R. Schon, M. Chanot (65 F. Lohei), F. Bohnert (86 D. Jonathans), C. Martins, G. Rodrigues, D. Carlson, Y. Borges (75 D. Sinani), L. Jans, L. Martins, M. Olesen, T. Rupil (65 A. Curci).
H. Bonello, R. Camenzuli, S. Borg, M. Guillaumier, J. Mbong (76 J. Corbalan), J. Grech (46 B. Kristensen), L. Montebello (46 K. Nwoko), J. Jones, Y. Yankam, Z. Muscat, F. Apap (82 J. Borg).
Yellow cards Grech, Rupil, Borg, Muscat, Curci.
Kyrian Nwoko came off the bench to hand Michele Marcolini his first win as Malta national teams’ head coach as his second-half goal earned the side a 1-0 win in Luxembourg.
It was a game of two facets with the hosts dominating much of the first half as they pegged the Maltese into their own half but despite Luxembourg created several scoring opportunities they could not find a way past the excellent Henry Bonello in the Malta goal.
But after the break, Marcolini brought on Nwoko and midfielder Bjorn Kristensen and these changes coupled with some tactical tweaks helped the team to take control of the match.
Malta’s improvement was rewarded midway through the second half when Nwoko pounced to head home the winner to hand Marcolini his first win since replacing Devis Mangia in December.
The result will no doubt be a huge injection of confidence for the Maltese team particularly ahead of the upcoming Euro 2024 double header against England, at the National Stadium, on Friday and the trip to Slovakia to face Ukraine on June 19.
Marcolini handed a start to defender Zach Muscat who partnered Steve Borg and Ferdinando Apap in a three-man defence while upfront Luke Montebello and Jodi Jones were both given the nod to lead the team’ forward line.
The first half maintained the same script with the home side dominating possession with their slick passing, with the visitors waiting patiently to try and break with swift attacking moves.
It was the home side who came close to an opener after seven minutes of play when Jason Rodrigues was given time and space to hit a rasping drive that was brilliantly pushed away by goalkeeper Henry Bonello.
Malta managed to respond four minutes later when Joseph Mbong picked his club team-mate Luke Montebello inside the area but the Ħamrun forward miscued his attempted scissors kick, with the ball finishing wide.
From then on, it was all Luxembourg who on 20 minutes Christoper Martins connected to Timothe Rupil delivery from a free-kick but head the ball just wide.
The Maltese were struggling to come out of their half and ten minutes from half-time the hosts had the best chance of the half.
Gerson Rodrigues was teed up by Ruptil and his firm drive came off the bar with Bonello beaten.
After the break, Marcolini made two changes as Kyrian Nwoko replaced Montebello while Bjorn Kristensen was brought on for Jake Grech to add more steel to the team’s engine room.
Luxembourg continued to hold the initiative on the restart and on 56 minutes Gerson Rodrigues hit a powerful drive that flew just wide.
Malta finally came close on 56 minutes when Jodi Jones tried to surprise reserve goalkeeper Tiago Pereira Dos Santos from a free-kick but his shot was pushed away by the Luxembourg custodian.
From the resultant corner, taken by Matthew Guillaumier, Zach Muscat saw his header coming off the upright before the hosts cleared.
Pereira Dos Santos denied Jones when the English-based midfielder curled in another free-kick but the young goalkeeper deflected to a corner.
But the visitors struck on 65 minutes when from a Guillaumier corner-kick, Nwoko unmarked himself to send a powerful header into the net.
Malta continued to threaten and with 14 minutes to go, Jones sped into space but his angled drive flashed wide.
Eight minutes from time, Marcolini was forced to make a change as Ferdinando Apap suffered an injury following a high tackle by substitute Alessio Curci, and was replaced by Jean Borg.
Three minutes from time Bonello did well to preserve his team’s lead when he dived to his right to keep out a shot from substitute David Jonathans.
The team had a tough finale after the referee ordered six minutes of stoppage time but the Maltese held on for a very important win ahead of a crucial week ahead.
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