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Robinson punishes Malta to hand Ireland win

Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello (right) rises to collect the ball against Ireland. Photo: Domenic Aquilina/MFA

MALTA              0

IRELAND           1

Robinson 53

MALTA H. Bonello, J. Borg, R. Camenzuli, F. Apap (73 K. Shaw), M. Guillaumier, J. Mbong, E. Pepe, A. Satariano (73 L. Montebello), T. Teuma (88 K. Nwoko), B. Kristensen (21 D. Vella) (51 S. Pisani), J. Jones (68 L. Gambin).

IRELAND C. Kelleher, S. Coleman, M. Doherty, J. Egan, J. Cullen, C. Robinson (85 M. Sykes), A. Browne (66 J. Hendrick), J. McClean (66 C. O’Dowda), N. Collins, J. McGrath, C. Ogbene (76 E. Ferguson).

Referee C. Theouli (Cyprus).

Yellow cards Collins, Pepe.

Callum Robinson exploited a rare defensive error by the Malta defence to hand Ireland a 1-0 win in an international friendly at the National Stadium on Sunday.

It was a disappointing outcome to a match that had seen the national team forced into defending for long stretches but still managed to create some good scoring opportunities and with better decision-making, they could have breached their opponents’ defence.

However, in the end, the match was decided early in the second half when a poor back pass from Matthew Guillaumier was fully exploited by Callum Robinson who fired home Ireland’s winner.

Despite the negative outcome, there were still many positives to take from this week’s international window, which has seen the team come close to upsetting Greece last week.

The team has shown a lot of confidence with the ball in their feet and created several scoring opportunities despite facing more-quoted opposition. That certainly bodes well ahead of next year’s Euro 2024 qualifiers which will pit the team against some of Europe’s powerhouses such as England and Italy.

Gilbert Agius, the Malta interim coach, made four changes from the team that performed so well in the 2-2 draw against Greece last week, as Ferdinando Apap replaced Steve Borg while Bjorn Kristensen was preferred to Paul Mbong while Jodi Jones started ahead of Shaun Dimech. Upfront Alex Satariano led the attack at the expense of Jurgen Degabriele.

As expected, it was the Irish who were conducting proceedings with their high-tempo game.

But the first real chance came Malta’s way after 12 minutes when in a quick raid, Alex Satariano fed Jones on the edge of the area, but the Oxford forward’s shot was too central to beat Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher.

Agius was forced to make his first change after 20 minutes when Kristensen pulled out injured and was replaced by Hibs team-mate Dunstan Vella.

Statistics provided by Sofascore.com

On 28 minutes, the hosts were almost punished when Teuma lost possession cheaply on the edge of the area and Jamie McGrath’s shot flew just wide.

The Irish were continuing to dominate the match with their long spells of possession as the Maltese struggled to keep hold of the ball and were too erratic in their passing.

Ireland’s best chance came on 44 minutes when from McGrath’s cross the ball fell to Matt Doherty who played in Alan Browne who, luckily for the hosts, failed to conclude with only Bonello to beat.

Ireland were regaled with the opening goal seven minutes into the second half.

Matthew Guillaumier miscued his backpass towards goalkeeper Bonello with Callum Robinson intercepting the ball and cooly slotting the ball into an empty net.

Malta’s response arrived on 68 minutes when Ryan Camenzuli fed substitute Steve Pisani who moved past his marker and his low shot was saved by Kelleher.

Ireland were coasting and four minutes from time, substitute Callum O’Dowda went agonisingly close to grabbing a second goal when sped clear but his low drive came off the upright with Bonello beaten.

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