First Team Star
Mar 26, 2018, 2:20 PM
Team(s): Colchester United, Stocksbridge Park Steels, Borussia Dortmund & Essex CC
Post #1 of 1
My latest European footie trip took me to the island of Malta. I flew with Easyjet from Gatwick arriving late afternoon in Malta. I purchased a 12 trip bus card at the airport for the reasonable price of €15 and this covered all my trips during my stay. Within the hour I was checked into my hotel in Sliema an excellent base for getting around with the ferry across to Valetta and a number of bus routes starting from Sliema Ferries.
My first full day on the island and I caught the 222 bus from Sliema to Cirkewwa to take the ferry across to the island of Gozo. The 25 minute crossing takes you across to the port of Mgarr from where you can catch a 301 bus into the main town of Victoria. I visited the spectacular Dwejra coast and spent a couple of enjoyable hours in Victoria. The views from the citadella across the island are stunning.
Late afternoon I walked the 1.5 km to the Gozo Stadium in the suburb of Xewkija. The island’s main stadium, with a capacity of about 4000, is seated on the two sides with the main stand covered. The pitch is grass but behind the goal to the left of the main stand, is a 3G area used for pre-match warm ups. The changing rooms are also at that end. The privately owned, Universal Sports Bar, is just outside at that end of the stadium. Shortly after the game kicked off a refreshment outlet opened to the left of the main stand. I never got chance to check out what was on offer.
Two Gozo First Division games were scheduled to take place on Wednesday, Gharb Rangers v Xewkija Tigers at 18:00 and Kercem Ajax v Oratory Youths at 20:00. Admission was €5, presumably covering both games. A crowd of about 50 had arrived when the Rangers v Tigers game kicked off. After just four minutes play the referee headed to the touchline and blew his whistle abandoning the game! The players and crowd were not happy! I’m not sure if trouble was expected but half a dozen policemen had appeared on the touchline. I found the match announcer who explained that it that there was a problem with the generator and the floodlights would not come on. At 18:04 it was still light enough to play on but it soon would not be. The players and officials headed back to the changing rooms and the crowd left via the turnstiles. No-one appeared to be given a €5 refund. Apparently this was not the first time the generator had failed this season. I could have stayed to see if it got sorted before the Ajax v Youths 20:00 KO. I’m glad I didn’t as that match was subsequently postponed. For the benefit of the hopper police I will not be counting my four minute game at the Gozo Stadium as a tick!
After spending the morning and early afternoon sightseeing in Valetta I caught the 202 bus heading towards Ir-Rabat via the Ta’Qali National Stadium. Leaving Sliema at 16:17 the journey should have taken just over an hour. The journey actually took nearer ninety minutes and I only got to the stadium 15 minutes before the kick-off. The bus stop is behind the Millennium Stand. I headed to the VIP entrance to enquire about where I should go with my ticket. I was directed to the West Stand on the other side of the stadium but not before picking up a couple of 4 page colour programmes which appeared to be just for the match sponsors seated in the Millennium Stand. Round at the West Stand I was in half of the stand to the left of the central VIP section with a small but vociferous group of Luxembourg supporters. The stadium has a capacity of 16,997. The tea bar under the stand was selling cold snacks and hot and cold drinks.
Ta’Qali National Stadium
Malta 0 (0) Luxembourg 1 (0)
White Shirts & Shorts Red Shirts & Shorts
Admission €5 (Ticket purchased & printed online) Programme Free
Chicken Baguette & Coffee €4
I wasn’t expecting a classic encounter and I duly was not disappointed. Luxembourg with a much higher FIFA ranking dominated for most of the opening hour with Malta chasing their opponents. The visitors nearly took the lead in the opening minutes but the Maltese keeper, Hogg saved well from Turpel’s shot inside the box. In the 11th minute Malta were presented with great chance when the Luxembourg keeper Schon’s miscued clearance fell to Malta’s Schembri but the forward took too much time and his shot was cleared off the line by defender Philipps. The visitors went close on 23 minutes when Rodrigues cross shot grazed the crossbar. More of the same after the break and on 72 minutes Luxembourg again went close when Jans fierce shot was saved one handed by Hogg. Malta then had their second great chance to break the deadlock. Substitute Farrugia disposed Philips and broke into the box before squaring the ball to Fenech but a last ditch tackle by Malget denied the midfielder. Malta appeared to be holding on for a draw when in the 93rd minute a left side corner from Thill was headed goalwards by Janisch. Hogg parried the header but the rebound fell to Malget who stabbed the ball home from close range.
I was expecting a long wait for my 202 bus after the game but a friendly local who I had been chatting to kindly offered me a lift back to Sliema which was on his way home.
I enjoyed another morning sightseeing as I took the 202 bus again and visited the walled city of Mdina in the centre of the Island. After some lunch in Mdina I caught the 186 bus back to the Ta’Qali Stadium bus stop before walking around the stadium to the 3,000 capacity Centenary Stadium. The stadium, with a newly laid 3G pitch, serves as the home stadium for the Malta national U21 team. It is seated on just the one side which is partly covered. On a wet and windy afternoon the cover was most welcome. A small tea bar was doing a brisk trade in snacks and hot & cold drinks, including spirits!
International U21 Friendly
Malta U21s 1 (0) Switzerland U20s 3 (1)
White Shirts & Shorts Red Shirts & Shorts
Admission Free Team Sheet Free
Hot Chocolate & Maltesers (I know when in Rome or Malta...) €1.80
This was an entertaining game between the Maltese U21s and their younger visitors from Switzerland. The friendly was part of the host’s preparations for next Tuesday’s European qualifier in Turkey. Malta with a strong wind behind them were competitive in early exchanges but the visitors took the lead in the 12th minute when Duah’s right side pull back was turned in by Aebischer. On 21 minutes Malta went close when Nwoko’s wind assisted effort from outside the box came off the woodwork. Seven minutes later Malta were forced to replace Galea in goal due to an injury. Nwoko again went close on the stroke of half time but it was the visitors who led at the break. On the hour the Swiss doubled their lead when Janjicic’s shot with the wind behind it gave sub keeper Vella no chance. At this point the Maltese coach gave a debut the Peterborough United’s Andrea Borg. In the 67th minute Malta reduced the arrears when Nwoko stole possession on the edge of the box and fired past the Swiss keeper Kohn. The hosts pressed for an equaliser but in the 81st minute Maltese defender Vella could only deflect a ball into the box into his own net to give the Swiss a third goal.
(This post was edited by sheffgeoff on Mar 26, 2018, 2:22 PM)