The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

Friendly match: Late defensive slip again lets Malta down

Saturday, 5 June 2021, 06:49 Last update: about 14 days ago

After the defeat against North Ireland, Malta yesterday suffered another defeat, thuis time against Kosovo by the odd goal in three.

This was the second and last game by the national team led by Devis Mangia, as the training camp in Austria was cut short aftyer the cancellation of the third programmed friendly, scheduled for Monday against Kazakhstan.

However this friendly was cancelled and the Maltese contingent will be returning to Malta this afternoon.

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Against Kosovo the Maltese showed a considerable improvement and were only let down by a late defensive slip which condemned the locals to yet another defeat.

Mangia made two changes at the start with Rowen Muscat and Juan Corbalan for Bjorn Kristensen and Ferdinando Apap.

It wasa special match for central defender Andrei Agius who captained the side on his 100th appearance with the red jersey.

Malta shared much of the possession with Kosovo in the opening 15 minutes with Teddy Teuma coming close when his shot from just outside the box missed target on 11 minutes. Two minutes later, Kurt Shaw neutralised a Kosovo attack before Milot Rashica, who was undoubtedly Kosovo’s best player, could get dangerous. However, on 19 minutes, Kosovo took the lead through Rashica who had the easiest of tasks to beat Henry Bonello by the far post after being served by Lirim Kastrati. Rashica missed a sitter on 26 minutes after beating the offsite trap but his shot sailed wide.

As expected, Kosovo dictated play but had to stay on the alert with some stingy Maltese counter-attacks. Two minutes before the break, Bonello had to interfere on goal attempts by Blendi Idrizi and again Rashica. However, on the stroke of halftime, Malta equalised. Shaw was stopped on the edge of the box by Hekuran Kryeziu. From the free-kick that followed, Teuma brought the best out of goalkeeper Visar Bekaj and it was Shaun Dimech who hit home from the rebound.

On 56 minutes, Kastrati was sent through but Bonello was alert to neutralise the danger. Barely a minute later, on the other side, a rising shot from the edge of the box by Rowen Muscat sailed over the crossbar. The best chance in the second half for Malta was created on the hour when Juan Corbalan, unmarked, failed to finish off a wonderful attack by the Maltese which started by on the right flank by Joseph Mbong.

Kosovo, who started the second half well with high pressing and neat passing, eventually lacked ideas to find the net. However, with six minutes left on the clock, Rashica scored his second of the night, taking advantage of a defensive error, giving Kosovo a hard-earned win. The last say was for the Maltese however as on 88 minutes, substitute Cain Attard found Luke Montebello in the box, who’s shot from close-range was saved with difficulty by Bekaj. One minute into added time, Malta had another opportunity to equalise when Teuma’s first timer was again saved by Bekaj.

Before the match, MFA president Bjorn Vassallo presented a memento to Malta captain Andrei Agius, who made his 100th appearance for the national team. He became the seventh Maltese to reach the 100 caps.

Kosovo: Visar Bekaj, Mergim Vojvoda, Amir Rrahmani, Betim Fazliji, Fidan Aliti (Desan Bajselmani 87), Herolind Shala (Besar Halimi 61), Blendi Idrizi, Hekuran Kryeziu (Idriz Voca 72), Lirim Kastrati (Zymer Bytyqi 61), Milot Rashica (Mirlind Daku 87), Arber Zeneli.

Malta: Henry Bonello, Kurt Shaw, Andrei Agius (Triston Caruana 87), Ryan Camenzuli (Bjorn Kristensen 87), Juan Corbalan (Jean Borg 64), Joseph Mbong, Rowen Muscat (Nicky Muscat 64), Teddy Teuma, Shaun Dimech (Jurgen Degabriele 64), Luke Montebello, Alex Satariano (Cain Attard 46).

Referee: Christopher Jaeger (Austria)

 

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