E. Vaivode, S. Garanca (87 K. Danilova), A. Flakse, A. Rocane, P. Linina, V. Zaicikova, A. Gornela, D. Suvitra (65 S. Voitane), K. Miksone, O. Sevcova, A. Poluhovica (90 A. Lipsane).
J. Xuereb, A.M. Said, E. Lipman, C. Zammit, E. Xuereb, R. Cuschieri, N. Sciberras, S. Zammit (58 B. Borg), M. Farrugia (85 S. Farrugia), H. Bugeja, R. Giusti (58 L.A. Ayres).
Referee: Jana Van Laere (Belgium).
Yellow cards: Flakse, S. Zammit.
The Malta women’s national team were off to a positive start in their UEFA Nations League campaign when they edged Latvia 1-0 in Jurmala.
Haley Bugeja turned out to be Malta’s match-winner as the Inter forward prodded home the all-important goal seven minutes from time to hand the team victory in Group C.
However, it was far from a comfortable victory for Manuela Tesse’s girls who for long spells of the match looked second best against a Latvian team that created the better chances and were also denied by the woodwork midway through the second half.
But the Maltese players kept fighting and their resilience was rewarded with the winner that sets them well for next week’s home match against Moldova.
The match was off to a very lively start as the Maltese could have taken the lead as early as the seventh minute.
Shona Zammit ran into space and hit a firm drive that was pushed away by Latvia goalkeeper Enija-Anna Vaivode.
The home side had an even better chance three minutes later when Anastasja Poluhovica fed Kalina Miksone who turned past Emma Lipman and teed up Zaicikova who was denied by a fine reflex save from goalkeeper Janice Xuereb.
On 13 minutes it was Rachel Cuschieri who tried her luck but was denied by Vaivode.
The match remained evenly balanced with the Maltese players showing good creativity but their poor distribution when it came to the final pass frustrated their hopes of creating any danger.
Instead, it was Latvia who came close twice when first Zaikcikova saw her shot finishing wide.
Then six minutes from the break Miksone was given time and space but her shot was off target.
On the restart, the Latvians were again dangerous when Miksone showed good skill to create space between three defenders but her lob finished over.
Latvia should have taken the lead on 57 minutes when Suvitra raced clear on the right and picked the unmarked Sevcova who incredibly fired onto the bar with Xuereb beaten.
The Maltese girls continued to create openings with Haley Bugeja continuing to struggle to make an impact on the match.
The Inter striker finally had a great chance on 71 minutes when she was picked inside the area by Emma Xureb but the forward incredibly fired wide from a few metres out.
Fourteen minutes from time, Janice Xuereb came to her team’s rescue when she pushed over Sevcova’s shot.
However, seven minutes from time it was Malta who took the lead.
The Latvians failed to clear the ball away from a corner and Rachel Cuschieri sent a dipping cross inside the area and Bugeja did well to divert the ball into the net.
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