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Malta pick first point in UEFA Nations League

Malta players celebrating after Andrei Agius' converted penalty. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Malta players celebrating after Andrei Agius' converted penalty. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

MALTA           1

Agius 10 pen.

AZERBAIJAN  1

Khalilzade 26

The Malta national team picked up their first point in the UEFA Nations League when they held Azerbaijan to a 1-1 draw at the National Stadium.

Malta could not have hoped for a better start as they took the lead after ten minutes.

From a Steve Borg throw in, Jean Paul Farrugia knocked the ball into the path of Michael Mifsud who was upended in the area by Badavi Huseynov.

Referee Nikola Dabanovic pointed to the spot and Andrei Agius show great poise to drill the ball past Azeri goalkeeper Kamran Agayev.

For Agius this was his second goal with the Malta shirt in his last four appearances with the national team and incidentally he was the last national team player to score in a competitive match when he netted in a 1-1 draw against Lithuania.

Azerbaijan responded on 21 minutes, when from a Dmitri Nazarov flag kick Maksim Medvedev fired over from routine distance.

The Azeris were stepping up the pressure and on 24 minutes Tamkhin Khalilzade picked Nazarov who diverted the ball into the path of Mahir Madatov but he pushed the ball onto the upright.

Seconds later, the visitors were awarded a central free-kick and Richard Almeida’s inswiger was pushed away by Hogg with the ball falling into the path of Khalilzade who hit a first time shot that flew into the top corner of the net.

The match entered into a scrappy patch with neither side able to produce any scoring opportunities as they were both guilty of poor distribution of the ball.

Five minutes into the second half, Malta almost regained their lead when Mifsud played in Effiong who outpaced Huseynov and chipped the ball towards the far post where Paul Fenech dived full stretch but headed the ball into the sidenetting.

The hosts suffered a blow a minute later when Agius failed to shrug off a knock and was replaced by Ferdinando Apap who was handed his competitive debut.

The national team were struggling to keep the ball in the opening stages of the second half and Farrugia tried to bring more flair when he roped in Roderick Briffa for the tiring Ryan Fenech.

Scoring chances remained few and far between with the Azeris continuing to dominate the possession count with the Maltese showing great defensive organization.

The Azeris stepped up the pressure in the closing stages but they rarely threatened Hogg as the hosts held on to a point.

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