Malta’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Lithuania was closely monitored by FIFA after the game attracted irregular betting patterns.
After a goalless first half, Lithuania struck twice in the last 14 minutes to secure a 2-0 victory at the LFF Stadium in Vilnius last Tuesday.
Fiodor Cerynch put the hosts ahead with a close-range header 14 minutes from time after Malta had failed to clear a corner from the left and, with six minutes remaining, Arvydas Novikovas wrapped up Lithuania’s win from the penalty spot after defender Jonathan Caruana had been sent off for elbowing Deividas Matulevicius inside the box.
The Times of Malta can reveal that the FIFA commissioner appointed for last week’s Group F qualifier visited Malta’s dressing room before kick-off to warn the players that the game had been identified as high-risk from a betting perspective by the world football body.
The FIFA commissioner also visited the Lithuanian team’s changing room and spoke to Spanish referee Jesus Gil Manzano about the matter. It is standard practice for the FIFA commissioner to alert all parties if betting patterns on a particular game raise concern under FIFA’s Early Warning System.
“FIFA Early Warning System (EWS) monitors betting on all FIFA matches and competitions in order to prevent negative influences from betting,” FIFA say on their official website. “EWS also works to evaluate any opportunities and risks presented by sports betting for the game of football.”
It is understood that the Malta FA have already received the FIFA report about the betting patterns on last week’s World Cup qualifier in Lithuania.
Lithuania’s victory over Malta was their first in Group F after drawing against Slovenia (2-2) and Scotland (1-1) in their opening two outings.
Malta are still without a point after losing their opener 5-1 at home to Scotland before back-to-back 2-0 away defeats to England and Lithuania.
MFA president Norman Darmanin Demajo and Robert Gatt, the association’s technical director, will address a news conference this afternoon after Malta forward Andrè Schembri’s criticism of the state of local football in the wake of the Wembley loss caused public outcry.