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Lacklustre Malta lose narrowly to Rondon’s Venezuela

Malta's Matthew Guillaumier moves towards goal against Venezuela. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

MALTA 0

VENEZUELA 1

Rondon 34

MALTA

J. Galea; R. Camenzuli, M. Guillaumier (46 D. Vella), J. Grech (64 L. Gambin), P. Mbong (64 L. Montebello), E. Pepe (46 S. Borg), K. Micallef (84 M. Veselji), T. Teuma, J. Brown, M. Garcia (77 J. Busuttil), Z. Muscat. 

VENEZUELA

W. Farinez; N. Ferraresi, Y. Osorio (77 T. Rincon), J. Chancellor, Y. Herrera (86 J. Martinez), Y. Soteldo, J. Murillo (46 A. Penaranda), E. Bello (80 C. Casseres) , S. Rondon (80 F. Aristeguieta), Y. Cumana, C. Lerotonda (77 R. Rosales). 

Referee K. Tohver (Estonia FA). 

Yellow cards Pepe, Camenzuli, Chancellor, Brown, Cumana, Ferraresi.  

A first-half goal from Salomon Rondon was enough for Venezuela to secure a narrow victory over Malta in an international friendly at the National Stadium.

The South Americans lived up to their expected standards and produced an inspiring performance even though the result does not reflect their territorial superiority and the number of attempts they had – 13 with five on target.

For the Maltese, this served as a test ahead of the Nations League campaign that will be launched this Sunday with an away game at San Marino.

Venezuela’s physical superiority and aggressiveness made it difficult for Malta to impose their game which resulted in the home nation not recording a single shot on goal. 

As expected, coach Devis Mangia gave the nod to some new faces and other players who are looking for more playing time on the international stage. 

Floriana captain Matias Garcia, who has just obtained the Maltese passport, was deployed as a central midfielder next to Matthew Guillaumier – captain for the game.

Garcia’s presence allowed Teddy Teuma to play in an advanced position next to Paul Mbong and Jake Grech. 

Mangia handed also a debut to right wingback James Brown of Scotland’s St Johnstone. 

Jake Galea, who has just parted ways with Balzan, was between the sticks with Ħamrun Spartans’ Karl Micallef collecting his seventh cap in the backline, together with Birkirkara’s Enrico Pepe and Zach Muscat who has just won Portugal’s top-flight promotion with Casa Pia. 

Coached by highly-experienced Jose Pekerman, Venezuela put on a strong starting formation including captain Salomon Rondon of Everton, former Brescia Jhon Chancellor and Yeferson Soteldo, former Sebastian Giovinco’s replacement at Toronto FC.

Venezuela’s talisman Rondon gave a warning sign to the Maltese backline early in the game, when he fired a shot which was blocked by goalkeeper Jake Galea. 

Moments later, Eduard Bello tried his luck from a freekick which was diverted into a corner by the Malta custodian.

Bello was the protagonist again with a low drive from the edge of the area just to see his effort sail over the bar. 

Venezuela forged ahead through Rondon when he met a Soteldo whipping cross from the half-space and guided it past Galea. 

On the brink of half-time, Venezuela almost doubled their lead through Yordan Osorio but his towering header went wide from goal. 

After the interval, Malta coach Mangia started to affect some changes to his team including offensive players Luke Gambin, Luke Montebello and Jan Busuttil who all came on the pitch. 

However, the Reds could not find an inspiration to try and threaten Venezuela.

The South Americans, on their part, continued to pile the pressure on the Maltese in search of a second but they could not make their pressure count.

In the closing stages of the game, Mangia put on Mattia Veselji as the Floriana forward was making his senior debut. 

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