UEFA Nations League: Malta hold Azerbaijan

Malta won their first point in the UEFA Nations League as they held Azerbaijan in a 1-1 draw.

Malta's goalscorer Andrei Agius in action. Photo: Dominic Borg
Malta's goalscorer Andrei Agius in action. Photo: Dominic Borg

In the second game of the UEFA Nations League, Malta were up against Azerbaijan. The latter were coming from a 0-0 draw against Kosovo. On the other hand, Malta lost 3-1 in their last encounter against Faroe Islands.

These two team played against each other last during the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers. Azerbaijan won the first game in Baku 2-0. Months later, Malta held them in a 2-2 draw at Ta’ Qali.

This scenario pointed towards Azerbaijan as the favourites team to claim the three points. Despite this, the Maltese players were eager to prove themselves and win their first points.

In fact, Malta made an excellent start to the match and went ahead after ten minutes. Michael Mifsud was brought down inside the penalty area by Badavi Huseynov and the referee pointed towards the spot. Andrei Agius took charge of the spot kick and converted.

Azerbaijan’s reacted on the 23rd minute. Rauf Aliyev drilled a low shot from distance that was neutralised by Andrew Hogg.

Two minutes later, Azerbaijan were unlucky not to level the score. Following a cross, Mahir Madatov saw his close range effort hitting the woodwork.

However, the away side equalised moments later. First it was Erim Makhmudov whose shot was pushed away by Hogg. From the rebound, the ball went into the path of Tamkin Khalizade who hit a thumping shot from distance that stunned the Maltese goalkeeper.

After this goal, the Maltese players remained concentrated and had a good spell of possession. Yet, they couldn’t threaten Azerbaijan once more as the first half ended in a 1-1 draw.

Malta started the second half on the attack and nearly regained the lead on the 50th minute. Joseph Mbong went past a defender on the right flank before delivering a cross towards the unmarked Paul Fenech who missed the target from close range.

This was the first and only opportunity on goal during the second half. In the remaining forty minutes, Malta remained organised at the back and were happy to defend the result.

Malta starting line-up: Andrew Hogg, Joseph Mbong, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius, Ryan Camilleri, Joseph Zerafa, Michael Mifsud, Paul Fenech, Ryan Fenech, Andre Schembri, Jean Paul Farrugia

Azerbaijan starting line-up: Kamran Agayev, Tamkin Khalizade, Badavi Huseynov, Maksim Medvedev, Pavlo Pashayev, Richard Almeida, Gara Garayev, Mahir Madatov, Erim Makhmudov, Dimitriy Nazarov, Rauf Aliyev

Referee: Nikola Dabanović (Montenegro)

Assistant Referees: Milovan Djukić, Jovica Tatar

Additional Assistant Referees: Milovan Milacic, Miloš Bošković

Fourth Official: Aleksandar Djikanović

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