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Rashica double punishes Malta’s mistakes

Joseph Mbong (right) tries to launch an attack for Malta against Kosovo. Photo: Stephen Gatt

MALTA         1

Dimech 45

KOSOVO      2

Rashica 19, 84

MALTA

H. Bonello; K. Shaw, A. Agius (88 T. Caruana), R. Camenzuli (88 B. Kristensen), J. Mbong, R. Muscat (64 N. Muscat), T. Teuma, J. Corbolan (64 J. Borg), S. Dimech (64 J. Degabriele), L. Montebello, A. Satariano (46 C. Attard).

KOSOVO

V. Bekaj; M. Vojvoda, A. Rrahmani, B. Fazilji, F. Aliti (88 D. Bajselmani), H. Shala (61 B. Halimi), B. Idrizi, H. Kryeziu (72 I. Voca) , L. Kastrati (61 Z. Brytiqi), M. Rashica (88 M. Daku), A. Zeneli.

Referee: Christopher Jaeger (Austria FA).

Yellow cards: H. Kryeziu, Attard, Aliti, Borg.

A sloppy defensive mistake came back to haunt Malta as a late Milot Rashica goal handed Kosovo a 2-1 win in a friendly in Klagenfurt.

Kosovo – who have now won all three encounters against Malta in their short history – dominated proceedings in the first half and could have easily added more goals to Raschica’s opener.

However, they let their lead slip from their hands when Shaun Dimech levelled terms just before the break.

In the second half, Malta looked more confident on the ball, coming close to turn the score in their favour as well.

However, yet another mistake in the build-up from the back led to Kosovo’s late goal that denied Malta a creditable draw.

For this game, coach Devis Mangia made only two changes from the Northern Ireland game with Rowen Muscat coming on as holding midfielder whereas Juan Corbalan playing as a left wingback.

The heavy rain in Klagenfurt made it difficult for Kosovo and Malta to settle down as they exchanged possession without any threats in the early stages of the game.

Malta midfielder Teddy Teuma tried to stun Kosovo goalkeeper with a first-timer from the edge of the area but his effort skewed wide.

But it was Kosovo who took the lead through.

Joseph Mbong was dispossessed in midfield with Kosovo ready to pounce on with a quick transition that saw Lirim Kastrati unmarked on the left hand side, who immediately whipped in a low ball onto which Rashica connected for his fifth international goal.

Rashica, who plays for Werder Bremen, almost doubled the lead but his curling effort went inches wide.

Kosovo were now brimming with confidence as they were pressing even higher and anticipating the Maltese team on every duel.

Arber Zeneli tried his luck from the distance but fired wide before Fidan Aliti was denied by Bonello.

Rashica should have made it 2-0 when he latched onto a backpass but his weak shot was diverted into corner by Malta’s goalkeeper.

Nonetheless, Malta levelled matters through Shaun Dimech – his second goal after scoring against Andorra in the previous Nations League edition.

A Kurt Shaw’s brilliant anticipation helped him win a foul on the edge of the area. Theuma took charge of the resultant free-kick which hit the Kosovo wall and ricocheted onto Dimech’s feet who immediately slotted into the net.

At the restart, Mangia deployed Cain Attard for Alexander Satariano with Mbong pushed alongside Dimech behind target man Luke Montebello.

A blackout by the Maltese backline awarded Kastrati with an unthinkable one on one situation against Bonello but his lob was blocked by the Valletta goalkeeper.

At the other end, Muscat let fly a shot from the distance that sailed wide.

The bad weather disappeared gradually in the second half, allowing the teams to be more sharp in their executions, case in point on the hour mark when Mbong embarked on his trademark run before switching the ball onto the oncoming Corbalan but the Ħamrun Spartans player’s fired wide, squandering a glorious opportunity for Mangia’s team.

In the closing stages of the game, Kosovo started to inch their their way up the field and six minutes from time, they made the most of another Malta mistake at the back with Rashica finding the net.

On the brink of the final whistle, Attard found Montebello inside the box but the Birkirkara forward saw his shot hit the Kosovo goalkeeper before Teuma tried his luck with a volley that missed the target.

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