H. Bonello, R. Camenzuli, S. Borg, A. Agius (42 Z. Muscat), M. Guillaumier, J. Mbong, B. Paiber (80 B. Paiber), A. Satariano (87 S. Pisani), T. Teuma, J. Degabriele (64 L. Montebello), J. Borg (87 F. Apap).
S. Agayev, G. Garayev, A. Salahli, M. Medvedev (77 R. Dadasov), H. Hagverdi, E. Makhmudov, R. Sheydaev (A. Seydiyev), A. Huseynov (64 D. Nazarov), Eddy, F. Ozobic (76T. Bayramov), A. Isaev (64 B. Huseynov).
Referee Cesar Soto Grado (Spain).
Yellow cards Haghverdi, Nazarov.
The Malta national team opened their commitments in 2022 in positive fashion when they edged past Azerbaijan in a friendly international at the National Stadium.
Jurgen Degabriele turned out to be Malta’s matchwinner as the Hibernians forward fired home the winner early in the second half to hand the home side a deserved victory over the Azeris.
It was a convincing performance from Devis Mangia’s team who were on top for much of the match and should have scored a much more pronounced victory had they taken the chances they created.
In fact, the red-shirted players played some slick attacking football against the former Soviet Republic and it had to be some excellent interventions from Azerbaijan goalkeeper Salahat Agayev that denied them from adding more goals to their tally.
Malta’s performance was a fitting farewell to Andrei Agius who yesterday bid farewell to international football.
After such an encouraging display, the Maltese fans will now look forward to Tuesday’s warm-up against Kuwait where one hopes Mangia’s team continues to build on all the positives put on display yesterday.
Prior to kick-off, Malta Football Association president Bjorn Vassallo presented a memento to defender Andrei Agius who was making his 103rd and final appearance for Malta.
Agius played in a back three that featured Steve Borg and Jean Borg.
Coach Mangia handed a starting berth midfielder Brandon Paiber and Jurgen Degabriele, the Hibernians forward, who played in a three-pronged attack alongside Joseph Mbong and Alex Satariano, who is on the books of Pergolettese.
Malta started brightly and after four minutes Joseph Mbong stole possession and quickly served Satariano who instead of serving the unmarked Degabriele tried to do it alone but his effort was deflected to a corner.
Three minutes later, it was Agius who came close to putting his name on the scoresheet when the Hibs midfielder was picked by Teddy Teuma and his first-time volley was pushed over by Azeri goalkeeper Salahat Agayev.
The home side remained the more dangerous and on 15 minutes Satariano did well to steal possession from Salahli on the right flank and quickly sent a low cross towards Ryan Camenzuli who saw his effort blocked by Abbas Huseynov.
Agius had another shot at goal on 25 minutes but his inswinger finished over.
It was all Malta so far and on 31 minutes Mbong found Satariano who saw his shot deflected just wide.
Agius’ participation came to an end on 42 minutes when he was replaced by Zach Muscat. The Hibs defender was given a standing ovation from all present at the stadium.
Malta should have taken the lead on the stroke of half-time when Camenzuli sent a low cross towards Degabriele who saw his close-range shot coming off the upright with the opposing goalkeeper beaten.
Malta kept up their momentum on the restart and on 48 minutes Satariano did well to pick the unmarked Paiber who shot straight into the hands of Agayev.
Azerbaijan came close to score an opener two minutes later when Ramil Sheydaev saw his deflected shot kiss the upright with Bonello beaten.
The home side continued spurn chances with Satariano heading over from close in on 53 minutes.
Malta’s pressure finally was rewarded with an opener on 55 minutes when Teddy Teuma’s throughball put Degabriele clear and the Hibs striker drilled the ball past Agayev.
Just past the hour mark, Malta had the opportunity to double their lead when Guillaumier found Mbong in space and the Ħamrun winger turned past his marker, but his shot flashed wide.
Luke Montebello, who had just replaced Degabriele, almost left an instant impact when he was put clear by Teuma’s back-heel but the Birkirkara forward fired wide.
Thirteen minutes from time, Paiber had another opportunity to find the opponents’ net when he was well picked by Montebello but headed straight into the hands of Agayev.
The hosts remained the better side and eight minutes from time Teuma found Satariano in space but the young forward was denied by the Azeri goalkeeper.