Ireland struggle to 1-0 win over Malta

The record will show a 1-0 win for Ireland but the reality is the boys in green struggled for much of the 90 minutes to find a gap in a well drilled Malta defence.
The goal was more of a gift than good Irish play.
Malta’s captain Matthew Guillaumier made a hash of a back-pass to keeper Bonello and Cardiff City’s Callum Robinson gratefully accepted the early Christmas present to put Ireland in front early in the second half.
Other than that Ireland offered little in the way of creating goal scoring chances. In fact they only had one chance in the first half, Alun Browne just failing to find a finishing touch.
Malta, belying their FIFA world ranking, nearly embarrassed the visitors when Coventry’s Jodi Jones took advantage of a mistake by Shamus Coleman to test Kelleher early in the opening ten minutes.
Joseph Mbong saw his close range effort fly over the bar. A warning for Ireland.
Ireland did improve, slightly, in the latter stages of the match but with the prospect of a Euro 2024 qualifier against France next year, this game offered little encouragement to Stephen Kenny and his squad.
Malta did well to hold Greece to a 2-2 draw and despite this narrow loss to Ireland, they look well prepared for next year’s Euro clashes with the likes of England and Italy, as well as Ukraine and North Macedonia.
Photo: Keeper Bonello…my ball