Excellent performance for brave Malta at WembleyPublished: 17-11-2023 23:16
UEFA EURO 2024 QUALIFIER (GROUP C)
17.11.2023, National Stadium, Ta’ Qali, Malta
1-0 Enrico Pepe, o.g, 8, 2-0 Harry Kane 75.
An early own goal and a late Harry Kane strike saved England’s blushes tonight at Wembley against a well-organised and confident Malta side, who perhaps played their best match in this Euro 2024 qualification campaign. Malta frustrated the hosts extensively, who initially had no answer to the Maltese tactics, struggling up front and escaping a few times with some neatly played out attacks. The visitors played with flair with some excellent direct passing, releasing the forward line on various occasions, keeping the English rear-guard on their toes for the full 90 minutes.
When compared to the last outings against the Ukraine last month, Malta national team coach Michele Marcolini welcomed back Teddy Teuma on midfield while up front, Kemar Reid made his Malta debut after obtaining his Maltese passport last month. Teuma played instead of Nikolai Muscat while Reid replaced Kyrian Nwoko, who made a late substitute appearance.
Malta played an excellent first half, playing with confidence and creating several goalscoring opportunities. Within the minute, Malta threatened with Matthew Guillaumier disposing Connor Gallaghter, serving Teuma whose grounder went agonisingly wide, in an action which could have meant a dream start for the visitors.
However, the English took the lead on eight minutes when Phil Foden’s cutback towards Kane was deflected into his own net by Enrico Pepe despite Henry Bonello’s reflex at the near post. Moments later on the other side, Paul Mbong’s scorcher sailed inches over the bar in another promising Malta attack. On 28 minutes, England had a penalty claim when Harry Kane went down on a Bonello challenge but the referee cautioned the Bayern Munich striker for simulation.
Marcolini’s men continued to press high through Paul Mbong, Reid and Yannick Yankam, which certainly kept various potential England attacks at bay, with the Malta defence keeping shape throughout the first 45 minutes. Apart from the goal, the home side had no further attempts on target, much to the credit of the Maltese.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Seven minutes after the change of ends, Malta produced another excellent attack which started with Teuma sending Reid through on the left flank, who cleverly back-heeled towards Ryan Camenzuli who tried to reach Paul Mbong with Harry Maguire clearing the danger. On the other side, just after the hour, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s volley from the edge of the area was saved comfortably by Bonello, which was remarkably England’s first shot on target.
Brave Malta continued to press high, disturbing the English built-up whenever possible, trying to penetrate the hosts’ rear-guard on the counter-attack. However, England managed to double with 15 minutes of regular time left through Kane, who rounded off from close-range from a Bukaya Saka assist. Barely a minute later, a Declan Rice goal was ruled out for off-side after VAR interference.
On 83 minutes, Yankam’s scorcher from inside the area missed target after another fluent Malta attack, set-up by Teuma with Yankam cleverly served by Joseph Mbong. Two minutes before full-time, Bonello was called back into action, reacting well on a Alexander-Arnold attempt. This was the last worth to mention attack of the match, an underwhelming victory for England, with the compliments for Marcolini’s men who played their hearts out on a chilly London night and certainly deserved a better result.
Elsewhere, Italy beat North Macedonia 5-2 after a 3-0 half-time score, with Italy travelling to Germany to play Ukraine for the last Euro 2024 ticket in this group. England, who won the group, will round up their campaign with an away game in Skopje, also on Monday night.
Jordan Pickford, Kieran Tripper, Harry Maguire, Marc Guehi, Fikayo Tomori (Bukayo Saka 46), Connor Gallagher (Kyle Walker 46), Jordan Henderson (Declan Rice 61), Phil Foden, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Marcus Rashford (Cole Palmer 61), Harry Kane
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Henry Bonello, Jean Borg (Zach Muscat 79), Steve Borg, Enrico Pepe, Ryan Camenzuli, Joseph Mbong (Cain Attard 86), Teddy Teuma, Matthew Guillaumier (Bjorn Kristensen 59), Yannick Yankam, Paul Mbong (Jodi Jones 59), Kemar Reid (Kyrian Nwoko 79).
Coach: Michele Marcolini
Referee Luis Guidinho (Portugal)
Yellow cards Tomori, Kane (E), P.Mbong, Guillaumier (M)
Images copyright by Domenic Aquilina