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Bugeja brace hands Tesse winning debut as Malta women national team coach

MALTA                                 2

Bugeja 35 pen,, 68

LUXEMBOURG                 1

Estevez 14 pen.


J. Xuereb; A. Said (46 R. Bajada), E. Lipman, S. Farrugia (62 C. Zammit), J. Flask (62 K. Willis), M. Farrugia (90 M. Sciberras), S. Zammit, B. Borg, E. Xuereb, N. Sciberras (46 D. Theuma), H. Bugeja (86 Y. Carabott).


L. Schlime; K. Dos Santos, A. Delgado, A. Machado, E. Fernandes (54 M. Lourenco), M. Soares (46 J. Lourenco), L. Miller, L. Schmit (61 A. Barbosa), C. Jorge, M. Estevez (80 Y. Lentz) , A. Thompson (79 L. Mateus).

Referee Maria Marotta.

Yellow card Delgado.

A goal in each half by Haley Bugeja handed a winning start for Manuela Tesse as coach of the Malta women’s national team.

The Italian tactician was in charge of her maiden game since taking over from previous coach Mark Gatt as 88th-ranked Malta was hosting Luxembourg (118th) in the first of two friendly games against the same opponent.

For Malta, this was their fifth win on seven meetings against Luxembourg, against whom they last played in 2013.

Under Tesse, Malta started in a 4-3-3 system with Emma Lipman captaining the squad. Upfront, Haley Bugeja and Maria Farrugia aided forward Jade Flask, the domestic league’s top scorer with 14 goals.

Malta came close to break the deadlock after just four minutes when Flask was at the end of a well-engineered positive transition just to see her effort go inches wide.

However, Luxembourg started to grow into the game and they were given a golden opportunity to forge ahead when Ann-Marie Said handed an opponent’s shot inside the penalty area.

Forward Marta Estevez made no mistake from the spot to put her nation in front after just 14 minutes.

Malta’s reply came through the feet of captain Lipman who fired a long-range shot but failed to hit the target.

Stephania Farrugia tried to tie the game with a towering header but goalkeeper Lucie Shlime was alert to avert the danger.

Malta managed to level terms through Bugeja. The Orlando Pride forward was tripped inside the penalty area, and converted from the spot to score her team’s first goal under coach Tesse.

Moments later, Malta almost turned the score to their favour when Bugeja teed up Flask but the Swieqi United forward saw her effort strike the woodwork.

Luxembourg produced the final chance of the half through scorer Estevez who tried to surprise Janice Xuereb with a freekick but the Birkirkara custodian was alert.

Lipman had a couple of efforts on goal from set-pieces but were in vain as Malta started to pile more pressure on their opponents.

After the change of ends, Tesse made two changes with the introduction of Rebecca Bajada and Dorianne Theuma. Bugeja had an effort on goal with a close-range header only to be denied by goalkeeper Schlime.

The Luxembourg defence put under pressure against Malta in a friendly at the Centenary Stadium. Photos: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Luxembourg replied through Caroline Jorge who let fly a freekick from the edge of the area but could not beat Xuereb.

Malta made their pressure count when Maria Farrugia whipped in a well-weighted cross on which Bugeja capitalised with a header to mark her second goal of the game.

In the closing stages of the game, Swieqi’s Mariah Sciberras was handed her senior debut.

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