Malta 0-3 Northern Ireland: Jordan Jones, Gavin Whyte and Ali McCann all on target in comfortable friendly win
Match report as Jordan Jones, Gavin Whyte and Ali McCann all score in convincing win for Northern Ireland over Malta; Josh Magennis missed first-half penalty for Ian Baraclough’s side, who win inside 90 minutes for the first time in his reign
Sunday 30 May 2021 19:14, UK
Ian Baraclough recorded his first win as Northern Ireland manager inside 90 minutes as they eased to a 3-0 friendly win over Malta in Austria.
After Jordan Jones capitalised on a defensive mistake just two minutes in, quickfire second-half goals from Gavin Whyte and Ali McCann effectively ended the game as a contest.
It was not always convincing against a side ranked 175th in the world and dealing with a host of problems coming into the game, but the experienced side chosen by Baraclough ultimately got the job done in a fixture hastily arranged after a planned trip to Turkey fell victim to the pandemic.
Baraclough had a number of fresh faces in his 22-strong squad for the game, but they were all made to wait on the bench as he picked a strong side including Stuart Dallas as captain, Craig Cathcart, Paddy McNair and Josh Magennis.
Meanwhile, Malta coach Devis Mangia had expressed concerns over the fitness of his squad, made up almost entirely of domestic-based players at a time when the Maltese Premier League has been suspended since March.
🔥 What a tidy finish from @alimccann01 💚 #GAWA pic.twitter.com/9ozU51cdDF
And there was certainly a large degree of rustiness in the awful clearance played by Ferdinando Apap, once of Sheffield FC in the Northern Premier League, as he inadvertently played in Jones on the edge of the area with barely 90 seconds gone.
The Rangers winger duly punished the mistake as he fired beyond Henry Bonello for his first international goal.
Malta: Bonello, Apap, Agius, Shaw, Mbong, Kristensen, Teuma, Camenzuli, Satariano, Dimech, Montebello.
Subs used: Vella, Rowen Muscat, Farrugia, Borg, Xuereb.
Northern Ireland:Peacock-Farrell, McNair, Cathcart, Brown, McGinn, McCann, Dallas, Thompson, Whyte, Jones, Magennis.
Subs used: Bradley, McCalmont, Saville, Boyce, Ferguson, Charles.
It was Northern Ireland’s first first-half goal in their last 10 internationals, but hopes that it could spark a free-scoring 45 minutes would be dashed.
Malta offered up chances, with another defensive mix-up between Kurt Shaw and Teddy Teuma almost letting in Whyte before Shaw fouled the on-loan Hull forward to concede a penalty.
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However, Magennis went for power over placement and saw his spot-kick saved by Bonello.
As Northern Ireland passed up chances, Malta steadily grew into the game, threatening as Luke Montebello hit the side netting before Shaun Dimech poked wide.
Malta had the edge in possession, and Northern Ireland were struggling to make what they had pay as they repeatedly ran into traffic or got caught offside with their opponents defending in numbers and then looking to break.
Dallas, captaining the side for the second time, had been largely unable to influence the game from a central position but he got himself an assist when Northern Ireland doubled their lead seven minutes into the second half.
Shaw could only clear Jones’ cross as far as the Leeds man, who quickly fed Whyte to fire home.
And Dallas was involved in the third moments later as his flick found the run of McNair, who fed McCann to finish the job.
🤝 You absolutely love to see it! @gavinwhyte8 🔥 #GAWA pic.twitter.com/0eiQcDUHAb
The tempo dropped as the substitutions began, with Accrington striker Dion Charles earning a second cap while there was a late debut for 17-year-old Liverpool defender Conor Bradley, who came on alongside Alfie McCalmont with five minutes remaining.
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Baraclough will know that such a performance would not have sufficed had the Turkey match gone ahead, and more will be needed when they take on Euro 2020-bound Ukraine in Dnipro on Thursday.
But with the World Cup Qualifiers against Lithuania and Switzerland looming in September and after a long wait for both a victory and for goals – with this the first time they had more than one in a match during his tenure – Baraclough will surely draw plenty from the result.
- Northern Ireland picked up their first win since October 2019 against Czech Republic, ending a run of 13 international fixtures without victory (D5 L8).
- This was Northern Ireland’s biggest win since September 2018 against Israel (also 3-0), and their biggest away victory since September 2017 against San Marino (3-0). It was also their biggest away win in a friendly against a European nation since a 3-0 win against Malta in March 2000.
- Malta have never beaten Northern Ireland in an international meeting, with today the eighth time the two nations have faced in all competitions (D2 L6).
- Northern Ireland have missed both of their last two penalties (excl. shootouts), with Josh Magennis missing against Malta today and Steven Davis versus Netherlands in November 2019.
- There were just 103 seconds between Northern Ireland’s second goal scored by Gavin Whyte and third from Alistair McCann.
- Jordan Jones scored his first goal for Northern Ireland in what was his 12th senior appearance for his country, while Alistair McCann also scored his first for the nation in his 5th senior game.
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