Thomsen 6, Holdt 7
A solid Malta women side went down fighting against giants Denmark in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier at the Centenary Stadium.
Denmark, ranked 15th in the world, are looking to qualify for their first-ever World Cup since the 2007 edition and were tipped to win big in this game. In the reverse fixture, Denmark had won 7-0 in Viborg.
Nonetheless, the Maltese women, ranked 94th, staged a superb display where they executed their tactical plan to perfection, with Denmark scoring both goals only in the first minutes of the game.
This was a disciplined performance that bodes well for the future of the team.
For this game, which was Malta’s 60th on home soil, coach Mark Gatt handed 22-year-old Jodie Attard her competitive debut between the sticks. The Swieqi United goalkeeper has only two caps, both collected in 2017 in the friendlies against Lithuania and the United Arab Emirates.
Forming the team’s central defensive pairing were experienced Charlene Zammit alongside Jessica Dimech, on her first competitive start after already being given the nod during February’s VisitMalta Tournament.
Nicole Sciberras, on her 30th international cap, and Ann-Marie Said were the fullbacks with captain Emma Lipman marshalling the defensive line from the midfield.
Shona Zammit, Rachel Cuschieri, Maria Farrugia and Brenda Borg composed the second line of four with Dorianne Theuma at the top of the formation.
On the other hand, Denmark were missing some important players in stalwart Pernille Harder of Chelsea and Manchester United’s Signe Bruun.
Nonetheless, coach Lars Sondergaard could bank on the likes of Arsenal’s Simone Boye –captaining the side, West Ham United’s Emma Snerle, Sofie Pedersen of Juventus, and Real Madrid’s Sofie Svava.
Denmark opened a two-goal lead inside the first 10 minutes through Janni Thomsen’s close-range in the sixth minute and an Olivia Holdt thumping volley a minute later.
Malta were forced to replace Farrugia on 18 minutes after the Sunderland Ladies player picked up an injury. Swieqi United player Emma Xuereb replaced her on the left-hand side.
Denmark’s next chance dropped onto the feet of Svava whose freekick was stopped by Jodie Attard, in the 22nd minute.
The Danes almost found a third when Stine Larsen pounced on a loose ball, dribbled Attard but failed to capitalise in front of an empty net as her strike hit the woodwork.
It was Stine Ballisager’s turn to try and find the next goal for Denmark but her towering header was blocked by Malta’s custodian.
Attard blocked Kathrine Kuhl’s effort on the goal line as a spirited Malta entered the first half trailing by two goals.
Denmark came close to extending their lead but Kuhl’s curling effort struck the woodwork as the Danes came out from the half-time interval eyeing more goals.
Thomsen squandered another opportunity from close range when her low drive went inches wide from Attard’s goal.
Midway into the second half, Denmark bolstered their offensive line with the introduction of Real Madrid’s Caroline Moller and Milan’s Sara Thrige.
Moments later, Attard came to the rescue for Malta when she denied a Snerle effort from inside the penalty area.
Substitute Ylenia Carabott let fly a strike but failed to hit the target.
In the closing stages, Raiders Lija’s forward Leah Ayres was handed her international debut after coming on for a relentless Dorianne Theuma.
Malta will wrap up its international window with a friendly against Italy U-23’s. The game will be held on Tuesday at the Centenary Stadium, with an early kick-off (11am).
MALTA: J. Attard; N. Sciberras, J. Dimech, C. Zammit, A. Said, M. Farrugia (18 E. Xuereb) (74 Y. Carabott), R. Cuschieri, E. Lipman, S. Zammit, B. Borg, D. Theuma (86 L. Ayres).
DENMARK: K. Larsen; S. Ballisager, S. Boye (61 L. Gewitz), O. Holdt (61 R. Madsen), E. Snerle (74 E. Snerle), K. Veje, S. Larsen (61 C. Moller), S. Pedersen, K. Kuhl, J. Thomsen, S. Svava (61 S. Thrige).
Referee: Kristina Georgieva (Bulgaria FA). Yellow cards: Dimech, Said.
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