So close yet so far for the Malta women’s national team who once again will rue their missed chances as they succumbed to a Maja Jelcic’s goal in the first-half against Bosnia-Herzegovina, at the BH Training Centre.
Both teams had their fair share of goal-scoring opportunities with Malta failing to capitalise on three major chances in the first 45 minutes that could have turned the tides of the game to their favour.
Following this game, Bosnia have now joined Malta on four points after six games. Mark Gatt’s girls will resume their Women’s World Cup commitments in April when they host Denmark and Russia.
The game had a fairly-balanced start, with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Malta trying to impose their game from the get going.
Marija Milinkovic of Bosnia registered the first chance of the game with a long-range effort but failed to hit the target before captain Milena Nikolic tried to head home from a corner but her effort was kept at bay.
Dajana Spasojevic also tried her luck with a shot from the edge of the area but Malta goalkeeper Janice Xuereb was alert to avert the danger. Moments later, Malta operated a well-enginereed positive transition but Rachel Cuschieri could not find the moment to send the ball past Bosnia’s goalkeeper.
Forward Haley Bugeja was brimming in confidence. aiding Malta’s attacking drives with her constant runs and her well-oiled partnership with former Mġarr United team mate Brenda Borg upfront.
Bosnia were struggling to break down Malta’s defensive line and were relying on their shooting options, with captain Nikolic trying to find the target with another long-range effort but to no avail.
The Bosnia and Bayer Leverkusen player remained her team’s main threat with her constant efforts from the edge of the area, but was yet to find the net.
On the 23rd minute, Bugeja squandered a golden opportunity when she sailed the ball over the bar from inside the penalty area after a well-weighted cross from Charlene Zammit.
Past the half-hour mark, Bosnia had a couple of quick chances through Spasojevic and Jelena Koprena but both efforts were halted by Malta’s custodian Xuereb.
Bosnia’s forward Maja Jelcic also missed a great scoring opportunity when she fired wide from close-range. Yet, she was not to be denied on the 36th minute when she pounced on a loose ball in a corner-kick situation before firing past Xuereb.
Malta’s reply came swiftly when Cuschieri struck a shot from the edge of the area but failed to hit the target as Mark Gatt’s team ended the first 45 minutes trailing by one goal.
At the restart, Gatt replaced Borg with Maria Farrugia to partner Bugeja upfront. The Maltese started on the forefront, with captain Emma Lipman having an effort on goal with a towering header but could not beat Bosnia’s goalkeeper Envera Hasanbegovic.
On the hour mark, Sofija Krajsumovic almost doubled the lead for Bosnia but her effort was deflected into corner from inside the box.
Malta could have levelled terms through Bugeja but after darting into the box, the Sassuolo forward saw her low drive blocked by Bosnia’s goalkeeper.
Bosnia replied with another Nikolic effort but Malta’s goal was well-guarded by custodian Xuereb as the Maltese were looking to remain well and alive in the game.
Eight minutes from time, Xuereb came to Malta’s rescue with a brilliant stop on talisman Nikolic as a second goal in this team for either side could determine the final result. A goal that Jelcic almost scored, once again from a corner-kick, but this time her rebound sailed over the bar.
Krajsumovic could have sealed the win for Bosnia when she let fly a thumping volley just to her effort struck the crossbar.
In the closing stages of the game, Malta tried to stage a late reaction in search of an equaliser but could not find the target as Bosnia claimed the spoils on home turf.
E. Hasanbegovic; M. Hasanbegovic, D. Spasojevic (54 D. Velagic), M. Milinkovic, M. Nikolic, S. Kapetanovic, M. Jelcic (90 N. Vujadin), E. Taslidza (62 M. Gacanica), J. Koprena (90 A. Bojanic, S. Krajsumovic, G. Sliskovic.
J. Xuereb; A. Said, E. Lipman, S. Farrugia, D. Theuma (67 E. Xuereb), R. Cuschieri, S. Zammit, C. Zammit, B. Borg (46 M. Farrugia), N. Sciberras, H. Bugeja.
Referee: Gamze Durmus Pakkan (Turkey FA).
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Jelcic 36.
Source and images: MFA