Attard 43, 54
J. Mbong 46
H. Bonello, K. Shaw (60 Z. Muscat), R. Camenzuli, S. Borg, J. Mbong (60 S. Dimech), L. Montebello (69 A. Satariano), S. Pisani, P. Mbong (69 J. Grech), E. Pepe, T. Teuma (85 T. Caruana), C. Attard.
N. Michael, A. Karo, M. Antoniades (63 F. Katelaris), N. Ioannou, C. Soteriou, D. Christofi (60 I. Marios), C. Kyriakou (70 L. Loizou), F. Papoulis (60 N. Panayiotou), P. Psaltis, K. Artymatas, I. Pittas (60 G. Kastanos).
Referee Fabio Maresca.
Yellow cards Soteriou, Mbong, Papoulis, Shaw.
Red card: Soteriou (C) 41.
The Malta national team continued to rewrite its history books when they put on a dazzling attacking display to brush aside Cyprus and pick up their first win in the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign at the National Stadium.
The match was played on a momentous day for the Malta Football Association who hosted UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin for a short visit, during which he unveiled the new training grounds at Ta’ Qali and also the return of the Maltese fans to an international match after an 18-month absence due to COVID-19 restrictions.
And the Maltese players made sure the day remained in the minds of the hundreds of spectators present at the National Stadium with a slick attacking display that saw them tore apart the more-quoted Cypriots to claim their first-ever win in World Cup qualifier on home soil.
In fact, Malta’s other two successes in a World Cup qualifying campaign arrived away from home, against Estonia (1-0) in 1993 and in Armenia (1-0) in 2013.
In fact, Mangia’s men held the initiative right from the outset and held the better play for much of the opening 45 minutes but were let down by their poor finishing in front of goal.
However, the game turned decisively the hosts’ way on the stroke of half-time when Cyprus defender Soteriou picked up a second booking for simulation and the Maltese quickly seize the initiative to storm ahead with a well-worked goal scored by Cain Attard.
After the break, Malta exposed Cyprus’ frailties on the flanks to add two quick-fire goals through Mbong and Attard again to seal a memorable victory that lifted Malta to the four-point mark, level with Cyprus and Slovenia, but more importantly provided a huge shot in the arm ahead of Saturday’s clash against the Slovenians in Ljubljana.
Prior to kick-off MFA president presented a memento to defender Andrei Agius in recognition of reaching 100 caps for Malta during last June’s friendly against Northern Ireland. Vassallo also presented another memento to Fr Hilary Tagliaferro for his outstanding contribution to the game.
Malta coach Devis Mangia handed a start to Steve Pisani and Paul Mbong in the absence of Matthew Guillaumier and Luke Gambin while upfront Luke Montebello was given the onus to lead the team’s forward line with Alex Satariano starting on the bench.
Cyprus thought they were off to a flying start when Ioannis Pittas was found in space and rammed the ball past Henry Bonello but the ‘goal’ was annulled for a clear offside position of the Cypriot forward.
On eight minutes, Luke Montebello should have put Malta ahead when he pounced on a short back pass from Nicholas Ioannou but the Birkirkara striker opted to shoot immediately and his effort was pushed away by the onrushing Neofytos Michael.
After that early flurry of chances, the match lost much of that early rhythm with Malta holding the ball for long spells but lacking the composure to create clear-cut chances.
Ten minutes from the break, Malta had another clear scoring opportunity when Luke Montebello released Paul Mbong with a fine pass but the Birkirkara fired wide with only Michael to beat
Cyprus responded two minutes later when Artymatas found Psaltis who immediately served Pittas who was blocked by Steve Borg.
From the resultant corner, Pittas saw his header coming off the upright and from the rebound, Soteriou fell inside the area after a challenge from Camenzuli. Referee Fabio Maresca waved play on and showed a second yellow card to the Cypriot defender who was dismissed.
Malta took little time to make the most of their numerical advantage when two minutes from the break, Camenzuli sped clear on the right and picked Joseph Mbong who adjusted his body to serve the unmarked Cain Attard with a spectacular overhead kick. The Birkirkara wingback made the most of the opportunity when he blasted the ball past Michael.
After the break, Malta started on the accelerator and inside the first minute, they doubled their lead.
Teddy Teuma sent a fine cross towards Joseph Mbong who headed the ball firmly past Michael.
There was only one team on the pitch now and 53 minutes Malta added a third goal.
Paul Mbong exchanged the ball with Teuma and the Birkirkara midfielder sent a low cross into the path of Attard
From then on, the match was as good as over with both teams effecting a number of substitutions with Malta easily administering the situation while the Cypriots struggling to come out of their half.
At the final whistle, a huge roar from the stands saluted the efforts of the Maltese players who once more had given their fans great cause of celebration after yet another impressive display that further rubberstamped the remarkable work carried out Mangia and his technical staff in the last 18 months.