San Marino 2
Mariani 8, Rinaldi 90 pen;
Mifsud 13, 84; Agius 21;
Two goals from Michael Mifsud and another from Andrei Agius saw Malta hitting back from a goal down last night to beat San Marino 3-2 and chalk up a second positive result under the charge of Italian coach Pietro Ghedin.
The national team kicked off this match, the first between the two UEFA minnows, on the back of two successive victories, albeit both friendlies, following the successes over Liechtenstein (home 2-1, February) and Luxembourg (away 2-0, June).
Ghedin handed Ryan Camilleri his debut as the youngster was deployed in central defence alongside Andrei Agius with Steve Borg and Alex Muscat wing-backs.
Andrew Hogg won the race for the no.1 shirt as Roderick Briffa and Gareth Sciberras drove the team from midfield.
Upfront, captain Mifsud, marking his 91st showing for the team, and Andre Schembri were aided from the flanks by Daniel Bogdanovic and Andrew Cohen.
John Mintoff started on the bench but was given a few minutes late on to make his first showing for the team as the returning Luke Dimech and Etienne Barbara were also introduced after the break.
Bogdanovic had a good chance to shoot Malta in front but hit just wide after profiting from a San Marino error in defence.
The hosts settled down quickly though and on eight minutes Manuel Mariani beat Hogg from close in from a corner.
But it did not take Malta long to level matters. On 13 minutes Mifsud hit a scorcher past keeper Aldo Simoncini who did manage to get a hand to the shot but was unable to keep it out.
Both teams contributed to a lively opening half and Matteo Vitaioli almost put San Marino back in front after a moment of hesitation inside the Maltese box but his effort at goal was cleared. At the other end, Cohen also saw his attempt at goal deviated to a corner but on 21 minutes Mifsud was on the right spot to release Agius for the latter to ram home past Simoncini.
There was no relenting from both sides and Briffa was unlucky to see his drive taking a deflection at the last minute before Danilo Rinaldi hit over from inside the Malta box.
Mifsud’s shot almost had the better of the San Marino keeper a second time and just before half-time Borg sent in an inviting ball to Cohen whose shot was cleared from over the goal-line.
Contrary to the first half, there was little goalmouth action after the break with the long list of substitutes in both teams perhaps contributing to the sudden change in pace.
After a fine save from substitute Federico Valentini on a drive by Barbara, Mifsud let loose another piledriver that lifted the San Marino net to make it 3-1.
That was the Malta captain’s 36th goal for the national team.
San Marino looked down and out. However, in stoppage time they were awarded a penalty and from the spot-kick Rinaldi beat Hogg to make the scoreline look more respectable for the home side.
A. Simoncini (F. Valentini 46), F. Vitaioli (D. Vannucci 63), M. Palazzi, M. Cervellini, D. Simoncini, A. Della Valle (C. Brolli 46), E. Cibelli (A. Bianchi 46), A. Gasperoni, D. Rinaldi, M. Mariani (S. Bacciocchi 79), M. Vitaioli (M. Muraccini 71).
A. Hogg, A. Muscat (J. Mintoff 86), G. Sciberras, A. Agius, D. Bogdanovic, R. Briffa (S. Bajada 46), M. Mifsud (P. Fenech 86), A. Cohen, A. Schembri (E. Barbara 46), R. Camilleri (L. Dimech 54), S. Borg (R. Fenech 62).
Referee: P. Tagliavento (Italy).
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