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Winning start for Malta in VisitMalta Women’s Trophy

The Malta women's national team saw off Moldova at the Tony Bezzina Stadium. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

MALTA         3

Zammit 33; Flask 46; Bugeja (73).

MOLDOVA    1

Mardari 44

Two second-half goals propelled the Malta women’s national team to an opening 3-1 victory against Moldova in the VisitMalta Women’s Trophy at the Tony Bezzina Stadium.

Charlene Zammit, who was captaining the side on her 82nd cap, had opened the score before Moldova levelled terms just before the half-time whistle.

Nonetheless, goals from Jade Flask and Haley Bugeja helped the hosts to kickstart this tournament on a positive note. 

For this game, coach Mark Gatt handed youth goalkeeper Maya Cachia her maiden start between the sticks together with Mġarr United defender Maia Debono who was also making her first appearance at international level.

Midfielder Shona Zammit, who was in the starting formation, was collecting her 60th cap with the women’s selection.

Meanwhile, coach Gatt is one game away from setting a record of his own after matching previous coach Pierre Brincat with 59 games in charge of the women’s national team. 

Malta defender Ann-Marie Said registered the first chance of the game after letting fly a strike from the edge of the area which glanced past Moldova’s goal.

Moments later, Malta produced another opportunity when Haley Bugeja darted into the area but fired wide. 

 Gatt’s team continued to inch their way up the field but could not make their pressure count, even when Shona Zammit tried her luck from long-range as she failed to hit the target. 

 Moldova goalkeeper Natalia Munteanu was forced into action when wingback Nicole Sciberras struck a low drive but the Moldovan custodian was alert to avert the danger.

On 25 minutes, Rachel Cuschieri combined with Maria Farrugia and the former attempted another long-range effort which was once again blocked by the Moldova custodian. 

Malta managed to open the score on the 32nd minute when Cuschieri whipped in a cross that struck the crossbar before dropping onto captain Charlene Zammit who slotted into an empty net.

 The hosts remained the better team on the field but Moldova managed to level terms against the run of play.

Daniela Mardari capitalised on a flipper inside the penalty area to beat her Crotone Femminile team-mate Maya Cachia just before half-time.

At the restart, Malta immediately pulled ahead when substitute Jade Flask headed home another Cuschieri assist for her sixth international goal.

Haley Bugeja celebrates after scoring Malta’s third goal against Moldova. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Moldova had the chance to cancel Malta’s lead once again when they were awarded a penalty after a Flask foul inside the box.

Nonetheless, Irina Topal’s shot from the spot sailed over the bar to the relief of the Maltese team.

The Moldovans paid dearly for this miss as minutes later Bugeja embarked on a solo run and slot the ball home from her seventh international goal. 

In the closing stages of the game, Malta could have extended the lead through the likes of Brenda Borg, Dorianne Theuma, Cuschieri and Ylenia Carabott who all their chances but could not convert them into goals.  

Malta host 78th-ranked Morocco in next Saturday’s second and final game of the tournament. 

MALTA: M. Cachia; A. Said, R. Cuschieri, A. Sultana (78 Y. Carabott), M. Borg (46 D. Theuma), M. Farrugia (46 B. Borg), S. Zammit (46 J. Flask), C. Zammit, M. Debono (67 J. Dimech), N. Sciberras (82 J. Schembri), H. Bugeja. 

MOLDOVA: N. Munteanu (35 E. Dumic); E. Railean, A. Sivolobova, M. Violeta, M. Burdeniuc (46 C. Doiban), N. Colesnicenco, I. Topal, C. Tabur (65 V. Cojuhari), A. Chirica (75 S. Tez), D. Mardari, C. Chipher. 

Referee: Olivia Tschon (Austria FA).

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