Malta Football Association
Last-gasp goal rewards brave Malta in Cyprus
Oct 11, 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
  • (c) Domenic Aqulina


European Qualifying Group H


AEK Arena, Larnaca



(HT 1-0)

Papoulis 7, Sotiriou 80 (C)
Z.Muscat 53, Degabriele 90+8 (M).

The derby of the Mediterranean in Cyprus ended all square, thanks to a last-gasp Jurgen Degabriele six-yard touch at practically the last kick of the match. Malta deserved a point, specially looking at the efforts done in the second half, after a rather quiet first half. Cyprus clearly could not cope with the Maltese set-pieces, with the first Malta goal coming from a corner and the late equaliser from a free-kick action. 

There were four changes in Mangia’s starting line-up when compared to that one of Slovenia last Friday. Ryan Camenzuli was back at the left wing after serving a one match ban, instead of Joseph Mbong, who was suspended for one match on his turn. Jake Grech and Triston Caruana were preferred instead of Shaun Dimech and Steve Pisani, while Kurt Shaw lost his place to Steve Borg, wearing the captain’s armband on his 62nd official international match for Malta. Unfortunately, Borg needed to leave the pitch injured close to the hour, with Shaw replacing him.

The opening phase was rather scrappy, with both teams losing a lot possession due to wrong passing. The hosts opened the score on seven minutes, after the Malta defence failed to clear the ball, with Fotis Papoulis finding the net with an angled shot from just outside the box.  After twenty minutes, Malta looked the more comfortable side when in ball possession but without creating much danger. On 32 minutes, Jake Grech had a shot on target, paraded without much difficulty by Cyprus custodian Neofytos Michael. After this period, Cyprus saw more of the ball, but the Maltese rear-guard stood firm.

Malta took over control of the match after the break. Seven minutes into the second half, Ryan Camenzuli just could not connect to a Grech cross-shot from the right, with Cyprus clearing the danger into a corner. From the resultant corner kick from substitute Steve Pisani, Zach Muscat’s close-range header had the better of Michael, scoring the equaliser for Malta. On 71 minutes, Jurgen Degabriele, barely a minute after coming on as a substitute, had a goalscoring opportunity on the edge of the box but Grigoris Kastanos cleared into a corner. From that corner kick, Pisani’s inswinger nearly had the better of Michael, fisting the ball backwards with the foot of the crossbar coming to the rescue.

Seven minutes later, with Malta now clearly the better side, Kyriakou tested Bonello with an attempt with the Malta custodian turning his shit into a corner. On 80 minutes however, against the run of play, the hosts regained the lead. Substitute Andronikos Kakoulli did all the work with solid ball control inside the Malta box, with his attempt ending up in the feet of Ioannis Pittas, serving captain Pieros Sotiriou who beat Bonello from close-range. Henry Bonello injured himself in the action and was stretchered off, being replaced by Jake Galea.

Two minutes into stoppage time, the Cyprus defence blocked a Teddy Teuma attempt while the rebound was turned into a corner. However, with the seven minutes added time already passed, the visitors snatched a deserved point. Shaw won a free-kick on the right side, with Teuma swirling in the ball brilliantly and substitute Degabriele tapping the leather behind past the Cyprus custodian with a slight touch from close-range. What followed were wonderful celebrations with the South End Core in the stands behind the goal, who travelled to Cyprus in large numbers.

Malta have now collected five points in the group and will play their remaining two World Cup qualifiers at home next month against Croatia on the 11th and Slovakia on the 14th.

Neofytos Michael, Stelios Andreou (Ioannis Pittas 78), Costas Soteriou, Mario Antoniadis, Marios Demetriou (Paris Psaltis 85), Grigoris Kastanos, Chambos Kyriakou (Alexander Gogic 78), Nicholas Ioannou, Fotis Papoulis (Nikolaos Panagiotou 85), Pieros Sotirou, Loizos Loizou (Andronikos Kakoulli 60).
Coach: Nikolaos Kostenoglou

Henry Bonello (Jake Galea 82), Steve Borg (Kurt Shaw 57), Enrico Pepe, Zach Muscat, Ryan Camenzuli Cain Attard, Triston Caruana (Steve Pisani 46), Teddy Teuma, Jake Grech (Jurgen Degabriele 70), Paul Mbong (Shaun Dimech 70), Luke Montebello
Coach: Devis Mangia

Referee: Dennis Higler (The Netherlands)

Yellow cards: Demetriou, Sotiriou, Ioannou (C), Teuma, N.Muscat (M)

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