The Malta Independent 11 December 2019, Wednesday

Euro 2020: George Puscas header punishes gallant Malta

Chris Cassar Sunday, 8 September 2019, 20:21 Last update: about 3 months ago
Photo: Domenic Aquilina
Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Romania .......................... 1
Malta .............................. 0

Romania: C. Tatarasanu, A. Rus, V. Chiriches, A. Chipciu, G. Puscas (C. Keseru 76'), I. Hagi (G. Grozav 72'), R. Marin (N. Stanciu 59'), M. Bordeianu, F. Stefan, A. Cicaldau, F. Anodone

Malta: H. Bonello, S. Borg, A. Agius, J. Mbong, J.P. Farrugia, K. Nwoko (A. Effiong 72'), R. Muscat, D. Vella (J. Grech 86'), J. Corbolan, J. Gambin (J. Zerafa 81'), Z. Muscat

Referee: Duje Strukan (Croatia)

Ass. Referees: Goran Perica, Vedran Durak (Croatia)

Fourth Official: Ivan Bebek (Croatia)

Scorers: G. Puscas 46',

Yellow cards: H. Bonello 42',

A Puscas header at the start of the second half punished a gallant Malta side in one of the rare distractions of an otherwise impeccable Malta defence. Well done Malta for a brave and positive performance.

A defeat is always a defeat Ray Farrugia said, but this defeat is of different dimensions, which apart from the score, a mere one-goal defeat, the overall performance was surely one of the best played by the Maltese away from home.

Romania finished the match booting the ball away as the Malta side pushed everything forward for an equaliser, but it was not to be. However even the Romanian supporters greeted the Malta players and staff with a good round of applause for their performance.

The start was difficult with goalkeeper Bonello outstanding in keeping the Malta boat floating. But in the second half apart from the goal suffered Bonello did not make a single save, proof of our overall outstanding performance.

Apart from Bonello all the players gave their best with Gambin fitting in well in midfield and with Rowen Muscat covering acres of ground. But all the players deserve praise, and especially Ray Farrugia who has faith in this group of players and is convinced that results will come in the end.

With such performances these will surely come and prove Zazu right.

Ray Farrugia made two changes from the starting eleven that faced Norway in Oslo, with Luke Gambin and Jean Paul Farrugia starting instead of Paul Fenech and Jake Grech.

Zach Muscat who was stretchered off in the opening minutes against Norway, recovered and was in the first eleven in Ploiesti, whilst Paul Fenech, who was also a doubtful starter, failed to make it.

On the other hand Romania coach Cosmin Contra, who was under heavy criticism after the defeat against Spain, made several changes to his side with only three players that played against Spain included in the initial line up against Malta. These were goalkeeper Tatarasanu, captain Chiriches, and striker George Puscas.

Romania as expected took the initiative in the early stages and on eight minutes from a Hagi corner, Chiriches hit wide. Two minutes a lucky deflection gave Romania their first scoring opportunity with And one denied by a brilliant Bonello save.

On twelve minutes Romania scored but Hagi's goal was disallowed for an offside infringement. On 15 minutes another good chance for Romania when a long ball caught the Malta defence off guard but again Bonello made another great save on Andone.

On 22 minutes Bonello called in action to dive and block a long distance effort from Ajax midfielder Marin. Malta had some sorties upfront as they surely moved the ball much better than they did against Norway.

However this sometimes gave space to the Romanians fast breaks and on 26 minutes Bonello again was outstanding denying Hagi and from the rebound Puskas' header went inches wide. On 28 minutes Malta missed a glorious chance when Corbolan and Farrugia combined well with Corbolan face to face with Tatarasanu, but the Romanian goalkeeper blocked his effort.

It was good moment for Malta as minutes later from a Gambin corner, Jean Paul Farrugia hit slightly over the bar. In stoppage time a Bordeianu drive went wide.

Barely minute into the second half and Romania broke the deadlock from a corner action taken by Hagi, with Puscas heading home on the first post. It was a cold shower for the Maltese who had delivered so well in the first half.

However the Maltese were good enough to absorb this setback and after some minutes regained their composure having long possession of the ball and trying create danger upfront. On 64 minutes a Gambin drive from a distance forced Tatarasanu to turn to a corner.

Ray Farrugia made the first change on 72 minutes with Effiong taking Nwoko's place. A minute later Jean Paul Farrugia tested Tatarasanu who saved well. Three minuter in a counter break, substitute Stanciu hit wide.

With two minutes to go Malta even scored but Jean Paul Farrugia's goal was ruled offside. Malta finished on the attack with the Romanians wasting time to keep their slender lead till the end.

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