England clinched the first victory in the EURO Futsal Qualifiers after beating Malta 3-0 at the Corradino Pavillion.
England were mostly in possession of the ball and managed to break the deadlock after three minutes when Ian Parkes received from James Webb to blast home past keeper Matthew Mifsud.
Despite this goal, Malta rolled up their sleeves and roared on by the home fans, produced a good reaction whilst operating with some swift counter-attacks as Desira Buttigieg, Del Re and Zammit began testing the English defence.
There were a few scares along the way as England’s Stuart Cook was denied by the woodwork
As the match continued to intensify, Malta played better, improving mainly the defensive part and creating some more chances at goal.
The first half ended 1-0.
The second half started better and the Maltese lads fought bravely for every ball with Matteo Desira Buttigieg and Xavier Saliba trying to threaten the English defence.
But luck didn’t seem on Malta’s side as England doubled the lead when Luke Ballinger luckily deflected a Jennings’ shot to put the ball inside the net and surprise Mifsud.
Malta’s best chance fell on 38 minutes as Matteo Desira Buttigieg’s saw his shot saved off the line by English defender George Nash.
Marlow opted for Milijic as the flying keeper as the Maltese were pressing forward in search of goal.
But on one of these attacks, the Maltese defence was caught unprepared as Agon Rexha drove the ball past the empty net to ensure the final victory for his team.
A defeat always tastes sour but such was the effort put in by the Maltese that they were applauded off the pitch.
Tomorrow Malta play their second match against Andorra (kick-off 19.30hrs ) at the Corradino Pavillion
Malta : Matthew Mifsud, Giancarlo Sammut, Chris Cardona, Dale Camilleri, Jovica Milijic, Nicola Del Re, Melvin Borg, Mark Zammit, Xavier Saliba, Matteo Desira Buttigieg, Nicholas Farrugia, Luke Stivala, Jason Gauci.
Coach : Mark Marlow
England : James Dalton, Ben Mortlock, Agon Rexha, Richard Ward, George Nash, Ian Parkes, David Jennings, Luke Ballinger, William Rooke, James Webb, Toluwanimi Sotonye, Stuart Cook, Jordan Parker, William Gay.
Coach: Pete Sturgess
Goals: Ian Parkes 3min, Luke Ballinger 29 min, Agon Rexha 39 min.
Yellow Cards: Nicola del Re (Malta),Luke Ballinger (England)
Referee 1: Gabor Kovacs (Hungary)
Referee 2: Yusif Nurullayev (Azerbaijan)
Third Official: Borut Sivic (Slovenia)
Time-Keeper: Robert Darmanin