Malta’s new manager Michael Silvestri was pleased with his side’s 3-0 friendly win against Northern Ireland on Monday at the National Stadium, saying there is “no reason why” his men cannot go on and win the group. Malta’s win was their first in a friendly since their first fixture of the season, a 1-1 draw against Greece.
Malta claimed their fifth successive friendly win to start the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Northern Ireland this evening at the National Stadium in the capital Valletta. The home team had won their previous four games against Malta in the past four years, but the match was watched by a home crowd of more than 25,000, with the majority of them cheering on the Northern Ireland team.
Ali McCann slides the ball over goalkeeper Henry Bonello for Northern Ireland’s third goal. Ian Baraclough says the 3-0 win over Malta in a friendly gave him his 12th win of the season. Trying to win for the first time in 90 minutes as Northern Ireland coach. Jordan Jones, Gavin White and Ali McCann were used in goal in Austria. I’m happy to have scored three goals, to have created chances and to finally be rewarded for that, Baraclough said. And also to keep a clean slate – it was very satisfying. Jones took advantage of a defensive error to score the first goal, while Josh Magennis saved a penalty corner from Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello in the first half. Northern Ireland came into the game better in the second half, scoring two goals in three minutes. Ian Baraclough watches his team win comfortably on Sunday in Klagenfurt. White hit the post with a shot and McCann calmly scored from close range. The second half should give confidence ahead of Thursday’s friendly against Ukraine in Dnipro, which will also be played behind closed doors. The way we started the two halves is what we were talking about. We wanted to get off to a fast start and push the opponent into defence and we did that, Baraclough added. The team as a whole met most of the requirements. Looking back, I think we played better in other games and weren’t rewarded, so I’m glad we were rewarded and can enjoy watching many of these performances.
Baraklow broke his duck in Klagenfurt
The Northern Ireland coach eventually got the win after 90 minutes, but the first half was uncomfortable to watch, despite the early goal. A misplaced pass from Ferdinando Apapa created a chance for Jones, which the Rangers winger capitalized on with a low shot that deflected off Bonello and into the net. In the 21st. Bonello hit back with a sharp shot from Magennis in the 45th minute, awarded after Kurt Shaw had committed a foul on White, and that miss summed up Northern Ireland’s poor start to the 45 minutes. Malta, which is 127 places lower than its opponent in the world rankings, came out on top in the first half: Joseph Mbong and Luke Montebello came close to winning. From the moment play resumed, Northern Ireland played with more energy and determination and White scored after 53 minutes. In the second minute, after a pass from Stuart Dallas, the score was 2-0. Number three soon followed when McCann was served by Paddy McNair with a clever shot over Bonello to decide the game against a weakened Maltese team.
Who has your attention?
Most of the game was played in a friendly fashion, typical for the end of the season, and there were no standout performances for 90 minutes. Jones and McCann will be applauded for scoring their first international goals and both goals were scored in brilliant fashion. Dallas captained Northern Ireland in the absence of Steven Davis, a key experience for the in-form Leeds player. Joy for Gavin Whyte after 2-0 in Klagenfurt McNair was responsible for McCann’s third goal. The Middlesbrough man was a valuable midfield attacker without Davies. And for Liverpool junior Conor Bradley, who made his debut for the Northern Ireland national team in the closing minutes of the match at the Wörthersee Stadium. Chelsea defender Sam McClelland was another undesignated player in the squad. The defender could make his first appearance in the friendly against Euro 2020 contender Ukraine on Thursday. Daniel Ballard missed the game as he celebrated his side, Blackpool, winning the League One play-off final on Sunday. The defender will be available for the match in Ukraine alongside Kilmarnock striker Kyle Lafferty.
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