Another positive result in second friendly


A plucky Malta side failed to find a way through the Belarus defence tonight in their second international encounter of the year, finishing the game with another draw. The Reds certainly deserved more, creating the better chances throughout the match but being rather erratic in their finishing. It was the match of the international debut of goalkeeper Rashed Al-Tumi of Sliema Wanderers, with teammate Myles Beerman and Floriana’s Dunstan Vella re-appearing for the national team after a long absence. In all, Malta coach Michele Marcolini used 23 players during this international window.

Just five players retained their place in the Malta starting line-up when compared with the 2-2 draw in the Friendly with Slovenia. Henry Bonello, Zach Muscat and midfield trio Yannik Yankam, Matthew Guillaumier and Joseph Mbong all appeared from kick-off, with Floriana defender Carlo Zammit-Lonardelli making his international starting debut after coming on as a substitute last Thursday. In absence of Steve Borg, Guillaumier captained the home-side in his 35th cap for Malta.

Malta dominated the first half and created various goalscoring opportunities, especially during the first 15 minutes of the game. In the ninth minute, Kemar Reid found his way through the Belarus defence while entering the box, with his grounder missing the upright by an inch. Five minutes later, a Zach Muscat on-target volley from a Guillaumier free-kick was saved by Belarus custodian Sergei Ignatovich. Two minutes later, Malta were unlucky when Kyrian Nwoko headed against the post from a precise Zammit Lonardelli cross.

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The first opportunity for the guests was recorded on 20 minutes when an Evgeni Yablonsky 20-meters distance grounder just missed the post. Towards the end of the first half, the match went down a gear with the Belarus defence slowly getting a grip on the Maltese forward line.

Marcolini effected two substitutions during half-time with Vella making his first appearance since November 2022 while Al-Tumi made his full debut for the national team, replacing Bonello. Six minutes after the re-start, Artem Shumansky’s close-range header in the six-yard box sailed inches over the bar in what was only Belarus’ second real opportunity of the match.

On 67 minutes, Guillaumier’s attempt from the edge of the area was deflected into a corner, which was Malta’s first goal attempt of the half. Two minutes later, Ignatovich had to interfere once more on a Muscat header from a precise Nevin Portelli cross, with Malta steadily increasing the pressure on the Belarus rear-guard. Muscat came again close with two minutes regular time left but blasted high after some good work by Portelli on the left flank. In the latter stages of the match, Beerman replaced Mbong, re-appearing in the national colours for the first time since October 2020.

Malta’s journey towards the Nations League continues in June with at least one but most probably another two Friendly engagements.

Henry Bonello (Rashed Al Tumi 46), Kurt Shaw, Enrico Pepe, Zach Muscat, Carlo Zammit-Lonardelli (Cain Attard 65), Joseph Mbong (Myles Beerman), Nikolai Muscat (Brandon Paiber 65), Matthew Guillaumier, Yannik Yankam (Dunstan Vella 46), Kyrian Nwoko (Nevin Portelli 65), Kemar Reid.
Coach: Michele Marcolini

Sergei Ignatovich, Kirill Pechenin (Ilya Chernyak 77), Pavel Zabelin, Sergei Politevich, Denis Polyakov, Danila Nechayev (Sergey Karpovich 46), Nikita Korzun, Evgeni Yablonsky (Kirill Kaplenko 46), Max Ebong (Valery Gromyko 59), Artem Shumansky (Vladislav Morozov 59), Maxim Kireev (Yegor Karpitski 83).
Coach: Carlos Alos

Martin Dohal (Slovakia)

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