FAROE ISLANDS 3
M. Olsen 23
A. Olsen 87
The Malta national team suffered a heartbreaking start to their UEFA Nations League campaign as two goals in the dying moments of the match handed the Faroe Islands a dramatic 3-2 win in Torshavn.
It was a harsh result on the national team who looked well on course to break their curse in the Faroe Islands when they fought back admirably after falling behind early on and looked on course to take all three points when goals from Jurgen Degabriele and Andrei Agius handed them a deserved 2-1 lead with only 17 minutes to go.
However, the Faroes refused to throw in the towel and they managed to turn the match around courtesy of last-gasp goals from substitute Andreas Olsen and Solvi Hendriksson earned them all three points that lifts them at the top of the group.
Still, despite this defeat the national team still deserves credit as they showed a lot of personality throughout the match and played some beautiful constructive attacking football that surely would have deserved a better result.
However, one cannot but not comment on the team’s lapses of concentration in defence which again cost us dearly and only some top-class goalkeeping from Henry Bonello kept us in the match throughout.
Now, it will be important for the Maltese players to put this setback behind them and focus on Sunday’s match against Latvia. No doubt, if the team can shore up their defence they will surely stand a good chance of obtaining a positive result against Latvia, who yesterday were held by Andorra.
Mangia resisted the temptation of giving a full debut to the latest additions to the squad, defender Enrico Pepe and midfielder Teddy Teuma, who were both named on the bench. Ryan Camenzuli and Jurgen Degabriele were back in the senior squad starting XI.
Mangia named his team in a 3-5-2 formation with Andrei Agius, Zach Muscat and Steve Borg forming the three-man defence with Camenzuli and Joseph Mbong providing the width on the flanks. Steve Pisani and Matthew Guillaumier former the central midfield pairing just behind Degabriele who operated behind front duo of Kyrian Nwoko and Luke Gambin.
The Faroe Islands, under the charge of new coach Hakan Ericson, were without two of their most talented players, namely Gilli Rolantsson, of SK Brann, who is serving a quarantine, while Arminia Bielefeld forward Joan Edmundsson is recovering from injury.
Malta enjoyed a slight edge in possession early on but Faroes’ speed on the counter almost carved an opening on 13 minutes when Ryan Camenzuli was dispossessed in midfield with the ball quickly diverted into the path of Hendriksson. The Faroes schemer immediately served the unmarked Klaemint Olsen who with only Bonello to beat was denied by the Malta no.1.
The visitors were struggling to contend with the Faroes’ direct play and in fact they were lucky not to fall behind on 23 minutes.
Solvi Vanthamar sent a fine throughball into the path of Joannes Bjartalid who with only Bonello to beat slid the ball past the upright.
However, the Faroes finally punished the Malta defence at the third time of asking when Vatnhamar sent the ball into the path of Klaemint Olsen who headed the ball past Bonello.
Malta tried to hit back immediately and they had a clear shout for a penalty just after the restart when Andrei Agius looked to have been pushed inside the area in a corner action but the referee saw nothing untoward.
But the Maltese kept pushing forward and their efforts were rewarded with an equalizer eight minutes from the break.
It was a fine goal which saw Degabriele playing Ryan Camenzuli on the right and the Floriana wingback sent a low cross towards Gambin. The Colchester attacking midfielder immediately pulled the ball back towards Degabriele who beat Nielsen with a low drive.
Malta continued to ride the momentum and two minutes from the break Guillaumier hit a thumping drive that forced a fine diving save from Nielsen.
On the restart, the Faroes started again on the front foot and on 54 minutes Hendriksson was given too much space but his thumping drive finished over.
A minute later, Mbong in an attempt to clear Meinhard Olsen’s cross inadvertently diverted the ball towards his own goal but luckily it came off the upright before the visitors cleared.
After surviving those scares the Maltese started to show more personality as they looked more in control with the Faroes struggling to make any inroads.
However, on 67 minutes the home side almost struck again when in a quick break Bjartalid sent a low cross towards the unmarked Klaemint Olsen who saw his shot somehow kept out by Bonello.
But the Faroes paid dearly for this miss as six minutes later Malta grabbed their second.
Kyrian Nwoko won a free-kick some 30 metres out and Luke Gambin sent a dipping ball at the far post where Andrei Agius popped in to fire the ball home.
The Faroes hit back strongly and eight minutes from time Bonello again came to his side’s rescue when he kept out Patrik Johannesen’s shot and from the rebound the towering goalkeeper again palmed away Dan Soylu’s tap-in.
But the hosts managed to equalize when three minutes from time substitute Andreas Olsen fired a rasping long drive that gave no chance to Bonello.
The Faroes were not finished yet as in the first minute of stoppage time they won a free-kick on the edge of the area and Hendrikson curled the ball into the top corner of the net that condemned Malta to a harsh defeat.