Thursday in Oslo in a game completely dominated by the Norwegians. A defeat is always of the score, Ray Farrugia said at the pre-match press conference that a defeat is always a defeat, and he is right as this was a negative result, the fruit of a rather opaque performance.

In fact the mere two-goal deficit does not cancel the fact that Norway, surely not one of the best on the European sphere, completely outclassed and outplayed the Malta, even if they had to resort to two set pieces to beat Bonello and company.

The Malta team could and should do better. The side practically never ventured forward with the Malta players suffering the Norwegian pressure which never gave the Maltese space to breathe. When the Norwegians eased the pressure in the second half the Maltese had some decent moves but never really worried the Norwegian defence.

To be fair with Farrugia's boys the Maltese were never in the danger in the first thirty and suffered both goals from similar throw-in actions, with long high balls that did the damage to the Malta defence.

Andrei Agius arguably the best for the Maltese, and Steve Borg, were outstanding in defence, and Dunstan Vella had his good moments too. Nwoko marred an otherwise good performance by committing an avoidable penalty for Norway's second goal. Bonello was the usual assurance and surely could do nothing on the goals suffered.

Coach Ray Farrugia started with Steve Borg and Andrei Agius as central defenders with Zach Muscat and Joseph Mbong on the flanks. In midfield Paul Fenech, Rowen Muscat and Corbolan were teamed up with Hibernians midfielder Dunstan Vella who was making his first appearance from the start with Malta's red shirt. In attack Ray Farrugia opted for Nwoko and Jake Grech.

As expected Norway pushed forward from the start with Odegaard showing all his technical skills. However the Maltese held well with Bonello only called for a couple of sorties. In one of these on fifteen minutes Bonello collided with Zach Muscat who was stretchered and was substituted by Ferdinando Apap.

The new defensive set up took some time to settle down and Norway's first opportunity came from a corner action on 23 minutes with Hovland heading wide from an ideal position. On 28 minutes Malta's first corner with Andrei Agius pouncing on the loose ball but shooting well over the bar.

On the half hour a King central drive was easily saved by Bonello. On 33 minutes Norway broke the deadlock when from a long throw in from the left Hovland's back header found Berge completely unmarked in front of Bonello and the Genk midfielder headed home.

The goal lifted the Norwegian moral who constantly held the possession of the ball with the Maltese unable to move the ball forward. Five minutes from the break captain Johansen's shot was providentially tipped by Bonello with the ball smashing against the crossbar.

On 45 minutes Norway doubled the score. An identical action that led to Norway's opener. A long throw in from the left towards Hovland, who however could not head backwards as he was held and shoved to the ground by Nwoko for an obvious penalty. From the spot Joshua King made no mistake with a fierce drive.

No changes were made at the break and Norway continued to attack with Bonello making a great save off an Odegaard header after only two minutes play. On 52 minutes a King header just missed the target.

The Norwegians were all over the place with the Maltese always on the receiving end. Malta made the first offensive move on 56 minutes with Jake Grech neatly put through on the right but his effort was blocked by Jarstein.

The match lost much of its interest in the last half an hour, with Malta having some space to weave some moves, but the Norwegians had some other close shaves too and could have added a couple of more goals.

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