Bulatovic 13; Kuc 15
J. Xuereb, S. Farrugia, C. Zammit, N. Sciberras (57 V. Mifsud), G. Zahra (46 E. Xuereb), E. Lipman, R. Cuschieri, S. Zammit, M. Farrugia, H. Bugeja (46 J. Flask), K. Willis (46 D. Theuma).
I. Cabarkapa, M. Radunovic (86 A. Janjusevic), M. Saranovic, M. Maras (69 A. Popovic), S. Bulatovic, A. Toskovic, N.Stanovic (87 E. Boznjak), J. Karlicic (72 R. Kocanovic), A. Kuc, H. Bozic, D. Dukic.
Referee Alex Johnson.
Yellow cards Bozic, Dukic, Stanovic, Saranovic.
Two early goals from Montenegro helped them overcome Malta’s challenge in the first international friendly between the two sides at the Centenary Stadium.
Quick-fire goals from captain Sladja Bulatovic and Armisa Kuc in the opening part of the first half handed the initiative to Montenegro.
Shona Zammit’s goal handed Malta a lifeline to salvage a positive result. Nonetheless, Malta’s efforts were in vain as Montenegro managed to preserve their narrow lead to take victory home.
For this game, coach Mark Gatt deployed Janice Xuereb between the sticks with Gabriella Zahra, Stephania Farrugia, Charlene Zammit and Nicole Sciberras – making her 20th appearance – forming the backline.
Emma Lipman marshalled the backline as a defensive midfielder whereas Rachel Cuschieri and Shona Zammit completed the midfield department.
Upfront, Gatt started with Haley Bugeja, who was collecting her 10th cap and Maria Farrugia, with forward Kailey Willis making her debut.
Malta registered the first chance of the game when Haley Bugeja dribbled past a couple of opponents before trying her luck from the edge of the area but failed to hit the target.
However, it was Montenegro who forged ahead when Armisa Kuc whipped in a cross from the right flank on which captain Sladjana Bulatovic capitalised past Janice Xuereb.
A couple of minutes later, Montenegro doubled the lead through Kuc, who unmarked inside the penalty area, slotted past the Malta goalkeeper.
Montenegro’s two goals came as a cold shower for the Maltese side who were struggling to settle down and impose their game.
Malta’s reaction came through Stephania Farrugia whose towering header from a corner-kick sailed over the bar.
The hosts managed to pull one back on the 24th minute when Shona Zammit let fly a shot from the edge area that stunned the Montenegro custodian as the Maltese were looking for a lifeline back into the game.
Montenegro’s centre back Mara Saranovic tried her luck from a free-kick that went wide as the away side was looking to restore its two-goal lead in the first half.
At the restart, Malta coach Gatt roped in Emma Xuereb, Jade Flask and Dorianne Theuma.
The hosts were still looking for some inspiration and Farrugia almost found herself in front of the goalkeeper but could not finish.
The Sunderland Ladies player threatened again in the 66th minute when she darted into the box before hitting a shot that flew wide.
Montenegro captain Bulatovic almost netted her team’s third when she tried to lob the ball from the final third but Xuereb was alert to avert the danger.
Theuma tried her trademark free-kick which sailed over the bar as Malta stepped up their ante in the final 10 minutes of the game. However, Montenegro’s resilience proved difficult to breakdown as they emerged winners from this game.
Malta will host Montenegro in the final warm up next Sunday, at the Centenary Stadium (kick-off: 18.30).
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