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Improved Malta undone by early goals as Greece secure comfortable win

Greek striker Vangelis Pavlidis is floored inside the area by goalkeeper Rashed Al-Tumi. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

MALTA 0

GREECE           2

Basaketas 7 pen; Tzolis 15

MALTA

R. Al Tumi, J. Borg (89 L. Tabone), R. Camenzuli, K. Shaw, M. Guillaumier, T. Teuma, P. Mbong (72 K. Nwoko), J. Corbalan, N. Muscat, J. Degabriele (46 K. Reid), Z. Muscat (89 D. Vella).

GREECE          

K. Tzolakis (81 C. Mandas), M. Saliakas (81 T. Tsingaras), K. Koulierakis, D. Kourbelis, G. Masouras (60 D. Limnios), V. Pavlidis (60 T. Douvikas), C. Tzolis, T. Bakasetas, P. Retsos (72 A. Ntoi), P. Mantalos (60 G. Kotsiras), G. Kiriakopoulos.

Referee: Alan Kijas (Austria).

Yellow card: Koulierakis.

Two goals in the first 15 minutes of the match paved the way for Greece to secure a comfortable win over an improved Malta side in an international friendly in Austria on Tuesday.

It looked as though that Malta were set for another tough night after finding themselves behind in the early minutes of the match after conceding some soft goals.

But as the minutes passed the Maltese started to gain more confidence and their aggressive approach saw them offer more of a challenge to the Greeks.

In fact, Malta’s best spell came in the second half when they started threatening their opponents more but lacked composure in the final third to put themselves back into the match.

No doubt coach Marcolini was left rueing the team’s poor start to the match but will be heartened by the character of the team as the match progressed, and will hope this spirit is carried into the crucial Nations League qualifiers next September.

Marcolini kept his word to ring the changes as he made no less than six changes to his starting formation.

Goalkeeper Rashed Al Tumi, who is on the verge of a move to Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol, was given the nod to start in goal at the expense of Henry Bonello.

Kurt Shaw and Zach Muscat came on for the injured duo Enrico Pepe and Steve Borg in the three-man defence while Nikolai Muscat was preferred to Steve Pisani.

Juan Corbalan started ahead of Ħamrun Spartans team-mate Joseph Mbong

Upfront, Jurgen Degabriele was preferred to Kemar Reid and partnered Paul Mbong.

As happened in the match against the Czech Republic, the Maltese started on the backfoot after giving away a cheap penalty after only seven minutes of play.

From a corner action in favour of Malta, the Greeks won possession and charged forward with a swift transition that saw Vangelis Pavlidis breaking through but was upended inside the area by the charging Al Tumi.

The referee pointed to the spot and Basaketas blasted the ball underneath the Sliema Wanderers goalkeeper.

Malta’s fragilities to come out with the ball again came back to haunt them on 15 minutes when the Greeks doubled their lead.

Matthew Guillaumier and Teddy Teuma failed to come out of their half with the ball in their feet as they were dispossessed on the edge of the area and Pavlidis quickly set up Christos Tzolis who hammered the ball into the top corner of the net.

On 27 minutes Konstantinos Koulierakis played with fire and could have been dismissed for an off-the-ball incident with Ryan Camenzuli but referee Alan Kijas, of Austria, showed the yellow card to the Greek defender.

Three minutes later, Paul Mbong intercepted a poor back pass by a Greek defender but his shot was too central for Tzolakis who cleared the ball in two attempts.

As the minutes passed, the Maltese started to pose some questions to the Greek defence but were let down by the final pass and their opportunities went abegging.

After the break, Marcolini withdrew Degabriele and roped in Kemar Reid in a bid to add more punch upfront.

The Maltese showed more aggressiveness early on, but it was Greece who came close when skipper Takos Bakasetas hit a low drive that just skimmed the upright.

Scoring chances became few and far between in the second half as both coaches were effecting a raft of changes.

On 68 minutes, Tzolis showed all his skill when he burst past his marker before hitting a rising shot that finished just over.

A minute later, Al-Tumi had to be alert to push away Limnios’ cross-shot.

Malta’s best chance came 16 minutes from time when Reid sped clear on the right and sent a dipping cross into the path of Guillaumier who saw his header cleared off the line.

In the closing stages, Greece regained control to ease to protect their two-goal lead.

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