Farrugia heartened by players’ effort in Armenia drawPublished: 30-05-2018 11:30
Malta coach Ray Farrugia had good reason to be pleased with the team’s performance in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Armenia but sounded out a cautious note. “All the credit should go to our players,” Farrugia said after the match. “Today, our players showed their capabilities but it’s imperative that we keep our feet firmly on the ground. “This was the first match, we have many more to come and we need to prepare well. “We must maintain this approach and work ethic and if we do that, we can clamber off the bottom. “The road is long but this is encouraging. Once again, credit to players and my staff who are excellent... unity is our strength.” Farrugia, who was appointed Malta coach at the start of this month, and his right-hand man Branko Nisevic were animated figures in the technical area at the WSG Wattens Stadium on Tuesday, constantly delivering tactical instructions and encouragement to the players. This collective effort resulted in a reassuring showing from the Maltese players who overcame the setback of an early goal to draw level thanks to Andrei Agius’s perfectly-taken penalty just before half-time. The equaliser followed another Malta raid with Joseph Zerafa making another forceful run down the left wing before hitting a low shot that was handled by an Armenian defender. In the second half, the Maltese team proved more than a match to the more-quoted Armenians, going close to scoring their second goal on a number of occasions. FOUR DEBUTANTSWhile Gozitan defender Ferdinando Apap made his bow for Malta after being named in the starting line-up, Under-21 players Jake Grech, Joseph Mbong and Jurgen Degabriele made their debut after coming on in the second half. “From day one, we said that these two matches will be an experience for the youngsters – Jake, Joseph and Jurgen made their debut in the second half – and those with more experience like Andrew Cohen, Roderick Briffa and Michael Mifsud. “This is the way to go... bring in new, young players and also getting the best out of our senior members as we continue our preparations for the UEFA Nations League. I believe we can move forward if we keep doing this. “But I repeat... we haven’t achieved anything, it’s a step-by-step process and this was only the first game. But today, we showed that we are one, united nation.” The attention of the Maltese squad now shifts to Friday’s friendly match against Georgia in Schwaz (kick-off 19.00).The players who started Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Armenia had a recovery session this morning while the rest had a light training session at the nearby FC Kossen stadium which is a three-minute walk from the team’s hotel. The session was supervised by Farrugia and his technical staff, namely Nisevic, technical assistant Ronald Vella and physical trainer Luca Pagani with Charles Sciberras taking charge of the goalkeepers’ training. The medical staff – doctor Daniel McKean, physiotherapist Luke Busuttil Leaver and masseurs Aaron Ancilleri and Chris Maggi – also had a busy morning, doing rehab work with the players, while kit managers Frank Ciantar and Mark Piscopo make sure that all is in place for training as well as the matches.