Greece beats Malta 3-1 in Euro qualifier

Yiannis Fetfatzidis scored twice and Kyriakos Papadopoulos added

a goal on his international debut to help visiting Greece beat

Malta 3-1 and climb to the top of Group F in 2012 European

Championship qualifying on Saturday.

Michael Mifsud scored Malta’s lone goal.

Greece was one point ahead of both Croatia and Israel. It next

travels to Israel on Sept. 2.

Greece went ahead in the 8th minute with a swift passing

exchange. Nikos Spyropoulos stole the ball in midfield and sent a

long pass to Sotiris Ninis. He, in turn, passed forward to

Katsouranis who ran toward the byline and cut back to Fetfatzidis

who was left unmarked near the penalty spot.

Greece, which beat Malta 1-0 with an injury-time goal, kept the

pressure up and missed several chances. In the 24th, Dimitris

Salpingidis scored but his goal was, rightly, disallowed for

offside. But, two minutes later, Greece gained a free kick.

Greece’s oldest player, 35-year-old Giorgos Karagounis, who earned

his 106th cap, sent the ball to Papadopoulos, making his national

debut at 19, and the defender headed in from point-blank range.

Greece appeared unexpectedly sluggish in the second half and

Malta made them pay in 54th when Bajada passed the ball to an

unmarked Mifsud who sent it to the net.

Six minutes later, Malta nearly equalized, when Andrew Cohen,

seconds after coming in for Daniel Bogdanovic, sent a powerful shot

from outside the area crashing into the right post.

The spectators, who had been cheering Greece in the first half,

started loudly voicing their displeasure and whistling. This did

not last long, as Greece scored, rather unexpectedly, in the

64th.

An exchange of passes found Dimitris Salpingidis just inside the

area, on the right. Without a clear line to goal he crossed to no

one in particular. But Hogg, surrounded by four of his defenders,

chose to dive and parry the ball out of their reach and

Fetfatzidis, who was in the area, pounced to tap the ball in.

”We dominated the first 30 minutes and could have scored more

than two goals,” Greece coach Fernando Santos said. ”After the

35th minute, my players started running aimlessly and out of

position. We explained to them what to correct at halftime but,

unexpectedly, they came out even looser in the second half and

Malta started to believe. We could have avoided these bad 20

minutes.”

—-

Lineups:

Greece: Dimitris Constantopoulos, Nikos Spyropoulos, Vangelis

Moras, Alexandros Tziolis, Giorgos Karagounis (Pantelis Kafes, 70),

Dimitris Salpingidis (Costas Mitroglou, 90), Vassilis Torossidis,

Sotiris Ninis (Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, 79), Costas Katsouranis,

Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Yiannis Fetfatzidis.

Malta: Andrew Hogg, Jonathan Caruana, Gareth Sciberras, Andre

Agius, Ryan Fenech, Daniel Bogdanovic (Andrew Cohen, 59), Roderick

Briffa, Michael Mifsud, John Hutchinson (Paul Fenech, 87), Andre

Schembri, Shaun Bajada (Clayton Failla, 80).