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Northern Ireland punish Malta as fitness problems haunt Mangia’s men

NORTHERN IRELAND 3

Jones 2; Whyte 53

McCann 55

MALTA 0

N. IRELAND

B. Peacock- Farrell, C. Brown, C. Cathcart, P. McNair, S. Dallas (86 C. Bradley), J. Thompson (86 A. McCalmont), G. Whyte (73 S. Ferguson), N. M McGinn (62 G. Saville), A. McCann, J. Jones (73 L. Boyce), J. Magennis (62 D. Charles).

MALTA

H. Bonello, K. Shaw, R. Camenzuli, F. Apap (68 J. Borg), A. Agius, J. Mbong (68 D. Xuereb), L. Montebello (61 J. Degabriele), T. Teuma (61 D. Vella), B. Kristensen (81 R. Muscat), A. Satariano (81 J.P. Farrugia), S. Dimech.

Referee Sebastian Gishamer (Austria).

Yellow card Thompson.

The Malta national team produced a sloppy defensive performance as they succumbed to a 3-0 defeat to Northern Ireland in a friendly international in Klagenfurt.

Devis Mangia’s fears of seeing his charges struggle badly in terms of physical fitness against their British opponents turned out to be a reality as the Maltese players managed to withstand the demands of the game for the opening 45 minutes before seeing the team unsurprisingly suffering a dip after the break.

With the majority of the players who took the field for yesterday’s friendly well short of match fitness after they haven’t played a competitive match for almost two months due to COVID-19 restrictions that brought to an end the Premier League inevitably hit hard the team’s hopes of matching their more-quoted opponents.

It’s true the match had taken a difficult twist after conceding a silly opener after two minutes of play, but after that early setback the team managed to recover well and matched their opponents, creating a couple of chances that could have yielded an equalizer.

But after the break, the Maltese players seemed to run out of gas and Northern Ireland went on to seal a comfortable victory with two quick-fire goals early in the second half.

The Malta coach will now hope his players can recover some energy ahead of Friday’s second friendly against Kosovo.

Malta were off to a poor start as inside the first two minutes, Ferdinando Apap miscued his pass towards Andrei Agius and in came Jordan Jones who lashed a firm strike past Henry Bonello.

Gradually, the Maltese regained their composure and on 16 minutes Joseph Mbong came close to an equalizer when he breezed past his marker, but angled drive flashed just wide.

On 21 minutes, Northern Ireland should have doubled their lead when Kurt Shaw was adjudged by referee Sebastian Gishamer to have fouled Gavin Whyte inside the area. But from the resultant penalty Josh Magennis saw his shot well saved by Bonello.

That save galvanized the Maltese who threatened again three minutes later when Mbong found Luke Montebello inside the area but the Birkirkara striker hit the side netting from a close angle.

There was little scoring chances for the rest of the half, as Maltese continued to enjoy a fair share of possession but somewhat struggled to create openings in the Northern Irish defence.

After the break, the Maltese were again found wanting in their defending as Northern Ireland doubled their lead on 53 minutes.

Stuart Dallas found Gavin Whyte in space and the winger beat Bonello with an angled drive onto the near post.

The Maltese were looking tired and that was reflected when the Maltese suffered another goal two minutes later.
This time it was Paddy McNair who found Alistair McCann who chipped the ball over Bonello.

Alex Satariano could have done better on 76 minutes when he was put clear by substitute Jurgen Degabriele but the Malta forward ran into a close angle and with little support coming saw his shot deflected to a corner.

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