Malta is still in search of its first victory in this season’s UEFA Nations League as the national team could not go beyond a goalless draw against Andorra in the League D Group 1 clash in La Vella on Saturday.
It was a frustrating outcome to a match which saw the Maltese hold the edge over their opponents in terms of possession but yet they struggled to create clear-cut chances and in the end the stalemate prevailed.
After the bright performances in the team’s first Nations League encounters against the Faroe Islands and Latvia one expected the national team to build on those performances but it was clear that the Maltese players struggled to break down a very physical Andorran side.
Teddy Teuma was Malta’s brightest spark yesterday as he put on a hard-working display as well trying to to inject some flair to the team’s attacking play. The absence of Matthew Guillaumier was sorely felt and one hopes that his return for Tuesday’s match against Latvia can help the team be more effective in the final third of the pitch.
While the final stalemate, might be seen as a fair result, however, one cannot but say that it was a missed opportunity for the national team to cut the gap on group pacesetters the Faroe Islands and Latvia who were involved in a 1-1 draw in Torshavn.
In fact, Malta moved on two points from three matches and just edge Andorra for third place on goal difference.
Malta coach Devis Mangia handed a start to Balzan midfielder Steve Pisani in the absence of Matthew Guillaumier who was forced to sit out due to a one-match ban. On the other hand, Paul Mbong was handed his full competitive debut on the left-sided flank with Jurgen Degabriele moved to a central striking role in the absence of Kyrian Nwoko, who is sidelined by injury.
The match was evenly balanced for much of the opening half hour with Andorra pressing high the Maltese defenders each time the latter tried to start their attacking moves from the back.
Inevitably, the Andorrans were putting some pressure on the Maltese players who, however, managed to avoid any real danger.
On the other hand, the Maltese were again showing great attacking intent with their slick passing moves towards their agile front three of Paul Mbong, Degabriele and Luke Gambin.
After eight minutes, Ryan Camenzuli darted his way on the right and picked Gambin who headed just over.
The home side responded on 15 minutes when they were awarded a free-kick by Cervois’ effort finished wide.
The best chance of the half came Malta’s way on 23 minutes when Paul Mbong made space for himself on the edge of the area and hit a rasping drive that was somehow kept out by Andorra goalkeeper Josep Gomes.
From then on, the match was bereft of scoring opportunities with Malta continuing to dominate possession but rarely creating any danger to the Andorra defence.
On the stroke of half-time, Andorra came close when Alex Martinez was picked on the edge of the area but his thumping volley finished just over.
In his pre-match press conference, coach Mangia had warned his players to keep high their levels of concentration or risk to be punished and the Italian almost was prophetic on 50 minutes as goalkeeper Bonello miscued his pass which was intercepted by Cristian Martinez but luckily for the visitors the Andorran midfielder fired wide.
The match continued to lack any sort of rhythm particularly due to the continuous stoppages for foul by either side.
On the hour, Mangia looked to add more physical power to his forward line when he roped in Luke Montebello for Degabriele.
As the minutes passed Malta were increasingly dominating proceedings with Teuma taking a more influential role but still the visitors were showing little creativity to open their opponents’ defence and create scoring opportunities.
Malta threw more more fresh legs with the introduction of Jake Grech and Bjorn Kristensen but that failed to reap the desired dividends as the stalemate prevailed.