Korovkina 45, Mashkova 47, Belomyttseva 88
A spirited display by the Malta women’s national was not enough to avoid a second defeat in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifications after losing 3-0 to Russia, at the Arena Khimki.
Despite the difference in the FIFA rankings – Russia are 24th and Malta 96th – the Maltese women managed to stage a solid showing against a side that is looking to return to a Women’s World Cup for the first time since 2003.
Patricia Ebejer started in goal in her first-ever cap on foreign soil with Nicole Sciberras alongside Birkirkara trio Charlene Zammit, Stephania Farrugia and Ann-Marie Said forming the backline.
Emma Lipman captained the side from the heart of the midfield, partnered by Shona Zammit.
Rachel Cuschieri, Maria Farrugia and Alishia Sultana aided Dorianne Theuma in the offensive department.
Russia, who will feature in next summer’s UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, were at the back of two straight wins after beating Azerbaijan and Montenegro and were striving to secure another win to extend their perfect start to the group.
As expected, Russia started to dictate proceedings from the start in search for an early lead.
Nadezhda Smirnova threatened first with a close-range effort but failed to hit the target from inside the penalty area.
Moments later, winger Yana Sheina tried her luck but Ebejer was alert to avert the danger. The Maltese goalkeeper was forced into action again when she denied Marina Fedorova from inside the area.
Despite defending for the majority of the time, the Maltese team was still managing to catch their opponents on the break, forcing Russia’s goalkeeper into action from a corner-kick situation as well.
Alina Andreeva had a curling effort that went wide as Russia were trying to bank more on their shooting abilities rather than their trademark play that was not paying dividends.
But that change in first-half stoppage time when Nelli Korovkina latched onto a well-weighted long ball from Fedorova before slotting past Ebejer.
Malta did not have the pleasant of starts to the second half as Russia doubled the score moments after the restart.
Kristina Mashkova pounced on a loose ball and from point-blank range extended her team’s lead.
Korovkina had another attempt on goal but her first-timer sailed over the bar as the Russians were looking to wrap up the three points.
On the 68th minute, Ebejer came to Malta’s rescue when she kept out Ekaterina Pantyukhina’s effort.
In the latter stages of the came, Malta were looking to inch up their way on the field with Rachel Cuschieri also trying her luck with a long-range shot but could not find the target.
In the closing minutes, Anna Belomyttseva struck a third when she headed the ball over goalkeeper Ebejer.
Malta will now travel to Baku where they will face 78th-ranked Azerbaijan, next Tuesday.
RUSSIA: E. Todua; A. Kozhnikova, A. Andreeva (73 M. Chernomyrdina), A. Abdullina, N. Smirnova (81 L. Yakupova), K. Mashkova, A. Belomyttseva, Y. Sheina (73 N. Perepechina), M. Fedorova (61 E. Pantyukina), N. Korovkina (82 N. Mashina), V. Kozlova.
MALTA: P. Ebejer; A. Said, E. Lipman, S. Farrugia, D. Theuma (61 B. Borg), R. Cuschieri, A. Sultana (83 E. Xuereb), M. Farrugia (61 J. Flask), S. Zammit, C. Zammit, N. Sciberras.
Referee: Miriama Matulova (Slovakia).