Sec­ond half goals sink Malta in Michael Mif­sud’s record 123rd ap­pear­ance

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Two sec­ond half goals gave Ice­land their 11th win in 15 en­coun­ters against Malta yes­ter­day evening.

Arnor Ingvi Traus­ta­son in the open­ing minute of the sec­ond half and Sver­rir In­ga­son on the 75th minute were Ice­land’s scor­ers in an en­ter­tain­ing game played be­fore a crowd of less than 1,000.

De­spite mak­ing sev­eral changes to their nor­mal se­lec­tion, Ice­land were still a slightly su­pe­rior out­fit, but I must say that Malta de­served a bet­ter re­sult hav­ing cre­ated so much dur­ing the 90 min­utes.

But our boys can never hope of ob­tain­ing a vic­tory if they con­tinue fail­ing to take the op­por­tu­ni­ties which come their way – at least some – as was the case yes­ter­day.

For Malta, Michael Mif­sud did not start, so he had to wait till the 54th minute be­fore es­tab­lish­ing a new ap­pear­ance record - 123.Con­grat­u­la­tions on this new achieve­ment Michael. Al­fred Ef­fiong of Balzan was back lead­ing the at­tack, but it was he who had to sac­ri­fice his place for Mif­sud.

Also re­turn­ing to the fold after miss­ing the first four World Cup qual­i­fiers against Scot­land, Eng­land, Lithua­nia and Slove­nia was Hibs flank de­fender Clay­ton Failla, who took the place of Ryan Camil­leri.

On their part, Ice­land coach Heimir Hall­grims­son made 10 changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Croa­tia in the past week­end’s qual­i­fier. Only de­fender Birkir Sae­vars­son was start­ing the match yes­ter­day. It was there­fore more an ex­per­i­men­tal side in view of their fu­ture com­mit­ments.

The match was en­ter­tain­ing with both sides of­fer­ing some good foot­ball de­spite the ab­sences, es­pe­cially in the Ice­land side.

The Mal­tese were an or­gan­ised out­fit, es­pe­cially at the back where Sam Ma­gri, in only his sec­ond match, again con­firmed his great po­ten­tial.

An­other star in the mak­ing – al­though we knew about this one sev­eral months ago – was Eng­land-based mid­fielder Luke Gam­bin. He was to be seen ev­ery­where and never stopped run­ning, drib­bling op­po­nents with great con­fi­dence, dis­tribut­ing the ball in­tel­li­gently and also hav­ing a good pot at goal on more than one oc­ca­sion.

Un­for­tu­nately cap­tain An­dre Schem­bri had an­other quiet match and he also missed an­other sit­ter, con­firm­ing that his night­mare with the na­tional team is on­go­ing. I was not sur­prised he did not last the 90 min­utes.

The match started un­der a real del­uge with a heavy shower greet­ing the two teams on the pitch for the two na­tional an­thems.

Malta had the first at­tempt at goal in the ninth minute when after a Gam­bin fine solo move, the ball was blocked into Failla’s path, but the lat­ter’s shot went wide.

Ice­land replied in the 18th minute with a shot from the edge of the area by Kjar­tans­son which went over the bar.

A minute later, An­dre Schem­bri missed a good chance for Malta when he was set in the area, but he dal­lied be­fore ei­ther shoot­ing or pass­ing to an un­marked team­mate and then Luke Gam­bin’s ef­fort from the edge of the area was blocked by an Ice­land de­fender.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, at the other end, it was Steve Borg who saved an awk­ward sit­u­a­tion for Malta as he blocked a very dan­ger­ous in­cur­sion by Traus­ta­son.

In the 23rd minute, Malta ap­pealed in vain for a penalty when Schem­bri set Ef­fiong beau­ti­fully in the Ice­land area, but after round­ing a de­fender, he fell on the grass claim­ing that he had been pulled, but the Ir­ish of­fi­cial, close to the ac­tion, waved play on.

In the 34th minute, it was goalie Hogg who per­formed a mir­a­cle in goal as he turned to cor­ner in style a close range header from Omars­son.

In the 41st minute, the nippy Gam­bin – one of Malta’s best play­ers- was again in­volved in a mazy drib­ble in­side the Ice­land area, but his fi­nal shot un­for­tu­nately went wide.

Soon after the sec­ond half started, Ice­land took the lead. A low shot by Traus­ta­son hit the up­right, re­bounded out and hit Hogg’s back be­fore end­ing at the back of the net.

In the 57th minute, Malta went close with a long dis­tance ef­fort by Sciber­ras, but the ball just missed the tar­get.

In the 63rd minute a good move be­tween Schem­bri and Mif­sud ended with the lat­ter fir­ing wide from the an­gle.

In the 69th minute, sub­sti­tute Ryan Ca­men­zuli tried his luck fol­low­ing a cor­ner­kick, but his left footer went wide.

As Malta in­sisted on at­tack, an­other good shot ar­rived on 73 min­utes. This time it was Gam­bin who saw his ef­fort go­ing just over.

Two min­utes later, the goal ar­rived, but at the other end. From a Jo­hann Gud­munds­son cor­ner­kick, Sver­rir In­ga­son rose above friend and foe to head past a beaten Hogg.

In the 82nd minute, from a Ryan Ca­men­zuli free­kick, Sam Ma­gri headed over the bar from an ideal po­si­tion.

The moment ev­ery­one was ex­pect­ing! Michael Mif­sud (cen­tre) makes his 123rd record ap­pear­ance for Malta. Photo - Domenic Aquilina

In­gas­son head­ing home Ice­land’s sec­ond goal Photo - Do­minic Aquilina

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