Malta Football Association
Sprightly Malta run Russia close in opening WCup qualifier
Mar 24, 2021
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(c) Domenic Aquilina
(c) Domenic Aquilina

  • (c) Domenic Aquilina
  • (c) Domenic Aquilina
  • (c) Domenic Aquilina
  • (c) Domenic Aquilina
  • (c) Domenic Aquilina




National Stadium, Ta’ Qali



(HT 0-2)

Dzyuba 23, Fernandes 35, J.Mbong 56, Sobolev 90.

A solid Maltese performance was not enough to upset an unconvincing Russia team tonight in the opening match for both nations in the campaign for the World Cup in Qatar. Devis Mangia’s men can be complimented as the Maltese, after a strong performance in the first twenty minutes of the match, took control in the second half, pushing their more quoted opponents back into their own half for long stretches. 

Mangia made one change in the starting line-up when compared with Malta’s last outing with the Faroe Islands in November last year, as Hibernians midfield dynamo Bjorn Kristensen was preferred instead of Luke Gambin.

The hosts started positively, pressing high and taking initiative during the opening part of the match. On 17 minutes, Joseph Mbong had his first goal attempt of the match after a precise Teddy Teuma pass but Anton Shunin saved his shot without much trouble. On 23 minutes, against the run of play, Russia opened the score. Daniil Fomin sent Artem Dzyuba through the middle and the captain beat Bonello with a low shot from close range.

Three minutes later, Bonello was called into action again, making a fine save on a Dater Kuzaev shot from just outside the box. A towering header of Dzyuba just after the half hour mark sailed inches over the crossbar. The visitors doubled the score on 35 minutes thanks to Mario Fernandes, rounding off a precise attack with a low shot after receiving from Dzyuba. On the stroke of half-time, an attempt of Aleksandr Golovin almost surprised Bonello but Malta cleared the danger.  

The second half belonged to Malta, creating several goalscoring opportunities. On 56 minutes, the hosts were back into the match thanks to a great goal by Joseph Mbong. The Russian defence failed to clear the ball and the right winger outpaced his direct marker Vyacheslav Karavaev, beating Shunin with a top corner thunderbolt from the edge of the box. Barely two minutes later, after a forging run, Teuma had another attempt on goal but this time Shunin paraded.

The hosts took control of the match and on 69 minutes, Teuma was inches close to net the equaliser with a well taken volley from the edge of the box but his attempt just missed target with Shunin beaten. Two minutes later, substitute Alex Satariano kept the Russian rear guard busy but his shot was too weak to trouble the Russian custodian.

It was however Russia who added a third goal on the stroke of full-time, in practically their only opportunity in the second half. Aleksandr Sobolev took advantage of a poor clearance in the Maltese defence, beating Bonello with a low drive. A harsh result on Malta, who can look back on a very solid performance.

In the same Qualification group, Slovenia upset neighbours Croatia 1-0 while Cyprus and Slovakia appeared in a goalless draw.

Henry Bonello, Kurt Shaw, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius (Kyrian Nwoko 88), Ryan Camenzuli (Juan Corbalan 86), Joseph Mbong, Matthew Guillaumier, Bjorn Kristensen (Steve Pisani 74), Teddy Teuma, Jurgen Degabriele (Paul Mbong 46), Luke Montebello (Alex Satariano 46)

Anton Shunin, Mario Fernandes, Andrei Semenov, Georgi Dzhikiya, Vyacheslav Karavaev, Daler Kuzyaev (Andrey Mostovoy 78), Ilzat Akhmetov, Daniil Fomin (Aleksei Miranchuk 57), Aleksei Ionov (Rifat Zhemaletdinov 57), Artem Dzyuba (Aleksandr Sobolev 83), Aleksandr Golovin

Yellow cards
Corbalan (M); Zhemaletdinov (R)

Peter Kjaersgaard-Andersen (Denmark)

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