FAROE ISLANDS 1
H. Bonello, R. Camenzuli, S. Borg, A. Agius (83 A. Satariano), M. Guillaumier, J. Mbong, L. Montebello (74 K. Nwoko), K. Shaw, T. Teuma (78 S. Pisani), J. Degabriele (83 S. Dimech), L. Gambin.
T. Gestsson, V. Davidsen, H. Hansson (87 B. Wardum), J. Bjartalio (60 A.M. Jonsson), B. Hendriksson, G. Rolantsson, S. Vatnhamar, K. Olsen (80 H.L. Jakobsen), O. Faero, G. Vatnhamar, M. Olsen (87 H. Hansen).
Referee: Kristo Tohver (Estonia).
Yellow cards: Shaw, Faero, Hansson.
Ari Mohr Jonsson came off the bench to dash Malta’s dreams of winning promotion in the UEFA Nations League on Tuesday, as the national team could not go beyond a 1-1 draw against the Faroe Islands in a hard-fought encounter at the National Stadium.
The draw meant the Faroe Islands top Group 1 of League D in the UEFA competition with 12 points, with Malta in second place on nine points.
After a low key first half, during which the Faroe Islands looked firmly in control, Malta came to life in the second half and their early pressure was rewarded with a fine strike from Matthew Guillaumier that put his team ahead.
Here, the Maltese fans dared to dream that a historic qualification was within their reach.
However, the Faroes had other ideas as a rare moment of indecision in the Malta defence was duly punished by Jonsson, who grabbed an all-important goal to earn his team a vital equaliser.
Malta tried to push forward in search of a winner but could not find a winner as the Faroes held on for a vital point that assured them promotion to League C.
Mangia’s team, on the other hand, ended an extraordinary campaign in second place with a record tally of nine points but more importantly, the team’s performance further rubber-stamped the overall belief that our national team is on its way to bigger achievements given the huge promise they showed in recent weeks.
In fact, after our defeat to the Faroe Islands in Torshavn the team went onto an impressive run of seven matches without defeat which included impressive wins over Latvia, Gibraltar and Andorra that were acquired with a refreshing attacking style of play that has caught the imagination of the Maltese fans who are finally enjoying watching their players on the international stage.
Prime Minister Robert Abela was among those to offer praise to the Malta team following Tuesday's match, writing "securing 2nd place in league table is a major achievement. Progress being made."
Mangia effected one change from the team that beat Andorra 3-1 last Saturday. Defender Steve Borg, who missed last weekend’s match due to a one-match ban, was back in the fray at the expense of Karl Micallef.
Otherwise, Malta’s starting formation was unchanged with Luke Montebello leading the line with Luke Gambin and Jurgen Degabriele supporting him from the flanks.
The Faroes were the brighter side early on and after two minutes of play Meinhard Olsen sent a low cross into the path of Solvi Vatnhamar who was blocked by Borg before Andrei Agius cleared the danger.
As the minutes passed, Malta started to improve their possession rate with Ryan Camenzuli testing the visitors’ defence with some fine crosses that, however, were not capitalised by his team-mates.
There was very little separating either side with much of the play being concentrated in midfield with both sets of the defences holding the upper hand as scoring chances remained scarce.
It was Henry Bonello who effected the first save of the match on 34 minutes when the Valletta custodian did very well to push away a rasping drive from Brandur Hendriksson.
The Nordic side remained the more dangerous side, particularly with efforts from outside the area.
In fact, three minutes from the break, Bonello was again alert to parry away Joannes Bjartalio’s fierce drive.
The Faroes’ pressure high up the pitch was making life difficult for the Maltese players to push the ball away from their halfway line but still, the hosts managed to protect their clean sheet until the interval.
On 51 minutes, the Maltese players thought they scored when Joseph Mbong sped past two defenders and sent a low cross towards Luke Gambin who stabbed home. However, the ‘goal’ was annulled for a marginal offside position by the Colchester United midfielder.
But Malta’s pressure was rewarded three minutes later. From a Teddy Teuma free-kick, the Faroes defenders cleared the ball into the path of Matthew Guillaumier who blasted into the bottom corner of the net.
The Faroes looked stunned and they tried to step up their game with Hendriksson blasting the ball over from a central free-kick.
Faroes coach Hakan Eriscson brought on Ari Mohr Jonsson for Joannes Bjartalio and the new entrant soon left his mark as on 68 minutes he pulled his team level.
Solvi Vatnhamar sped behind Camenzuli and sent a low cross towards Jonsson who was on hand to fire into an empty net.
Jonsson almost did the damage again two minutes later but this time he was denied by Bonello.
Fifteen minutes from time, Joseph Mbong should have restored Malta’s lead when the Ħamrun Spartans winger latched onto Teuma’s cross, but his flick was too central and Teitur Gestsson blocked.
Mangia went for broke when in the closing stages he withdrew Andrei Agius and Jurgen Degabriele and roped in Alex Satariano and Shaun Dimech in search of a late winner.
Guillaumier almost struck again four minutes from time but this time he was denied by Gestsson as the Faroes held on to claim a vital draw that sealed their promotion.
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