Malta Football Association
Resilient Malta hold firm in 1-1 draw against Azerbaijan
Oct 14, 2018
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14/10/2018 – Baku Olympic Stadium

UEFA Nations League – Group D3

MALTA                   1       
(HT 0-1)

Malta earned a point during a hard-fought match in Baku against a strong Azerbaijan side, ranked second in the group, who came into this match on a high after beating the Faroe Islands 0-3 in Torshavn last Friday. It was the first ever point for the Maltese in Azerbaijan, as the two previous encounters, a friendly in 2013 and a European Championship qualifier in 2015, were both won by the hosts.

Compared to the XI who started in Pristina, national coach Ray Farrugia made three changes. Joseph Zerafa, suspended against Kosovo, replaced Clayton Failla on the left flank, Ryan Camilleri played instead of Ferdinando Apap as centre-back while up front, Alfred Effiong replaced the suspended Michael Mifsud. This meant that Andrè Schembri was the captain in his 92nd appearance for Malta.

The hosts started stronglyt as after three minutes, Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg palmed away two powerful shots from Araz Abdullayev and Mahir Madatov. Barely a minute later, Dmitri Nazarov’s free-kick hit the crossbar.


In the eighth minute Schembri was close to blocking a kick from goalkeeper Kamran Agayev on practically his own goal-line. 

On the half an hour mark, Mamatov was sent through but Ryan Camilleri cleared the danger with a well-timed tackle.
In the 37th minute, Malta took the lead. It was a flowing attack on the right side with Corbalan hitting a thunderbolt towards Agayev who pushed the ball back at Corbolan’s feet. The young winger then crossed into the box where Rowen Muscat had the easiest of tasks tapping the ball into the empty net, his first international goal for Malta.
A goal down, Azerbaijan tried to speed up their attacks and the Malta defence had to deal with immense pressure for the rest of the first half.
In the 42nd minute, Hogg blocked a shot from Abdulayev in the box. On the stroke of half-time, the Hibernians goalkeeper turned away a scorcher by Maksim Medvedev from just outside the box.
The first half ended 1-0 for Malta but seven minutes after the restart, Azerbaijan equalised.
It was Madatov who shook off Camilleri in the box and perfectly passed to Abdullayev who beat Hogg with a low shot.
Three minutes later, a Dadasov header from close-in just missed target. On the hour, Muscat should have done better when receiving the ball in the box from Alfred Effiong but his shot missed target. Two minutes later it was Malta who had another opportunity via Effiong whose close-range header just missed target after an inch-perfect Schembri cross.
In the 66th minute, Dadasov’s header hit the post after a perfect pass from the left from substitute Tamkin Khalilzade.
Four minutes later Corbalan’s shot inside the box hit the crossbar with Agayev beaten, much to the relief of the home crowd. A few minutes later, Nazarov’s shot was parried by Hogg without much difficulty. 
In the 83rd minute, Richard Almeida had a good opportunity to put his side 2-1 up but his shot from inside the box after good work from the right side sailed over the crossbar with Hogg beaten. 
During the remaining minutes, the Azeris kept on pressing for the winner but the Maltese defence, marshalled by Andrei Agius, never put a foot wrong, with Steve Borg and Camilleri also producing strong performances.
A well-deserved point for Malta.
The other match in this group, Faroe Islands versus Kosovo, played at the same time, also ended in a 1-1 draw.
After four matches played, Kosovo lead the standings with eight points, followed by Azerbaijan on six. Faroe Islands have four points and Malta two.
In November, Malta will play the last two matches in this Group, on the 17th against Kosovo and on the 20th against the Faroe Islands.
K.Agayev, M.Medvedev, R.Mammadov, (K.Khalilzade 46’), B.Huseynov, P.Pashayev, G.Garayev, R.Almeida, M.Madatov, (I.Imamverdiyev 77’), D.Nazarov, A.Abdullayev, R.Dadasov. 
Coach: Gurban Gurbanov
A.Hogg, S.Borg, R.Camilleri, A.Agius, J.Zerafa, J.Mbong, P.Fenech, R.Muscat (R.Briffa 70’), J.Corbalan, A.Schembri, (J.P.Farrugia 86’), A.Effiong, (J.Grech 82’).
Coach: Raymond Farrugia
Referee: Ivan Bebek (Croatia)
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