Joseph Mbong seals memorable night with splendid winnerPublished: 06-09-2023 22:09
International ‘A’ Friendly
06.09.2023, National Stadium, Ta’ Qali
1-0 Joseph Mbong 58.
A splendid second half Joseph Mbong goal, in his 50th official international match for Malta, gave the home-side a hard-earned but deserved victory over Gibraltar tonight in a warm-up friendly towards the Euro 2024 qualifier against North Macedonia next week Tuesday. Malta played a solid match and looking at the Maltese dominance and chances created, the score should have been higher.
Apart from Mbong, also Henry Bonello played his 50th official match for the Malta national team, while Jurgen Degabriele reached half of that figure tonight, 25. Malta’s most capped player was team captain Steve Borg, who collected his 76th cap. In defence, Kurt Shaw returned into the team, his first start since the home World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in November 2021 before getting injured.
Gibraltar started with a team including five Lincoln Red Imps players, mainly in defence, who have been getting some good results in the European club competitions the last three years.
Straight from kick-off, the visitors left the initiative to the home-side which meant that Malta were allowed to create various attacks in the opening phase. After five minutes play, Luke Montebello, one of five Hamrun Spartans players in Marcolini’s starting eleven, unleashed a powerful curling shot from the edge of the box, which Gibraltar goalkeeper Dayle Coleing turned into a corner. On twelve minutes, Coleing had lots of trouble to control Degabriele’s 25-meters distance scorcher, which he managed to save in two attempts, just before the fatal goal line.
After a bleak period, on 35 minutes, a promising combination between Degabriele and Montebello did not have the desired result while three minutes later, Poland based Matthew Guillaumier’s grounder was saved with difficulty by Coleing. In-between, young 18-year-old midfielder Nicholas Ponzo, on the books of La Liga club Cadiz, showed some neat touches for Gibraltar on midfield, but the guests never made the impression to pose a threat for the Malta rear-guard, avidly marshalled by Enrico Pepe. However, just before the half-time whistle, Tjay De Barr nearly capitalised on a rare defensive mistake by the Maltese, with Bonello making a splendid save to avoid a shock lead by the visitors.
Five minutes after the re-start, Jodi Jones was unlucky when his shot from the edge of the area missed target while two minutes later, Guillaumier headed over the cross-bar from a precise Ryan Camenzuli cross. Not much later, Degabriele’s corner created havoc in the Gibraltar box on 54 minutes but in the goalmouth melee that followed, the danger was cleared by the defence of the visitors.
On 58 minutes, Malta scored what proved to be the winner in this international friendly, thanks to Mbong’s spectacular first-timer after picking up a lose ball, finishing off top corner, a picture goal.
After the goal, Marcolini used in total six substitutions, including Teddy Teuma who started so well in the French league for his new club Reims. Malta continued dictating the match and it was another substitute, Kyrian Nwoko, who brought the best out of Coleing with an angled shot, which the Gibraltar custodian turned into a corner. Five minutes later, Yannick Yankam hit the side-netting and in the attack that followed, Paul Mbong forced Coleing into another wonderful save, keeping the final score of 1-0 acceptable for his side.
Malta is now playing next Tuesday night against North Macedonia, the fifth match for the Maltese in Group C of the Euro 2024 qualifiers, a game kicking off at 20h45 at the National Stadium. In October there will be the double encounter with Italy (away) and Ukraine (home), while the campaign will be ended at Wembley against England on 17 November.
Henry Bonello, Kurt Shaw, Enrico Pepe (Jean Borg 62), Steve Borg, Ryan Camenzuli, Joseph Mbong (Juan Corbalan 87), Matthew Guillaumier, Bjorn Kristensen (Yannick Yankam 76), Jodi Jones (Teddy Teuma 62), Jurgen Degabriele (Paul Mbong 62), Luke Montebello (Kyrian Nwoko 76)
Coach: Michele Marcolini
Dayle Coleing, John Sargeant (Ayoub El Hmidi 80), Bernardo Lopes (Ethan Jolley 56), Ethan Britto, Aymen Mouelhi, Roy Chipolina, Niels Hartman (Lee Casciaro 72), Kian Ronan (Ethan Santos 72), Nicholas Pozo, Liam Walker, Tjay De Barr.
Coach: Julio Ribas
Referee Milos Boksovic (Montenegro)
Images copyright by Domenic Aquilina