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Resilient Malta undone by late Fountas strike as Greece rescue draw

Malta's Ryan Camenzuli (left) looks for an opening against Greece. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

MALTA            2

Degabriele 54; Teuma 64 pen.

GREECE           2

Bakasetas 40; Fountas 87

MALTA

H. Bonello, J. Borg (81 K. Micallef), R. Camenzuli, S. Borg (46 F. Apap), M. Guillaumier, J. Mbong (52 J. Corbalan), P. Mbong (81 B. Kristensen), E. Pepe, T. Teuma, J. Degabriele (81 A. Satariano), S. Dimech (81 J. Jones).

GREECE

A. Paschalakis, G. Tzavellas (46 K. Koulierakis), D. Pelkas (68 T. Fountas), A. Bakasetas (46 A. Bouchalakis), L. Rota, P. Hatzidiakos, P. Mantalos, D. Giannoulis (82 G. Kyriakopoulos), T. Chatzigiovanis, M. Siopis (80 S. Alexandropoulos), F. Ioannidis (68 A. Douvikas).

Referee Alain Duriex (Luxembourg).

Yellow cards J. Borg, Siopis, Mantalos, P. Mbong, Koulierakis.

A Taxiarchis Fountas goal four minutes from time denied Malta a famous victory as the Greeks fought back to claim a 2-2 draw in an international friendly at the National Stadium.

While there was a tinge of disappointment at the final whistle in seeing the team miss out on victory in the closing stages of the match, however, one cannot but not praise the spirit and character shown by our national team players.

In fact, despite holding the edge for much of the first half, it looked as though the game was taking a difficult turn for the home side when Anastasios Bakasetas fired the Greeks ahead five minutes from half-time.

But as happened last September in the 2-1 friendly win over Israel, that setback only fuelled more fire in the Maltese players who producing a storming comeback after the interval when they managed to turn the game in their favour with a well-taken goal scored by Jurgen Degabriele and a penalty converted by Teddy Teuma.

When it looked that the Maltese were inching closer towards a prestigious victory, the Greeks struck the equaliser through Fountas four minutes from time.

No doubt, this result continues to underline the progress being registered by the national team and special praise should reserved to the players, who despite the turmoil they passed through following the controversial departure of Devis Mangia, they kept their focus to secure another prestigious result.

Now, the team will look to complete their commitments for 2022 on a positive note when they face Ireland in another friendly at the National Stadium on Sunday.

Gilbert Agius, the Malta interim coach, handed a starting berth to Paul Mbong and Shaun Dimech, two players who had struggled for a regular spot in the team in recent months. But otherwise, the team feature the chore of the players that featured for his predecessor Devis Mangia.

Malta looked well organised in the opening exchanges with the team showing promising signs with their incursions from the flanks.

On ten minutes, the hosts missed a good chance when Joseph Mbong’s cross found Jurgen Degabriele but the Hibs forward failed to control the ball a couple of metres away from goal.

Three minutes later, Teddy Teuma surged forward with the ball and hit a low drive that just missed the upright.

The Greeks were trying to take control of the match but for all their possession they were rarely creating any danger to the Maltese defence, who was showing great tactical organisation.

When it looked that Malta were easily controlling their opponents, Greece grab the opener.

The clock marked 40 minutes when Anastasios Bakasetas seized possession just outsie the area and after taking two touches he let fly a stinging drive that gave no chance to Bonello.

The Greeks were now on top and a minute into the second half Bonello had to be alert to deny Fotios Ioannidis.

After bringing on Ferdinando Apap for Steve Borg on the restart, Agius was forced to make a second change on 52 minutes when Joseph Mbong pulled up injured and was replaced by Juan Corbalan.

But despite that setback the home side still managed to equalise two minutes. Matthew Guillaumier showed great vision in sending a vertical pass towards Jurgen Degabriele who kept his cool and fire the ball past Greece goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis.

Things got even better for Malta on 64 minutes when they were awarded a penalty when Andreas Bouchalakis handled Paul Mbong’s cross.

From the resultant penalty, Teuma kept his cool to drill the ball past Paschalakis.

The Greeks were now clearly frustrated with how the game was developing with Poyet roping in Taxiarchis Fountas and Anastasios Douvikas as he looked to inject more life to his team’s forward line.

The visitors were incensed on 76 minutes as they felt that they should have been awarded a penalty when the ball hit Teuma’s arm but the referee waved play on.

The Greeks kept pushing forward and Bonello came to his side’s rescue when he showed great reflexes to keep out Taxiarchis Fountas’ shot.

But the Greeks were not to be denied as they managed to draw level three minutes from time.

Kyriakopoulos sped clear on the left and his cross was deflected into the path of Fountas who rammed the ball past Bonello.

Fountas could have struck again in stoppage time but this time he saw his accrobatic shot tipped over by Bonello.

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