Maltese girls collect first point after holding Albania

The Malta women’s team collected their first point in Group B of the preliminary round of the FIFA Women’s World Cup after holding hosts Albania to a goalless stalemate at the Elbasan Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Malta's line-up
Malta's line-up

Albania, who had launched their commitments with a hard-earned 3-2 win over debutants Kosovo, enjoyed more possession but the Maltese girls maintained their tactical shape throughout and also mustered a few scoring chances.

Ylenia Carabott and Emma Xuereb went close but the best opportunity fell to Dorianne Theuma. The Malta captain was unlucky not to break the stalemate as her drive, 13 minutes into the second half, came off the woodwork.

Mark Gatt, the Malta women’s coach, kept faith with the same players who started the 1-0 defeat to Greece in their opening Group B match last Thursday.

Greece maintained their perfect start after trouncing Kosovo 6-0. The Greeks lead the table with six points, two ahead of Albania with Malta third on one point.

The mini-tournament concludes on Tuesday with Greece facing Albania in a clash for top spot while Malta will be looking to claim their first win when meeting Kosovo. Both matches kick off at 2pm.

In the preliminary round, the five group winners and the runner-up with the best record against the sides first and third in their section progress to the group phase of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, to be held in France who qualify automatically as hosts.

Malta starting line-up: Janice Xuereb, Ann-Marie Said, Kim Parnis (35 Alishia Sultana), Stephania Farrugia, Dorianne Theuma (88 Raina Giusti), Ylenia Carabott, Rachel Cuschieri, Shona Zammit, Jade Flask, Charlene Zammit, Emma Xuereb (56 Martina Borg).

Albania starting line-up: Marigona Zagi, Denisa Proto (82 Suada Jashari), Albina Rrahmani, Arbiona Bajraktari, Geldona Morina, Furtuna Velaj (88 Dafina Memedov), Saranda Hashani, Lucie Gjini, Ezmiralda Franja (74 Lavdie Begolli), Qendresa Krasniqi, Megi Doci.

Referee: Lorraine Clark (Scotland)