Bugeja 36, 39, 43 pen.
L. Vazquez; L. Sin (46 D. Fuentes), N. Ubach, M. Cruz, P. Marques, M. Fernandez (63 L. Palau), M. Muelas, E. Goncalves, S. Del Barco (63 T. Armengol), N. Gallinat (89 L. Soto), M. Lozano (78 I. Dominguez).
J. Xuereb; A. Said (73 E. Xuereb), S. Farrugia, E. Lipman, C. Zammit, N. Sciberras, B. Borg (85 V. Mifsud), R. Cuschieri (63 D. Theuma), M. Farrugia (72 A. Sultana), Y. Carabott (63 K. Willis), H. Bugeja.
Referee Sofik Torosyan (Armenia FA).
Yellow cards Vazquez, Cuschieri, Cruz.
A quickfire hat-trick by Haley Bugeja propelled Malta towards their fourth consecutive victory in their UEFA Women’s Nations League campaign on Tuesday.
The Maltese lived up to the expectations and dismantled Andorra, having hit the same opponent for five in last week’s first-round game at the Centenary Stadium.
Bugeja, currently plying her trade at Serie A’s Inter, had another inspiring evening as she netted her second Malta hat-trick at competitive level to cement her top-scorer spot in this competition with eight goals.
Her previous three-goal game was an away European qualifier against Georgia in 2020, which helped her become the youngest scorer in any women’s European qualifying game – a record that still stands.
Bugeja’s personal milestones do not end here as her three goals have now put her just two shy from Ylenia Carabott, the second-best women’s team scorer, with 18 goals to her name.
Following this Andorra rout, Malta have now opened a crucial five-point gap at the top of their group after Latvia were surprisingly held to a 3-3 draw by bottom-placed Moldova earlier on Tuesday.
Malta meet Moldova in Chisinau before hosting Latvia in the November’s international window as Tesse’s side edge closer towards the coveted League B promotion.
For this away game, coach Manuela Tesse made a couple of changes from the home victory with experienced defender Charlene Zammit coming on for Emma Xuereb while Maria Farrugia of Lewes FC was given the nod ahead of Alishia Sultana.
Sultana, who plays for Birkirkara, came on late in the second half to pick up her 50th cap for the Malta women’s national team.
Andorra’s intentions were identical to the Centenary Stadium match as they set themselves in a low block to try and keep Malta at bay for as long as possible.
At first, their approach was helping them deny the Maltese any noteworthy chances with Tesse’s selection trying to threaten through a couple of long-shots by Haley Bugeja and Rachel Cuschieri, on her 90th appearance for the Maltese side.
Nonetheless, Malta managed to draw first blood leading to a three-goal blitz in the next seven minutes under the name of Bugeja.
The Inter forward capitalised on Cuschieri’s well-weighted through ball to drill the ball past Andorra’s goalkeeper to score her first goal.
For Sampdoria’s Cuschieri, this was her fourth assist in this Nations League edition, placing herself among the best assisters in the competition so far.
Three minutes later, she beat Andorra’s custodian to the first post with a close-range effort before converting a penalty four minutes later to virtually put the game to bed.
After the change of ends, the game’s tempo declined a bit with Malta continuing to dominate proceedings while Andorra looked to catch their opponents on the break.
Midway into the second half, veteran player Dorianne Theuma was deployed as she was making her 117th appearance for the Maltese side.
Andorra threatened Malta with long-range freekicks but goalkeeper Janice Xuereb was always in position to keep the danger away.
Malta almost found a fourth late in the game but Emma Lipman’s header glanced past Andorra’s goal before rolling wide before Xuereb kept an Andorra’s freekick to preserve her fourth clean sheet on the trot in the Nations League.
Other results: Moldova vs Latvia 3-3.
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