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Estonia punish sluggish Malta with late winner to seize control in promotion race

MALTA               1

Hein 56 og

ESTONIA           2

Vassiljev 21; Anier 90

Malta

H. Bonello, R. Camenzuli, S. Borg, M. Guillaumier (79 D. Vella), J. Mbong, J. Degabriele (79 L. Gambin), B. Paiber, E. Pepe, A. Satariano (67 L. Montebello), T. Teuma, J. Borg (84 Z. Muscat).

Estonia

K. Hein, M. Kait, M. Soomets, E. Sorga (59 H. Anier), K. Vassiljev (90 M. Miller), M. Paskotsi, J. Tamm, R. Kirss (59 S. Zenjov), K. Mets, K. Kallaste, T. Teniste.

Referee Robert Madden (Scotland FA).

Yellow cards Kait, Guillaumier, Zenjov.

Missed penalty: Teuma (M) 16.

Malta’s hopes of winning promotion in the UEFA nations League suffered a huge blow last night as a Henri Anier goal in stoppage time handed Estonia a crucial 2-1 win at the National Stadium.

It was a disappointing outcome to a match which had seen Malta battle back bravely to level a match which had looked to have taken a difficult twist when the team found themselves behind midway through the second half.

But poor defending in the closing stages of the match was severely punished by the Estonians who scored a crucial victory.

The Maltese players will surely have a recriminations from a match that could have started so well when the home side were awarded a penalty on 16 minutes only for Teddy Teuma to see his effort from the spot saved by Karl Hein.

Then proceedings at the National Stadium took a turn for the worse as Malta soon found themselves a goal behind to a Konstantin Vassiljev strike.

That goal hit hard the Maltese who looked second best for the rest of the half with the home fans growing increasingly anxious on what they were seeing.

But after the break, the Maltese looked a re-energised lot and their efforts were rewarded with a somewhat fortuitous equaliser that came from a hash clearance from Hein that deviated Degabriele’s cross into the net and Malta were on course to at least take a point.

But all that was thrown away in the dying moments of the match when the Estonians punished some sluggish passing play from the Maltese players to fire home the winner that puts them well in control of the group.

In fact, Estonia now lead the way on six points and will surely fancy their chances of sealing promotion if they beat San Marino and avoid defeat against in their final match in Tallinn next September.

Malta national teams head coach Devis Mangia brought in wingback Ryan Camenzuli and midfielder Teddy Teuma into his starting formation after they both missed the 2-0 win over San Marino in Serravalle on Sunday.

Camenzuli started ahead of Adam Magri Overend who was not included in the 23-man squad while Teuma was preferred to Dunstan Vella who started on the bench.

Right from kick off, Estonia started strongly as they started to press high up the pitch with the Maltese defence managing to withstand the visitors’ early pressure.

However, it was Malta who had a huge chance to take the lead on 15 minutes when from a Jurgen Degabriele corner kick Estonia’s Taijo Teniste looked to have handled the ball in attempt to clear the ball.

The referee initially waved play on but after protests from the home players he was called by the VAR officials to review the action and he duly ordered the penalty.

Teddy Teuma stepped up for the penalty but the Royal Union Gilloise midfielder saw his shot saved by Estonia goalkeeper Karl Hein.

Malta paid dearly for this miss as the Estonians quickly regained commad of play and on 21 minutes they took the lead.

Konstantin Vassiljev picked up possession on the edge of the area and hit a rasping drive that gave no chance to Bonello.

The Maltese players looked stunned by this setback as they looked short of ideas when pushing forward making life easier for the visitors to defend their fort.

Seven minutes from the break, Ryan Camenzuli did well to create space for himself on the edge area but his shot was blocked by an Estonian defender.

A minute from half-time, Bonello came to Malta’s rescue when he did well to keep out Mattias Kait’s shot.

On the restart, the Maltese players started to show more energy in their play and on 46 minutes Camenzuli had another effort that this time finished wide.

Two minutes later, Teuma found Mbong in space on the edge of the area but his effort just missed the upright.

Malta looked much better in the second half and on 55 minutes Teuma played in Degabriele who was denied by the onrushing Hein.

But the Hibernians striker had the last laugh over the Estonian goalkeeper as from the ensuing corner, the nippy striker’s delivery was diverted into his own goal by Hein.

Mangia effected his first change on 69 minutes when Luke Montebello came on for Satariano.

When it looked as though the match would finish in a draw, in the third minute of stoppage time Steve Borg was dispossessed by Sergei Zenjov who turned past Bonello before sending a low cross towards Henri Anier who tapped the ball into an empty net.

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