The Hibernians Ground brought the Maltese luck as they managed to beat Canada 2-1 and return to victory after a twenty-one month wait.
The two teams shared the exchanges throughout the 90 minutes with the local side being able to take advantage of the chances created. On the other hand, the visitors had more ball possession throughout the game. However after missing a couple of good chances in the first half-hour, Muscat was hardly tested.
This match marked the retirement from the international for 35-year old Valletta midfielder Nicky Saliba. Saliba played for 13 minutes before being substituted by Hubert Suda.
In the early stages, the Canadians seemed to be the better side. On eleven minutes, an unmarked Thomas Radzinski received the ball inside the box area from an erratic Michael Mifsud back-pass who was being pressed by McKenna. However the Everton striker failed to control and Muscat saved. Malta replied with a direct corner by Hubert Suda on the 20th, which was saved by goalie Lars Hirschfeld, and three minutes later, an excellent freekick by Gilbert Agius was deflected into a corner. Off a through-pass by Nick Dasovic, Tomasz Radzinki served Paul Stalteri inside the area but the latter hit wide from an ideal position. A couple of minutes later, Darren Debono risked committing an own goal as he deflected a Stalteri shot from close-range.
Malta took the lead on 34 minutes. Off a freekick on the right, Suda served Michael Spiteri whose shot from the edge of the area hit the foot of the post. Off the rebound, Brian Said was about to conclude but he was floored by captain Mark Watson. Referee Massimo de Santis ordered a penalty and from the penalty spot, David Carabott converted. However nine minutes later, Canada levelled the score. Jim Brennan served Stalteri whose powerful shot from outside the area gave Mario Muscat no chance.
In the second half, the Canadians put the Maltese defence under pressure leaving the locals defending and operating on counter-attacks. On 65 minutes, Canada went close with a Paul Peschisolido effort blocked by Muscat, aided by the foot of the post while five minutes later, off cross by Stalteri from the right, a Davide Xausa header was turned into a corner. Malta replied with a fine shot by Gilbert Agius from the edge of the area followed by a great save by Stamatopoulos after that shots by Nwoko and Said were blocked by defenders.
Malta regained the lead fifteen minutes from time. Off a corner by Joe Brincat from the left, Agius and Nwoko missed but Michael Mifsud was in the right place to fire home. This time, Malta never looked in serious danger of losing the lead. In fact, after that substitute William Camenzuli tested Stamatopoulos with a shot from outside the area, a low shot by Martin Nash was saved without particular difficulty by Mario Muscat.
Game Time & Date: 14:45 – 14/11/2001
Stadium: Hibernian Football Grounds, Corradino Malta
Carabott (34) PK
Cards Watson (34)
Substitutions – Malta
Suda for Saliba (45)
Dimech for Theuma (56)
Brincat for Suda (81)
Camenzuli for Chetcuti (87)
Malia for Aguis
Substitutions – Canada
Hastings for Fenwick (45)
Peschisolido. for Corrazin (45)
Stamatopoulos f Hirshfield (45)
Xausa for Radzinski (57)
Nash for Watson (81)
Malta starting XI
(G) Mario Muscat (Hibernians)
(D) Michael Spiteri (Birkirkara)
(D) Jeffrey Chetcuti (Valletta)
(D) Darren Debono (Valletta)
(D) Daniel Theuma (Valletta)
(D) Brian Said (Sliema)
(M) David Carabott (Valletta)
(M) Nicky Saliba (Valletta)
(F) Gilbert Agius (Pisa)
(F) Michael Mifsud (Kaiserslautern)
(F) Chucks Nwoko (Birkirkara)
Canada starting XI
(G) Lars Hirschfeld (Calgary Storm)
(D) Paul Fenwick (Hibernian)
(D) Mark Watson (DC United)
(D) Carl Fletcher (Rochester)
(D) Kevin McKenna (Hearts)
(M) Jason Bent (Plymouth Argyle)
(M) Nick Dasovic (St. Johnstone)
(M) Jim Brennan (Nottingham Forest)
(M) Paul Stalteri (Werder Bremen)
(F) Tomasz Radzinski (Everton)
(F) Carlo Corazzin (Oldham Athletic)
This article was originally posted on November 15, 2001 on The Voyageurs Soccer website. Article courtesy of MaltaFootball.com