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Harsh penalty condemns Malta to 1-0 defeat against Ukraine in Trnava

UKRAINE        1

Tsygankov 71 pen.

MALTA           0


A. Trubin, Y. Konoplia, S. Kryvtsov, I. Zabarnyi, M. Matviyenko (46 V. Mykolenko), A. Yarmolenko (80 S. Sydorchuk),  T. Stepanenko, R. Malinoskyi (63 V. Buyalskiy), G. Sudakov, V. Tsygankov (90 Svatok), V. Vanat (63 A. Dovbyk).


H. Bonello (45 M. Grech), J. Borg, S. Borg, Z. Muscat, R. Camenzuli, T. Teuma (87 J. Grech), M. Guillaumier, Y. Yankam, J. Mbong (87 J. Degabriele), K. Nwoko (46 A. Satariano), J. Jones (66 S. Dimech).

Yellow cards: J. Borg, Malinovskiy, Vanat, S. Borg.

Viktor Tysgankov converted a highly-debatable penalty to hand Ukraine a 1-0 win over Malta in a Euro 2024 qualifier in Slovakia, on Monday.

It was a harsh result on Michele Marcolini’s team who showed remarkable improvement from last week’s 4-0 defeat to England at the National Stadium.

Although they were facing another high-quality opponent in Ukraine, the Maltese players showed little fear as they played a very good match which saw them not only defend well for much of the match but always tried to push forward each time they had the opportunity and create several chances.

In fact, the Maltese players must have left the pitch thinking what might have been had Jodi Jones taken his opportunity in the first half when the score was still locked at 0-0 as no doubt it would have changed the course of the match.

After the break, the Ukrainians stepped up a gear but could not find a way past Matthew Grech, who had replaced the injured Henry Bonello in the second half.

In fact, the Ukrainians looked set for a disappointing evening when Yarmolenko had seen his effort from a penalty hitting the bar.

But then 20 minutes from time, the Ukrainians were handed a second penalty for a highly-disputed foul committed by Jean Borg on Yarmolenko, who looked to have dived, and Tsyganov kept his cool to score the winner that lifted Ukraine in second place in Group C on six points, three clear of Italy but the latter have played a game less.

Malta remain bottom of the group with no points, but Marcolini will surely be heartened by what was without doubt the team’s best performance in the group so far.

Marcolini made three changes for Monday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine in Trnava as Jean Borg, Ryan Camenzuli and Yannick Yankam were handed a starting berth after they had started on the bench against England last week.

Jean Borg was drafted into the three-man defence as he replaced Ferdinando Apap, who started on the bench.

On the other hand, Ryan Camenzuli was back on the right flank at the expense of Cain Attard while Yannick Yankam was brought in to run the team’s engine room alongside Teddy Teuma and Matthew Guillaumier who were both confirmed by the Italian coach.

Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov has decided to drop Chelsea winger Mykhailo Mudryk and bring in Ruslan Malinovskiy, who is on the books of Serie A side Atalanta.

Vladyslav Vanat was given the nod to lead the team’s forward line at the expense of Artem Dovbyk.

Rebrov also made two changes to his backline as he brought on Yukhym Konoplia and Serhiy Kryvstov at the expense of Oleksander Tymchk and Everton’s Vitaliy Mykolenko.

As expected, Ukraine started on the front foot and after four minutes Vladyslav Vanat picked up a short rebound and his shot was somehow kept out by Bonello. Yarmolenko was first on the rebound but was denied by the sliding Zach Muscat.

Malta tried to respond and on ten minutes Jodi Jones’s shot was easily saved by Anatoliy Trubin, the Ukraine goalkeeper.

Ukraine should have taken the lead on 15 minutes when Viktor Tysganov raced past Zach Muscat and his cross picked the unmarked Vanat who incredibly fired wide with Bonello beaten.

On 22 minutes, Teuma came close but his deflected shot just missed the upright.

Jones should have put Malta ahead on 24 minutes when the England-based forward picked up a short rebound from inside the area but incredibly volleyed just wide with only Ukraine goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin to beat.

On the stroke of half-time, Marcolini lost goalkeeper Henry Bonello to a hand injury and was replaced by Matthew Grech who was making his first senior appearance for the national team.

Grech was soon called into action to keep out Malinovskiy’s shot and from the rebound, Vanat heads the ball into the path of Tysgankov who pushes the ball into the net. But the ‘goal’ is ruled out for an offside position of Vanat.

On the restart, Marcolini withdrew Nwoko and roped in Alex Satariano to infuse more energy into his team’s forward line.

Ukraine started the second half on the front foot and five minutes into the second half Grech failed to hold the ball after a backpass from Teuma, the ball fell to Stepanenko who saw his effort blocked by Jean Borg’s arm.

The referee, after the intervention of VAR, pointed to the spot but Yarmolenko’s effort hit the bar.

Malta had another excellent chance on the hour when Teuma picked Yannick Yankam inside the area but the Birkirkara midfielder’s shot was saved by Trubin.

Ukraine were awarded a second penalty 20 minutes from time when Jean Borg was harshly adjudged to have fouled Yarmolenko inside the area, and the referee pointed to the spot.

This time, Tsygankov kept his cool to send Grech the wrong way and put Ukraine ahead.

Tsygankov could have added a second late on but was denied by Grech.

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