Football: Brave Malta overcome Ukraine in friendly

Friday, June 9, 2017, 16:24

Malta produced a terrific performance to achieve a prestigious win after overcoming the more-quoted Ukraine side 1-0 in a friendly match at the Merkur Arena in Graz.

Defender Zach Muscat struck the winner early in the game to give Malta a deserved victory and timely boost ahead of the 2018 World Cup Group F qualifier against Slovenia on Saturday.

A perfect night in rainy Graz for Malta was further enriched by the sight of three young players making their senior debut as Dale Camilleri, Johann Bezzina and Myles Beerman came on in the second half.

Malta made their intentions clear from the early minutes of the first half as they not only controlled Ukraine’s efforts but also broke forward with purpose, creating a host of scoring chances in the process.

Goalkeeper Andrew Hogg easily dealt with a free-kick from Ruslan Malinovsky after eight minutes.

On 10 minutes, Bjorn Kristensen released Alfred Effiong who surged into the box but his low cross was blocked.

Four minutes later, Malta struck.

A flowing move had the Ukraine defence on the backfoot before they cleared the ball away for a corner. Alex Muscat’s cross from the right, following a shortly-taken corner, sailed into the six-yard box and Zach Muscat timed his run to perfection as he stooped to nod the ball home from close in.

The goal galvanised the red-shirted players despite the heavy downpour.

Ukraine’a Yaroslav Rakytsky was high from a free-kick.

Three minutes past the half-hour, another brilliant Malta move saw Bjorn Kristensen switch play to Alex Muscat on the right wing and the latter’s cross was met by Effiong who headed wide.

Effiong was also wide from another cross by Alex Muscat.

Malta kept up the tempo.

Another chance came our way on the stroke of half-time as Andrè Schembri embarked on a brisk run that took him past a host of players but the Malta captain appeared to have been floored by Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov when in the act of shooting.

Austrian referee Alexander Harkam saw nothing untoward.

A goal down and the pressure building, Ukrainian coach Andriy Shevchenko effectively changed the whole team at half-time.

As was to be expected, Ukraine pressed forward for much of the second half but Malta held firm.

Henry Bonello, who had replaced Hogg at the start of the second half, made two good saves from Artem Besedin, of Dynamo Kiev, while Volodymyr Shepeliev blasted wide two minutes from the end.

MALTA LINE-UP
Andrew Hogg (46 Henry Bonello), Steve Borg (90 Sam Magri), Andrei Agius, Ryan Fenech (81 Johann Bezzina), Clayton Failla (57 Joseph Zerafa), Andrè Schembri (c) (60 Luke Gambin), Bjorn Kristensen (66 Dale Camilleri), Alfred Effiong (70 Michael Mifsud), Zach Muscat (46 Ryan Camilleri), Steve Pisani, Alex Muscat (90 Myles Beerman).
COACH: Pietro Ghedin.





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