The Malta FA have asked the police to probe claims that Malta’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Lithuania may have been rigged.

Contacted by Times of Malta yesterday, Franz Tabone, the Malta FA’s integrity officer, confirmed that the association had handed over all the documents on the betting patterns surrounding the match in Vilnius to the police.

“The MFA is always very cautious on how to move but doesn’t relent in finding the truth, if it really exists,” Tabone told Times of Malta.

“We always pass on the information we have to the police.

“What I can say is that, at this stage, we don’t have sufficient information to reach any conclusions.”

FIFA have already launched an investigation into the game and the matter was discussed at length during a meeting Tabone had with officials of the world football body in Zurich last week.

FIFA integrity officials are in the process of gathering more information on the match to proceed with their investigation.

Given that the Lithuania-Malta World Cup qualifier falls under the aegis of FIFA, the probe is being conducted by football’s global body and, as was the case when UEFA probed allegations that Malta’s Euro 2008 qualifier away to Norway (4-0) was fixed, the Malta FA will await the conclusions of the FIFA inquiry before deciding what action to take.

Earlier this month, Times of Malta broke the story that Lithuania’s 2-0 victory over Malta in a Group F qualifier on October 11 had raised suspicion after FIFA detected irregular betting patterns ahead of the game.

Faced with such scenario, FIFA instructed the match commissioner, Paolo Rondelli, from San Marino, to warn both teams of suspicious betting on the game.

Around 10 to 15 minutes before kick-off, Rondelli walked into the dressing rooms of both the Lithuanian and Maltese teams and read out a short statement, issued by FIFA, to the players.

Spanish referee Jesus Gil Manzano, who officiated the game, was also made aware of FIFA’s concerns.

Two weeks ago, Norman Darmanin Demajo, the Malta FA president, confirmed that Sportradar, the local football body’s betting-monitoring partners who also work for UEFA and FIFA, had concluded in their report that, judging by the betting activity on the Lithuania-Malta match, there was “overwhelming evidence that bettors had prior knowledge that Malta would lose the match by at least two goals”.

Darmanin Demajo also let it be known that the heavy betting on the match result continued up to 20 minutes before the end of the game.

After a goalless first half, Malta conceded two goals in the final 14 minutes, the second from a penalty after defender Jonathan Caruana had been sent off, to slump to a 2-0 defeat.

FIFA’s investigation into the Lithuania-Malta game has also captured the attention of the English media with The Sun on Sunday claiming that fixers may have taken advantage of the hype over England’s away qualifier against Slovenia, Malta’s next opponents on November 11, on the same night “to fix Lithuania game unnoticed”.

“Betting syndicates staked millions before kick-off and during the game on Malta to lose by two or more,” The Sun on Sunday reported.

“An inquiry is underway and the group could be thrown into chaos if FIFA unearths any wrongdoing, with results possibly voided and games replayed.”

Three days before their 2-0 defeat to Lithuania, Malta went down to England by the same scoreline at Wembley.

Hogg comments

The Sun on Sunday also claims to have seen the in-play betting patterns which show that, with six minutes left, the odds for a second goal indicated an abnormally high chance of it materialising.

Reporter Johnathon Reilly also spoke to Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg who was quoted as saying: “I knew I’d done absolutely nothing wrong and had no idea what they were talking about.

“In the event, there was nothing I could do about the goals. I made three or four good saves which show I was doing my best. I have absolutely nothing to hide.”

A Lithuanian Football Federation (LFF) spokesman told The Sun on Sunday: “We were only made aware of this matter a few days after the game following public statements made by the Maltese FA.

“There hasn’t been any suggestion or suspicions from FIFA regarding any involvement of anyone related to our team.

“We hope the investigations will be concluded swiftly by the relevant authorities.”

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