Malta’s European Qualifiers campaign came to a truly disappointing end last night with a 2 – 1 defeat to Norway at the National Stadium in Ta Qali.
Malta will thus finish at the bottom of Group F behind Spain, Sweden, Romania, Norway and the Faroe Islands.
Malta was looking to make up for a humiliating defeat against Spain earlier this week which saw the team come under great scrutiny for a 7 – 0 defeat. Whilst their performance against Norway last night did have some shining moments, Malta once again fell short and lost out to their Scandinavian rivals.
Norway was able to capitalise on a weak Malta side early on during the game as Mats Moller-Daehli sent a low cross to Joshua King who squeezed it past goalkeeper Henry Bonello after two attempts.
King would prove to be a problem for the Malta defense for the rest of the night.
Despite a 1-0 deficit, Malta was able to rally and end their scoring drought with a goal by Paul Fenech five minutes before the end of the first half.
Malta carried its momentum well into the opening minutes of the second half but the pressure was too much for the local side, who allowed Norwegian striker Alexander Sorloth an easy tap-in after Malta were caught on the counter.
The shining light in Malta’s performance had to be that of keeper Bonello who made several crucial saves during the game including a penalty kick by King after a foul by Zach Muscat in the penalty box.
Unfortunately, keepers aren’t as likely to score goals as any other player on the pitch and, despite Bonello’s valiant efforts to keep Malta in the game, the boys in red weren’t able to equalise before the end of the regulation time.
Despite falling short, coach Ray Farrugia entrusted his fate into some younger Maltese players including a debut by Gżira midfielder Nikolai Muscat.
The conclusion of last night’s game ends what many might be considered as a nightmare run in the European Qualifiers and a high level of uncertainty with regards to the direction of Maltese international football in the future.