Dominant Kosovo beat ten men Malta

In a match they dominated, Kosovo registered a 3-1 win over Malta to make sure that they will remain on top in group 3.

Malta's starting eleven. Photo: Domenic Aquilina / MFA
Malta's starting eleven. Photo: Domenic Aquilina / MFA

Malta faced Kosovo at the Vadil Fokkri Stadium in Kosovo. This was the first match in which the two nations played against each other. The Maltese national team were coming from a 1-1 draw against Azerbaijan and a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Faroe Islands.

On the other hand, Kosovo shared the spoils with Azerbaijan in a goalless draw during the opening game. Days later, they registered their first win against the Faroes.

Malta had an uphill ahead of them as Kosovo possess a number of players who play competitive football in established leagues. Their most high profile player is Valon Berisha who at the moment plays for Italian side Lazio.

Kosovo controlled possession from the early stages of the match. In fact, they were superior through-out the first half and gave the Maltese players no chance.

The group leaders threatened Malta on the 11th minute. Edon Zhegrova made space for himself and drilled a powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area that forced a good save from Andrew Hogg.

The home side kept on insisting and created another opportunity on the 27th minute. Arber Zeneli went past Joseph Mbong and hit a low shot that was neutralised by Hogg.

Hogg had to be on the alert once more on the 29th minute. Vedat Muriqi was played through on goal and attempted to lob the ball past the Maltese goalkeeper; however, the latter remained on his feet and stopped him in his tracks.

Malta’s custodian could not do anything a minute later as Kosovo scored the opening goal. Berisha played Benjamin Kololli through down the left side and the Zurich midfielder placed the ball inside the net.

Muriqi nearly added another for Kosovo on the 36th minute. The twenty-four year old forward received an excellent pass from Herolind Shala that put him face to face with Hogg. Again, Malta’s goalkeeper ran forward and blocked his final effort.

Malta finally had a chance on goal three minutes later. Michael Mifsud attempted a shot from distance that was saved by Samir Ujkani.

The post denied Kosovo from scoring their second goal on the 42nd minute. Edon Zhegrova went inside the penalty area past Steve Borg before firing a powerful shot that stamped off the woodwork.

Kosovo lost another golden opportunity one minute prior to half-time. Shala delivered a cross towards the unmarked Muriqi who headed the ball off target in front of an open goal.

Malta started the second looking to react and managed to equalise on the 51st minute. Clayton Failla’s cross from a corner was met by Andrei Agius whose powerful header gave Ujkani no chance.

Kosovo immediately regained control as they were looking to score again. They went close through Arber Zeneli on the 54th minute. The young midfielder received the ball inside the penalty area and hit a shot that took a deflection off Mbong and went out for a corner.

Zhegrova was denied by the post on the 65th minute.  Genk's forward made space for himself inside the penalty area and sent a shot that was parried towards the post by Hogg.

Another defensive mistake paved the way for a Kosovo goal three minutes later. Malta’s defenders failed to clear their marks as the ball ended up in the path of Muriqi who slotted it past Hogg.

Things went from bad to worse for Malta on the 70th minute as Michael Mifsud was given his marching orders by the referee after being shown his second yellow card following a foul inside the centre of the pitch.

Hogg produced an excellent save to deny Kosovo on the 78th minute. Substitute Milot Rashica fired an angled shot that brought the best out of the Maltese goalkeeper.

Kosovo sealed the issue on the 81st minute. Rashica delivered the ball towards Kololli whose effort went behind Hogg.

 During the remaining minutes, Kosovo remained in control; however, they had no urge to go forward as they sealed another three points that consolidate their place at the top of the table.

Malta will now have to regroup as they will face Azerbaijan on Sunday.

Kosovo starting line-up: Samir Ujkani, Fidan Aliti, Herolind Shala, Mirlind kryeziu, Arber Zeneli, Amir Kadri Rrahmani, Valon Berisha, Mergin Vojvoda, Benjamin Kololli, Vedat Muriqi, Edon Zhegrova

Malta starting line-up: Andrew Hogg, Joseph Mbong, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius, Paul Fenech, Michael Mifsud, Andre` Schembri, Rowen Muscat, Clayton Failla, Juan Corbalan, Ferdinando Apap

Referee: Tamas Bognar (Hungary)

Assistant Referees: Balázs Buzás, Theodoros Georgiou

Additional Assistant Referees: Ferenc Karakó, Peter Solymosi

Fourth Official: Péter Kóbor