The Malta women’s team suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat to Estonia in the first of two friendlies against the Baltic nation at the Centenary Stadium on Monday.
Coach Mark Gatt selected a young, attacking-minded team, handing a debut to 17-year-old Maria Farrugia, currently playing for the Sunderland Academy, and Mġarr United’s Roxanne Micallef. The duo led Malta’s attack in the first half.
Estonia made their intentions clear from the early stages, creating a couple of scoring opportunities but goalkeeper Janice Xuereb was alert.
The visiting side, ranked 77th by FIFA, went close to forging ahead on 17 minutes.
Kristina Bannikova sent an inviting ball into the box but Gerli Israel flicked wide from close in.
As the match progressed, the Maltese girls raised their efforts to gain ground but found it difficult to cope with Estonia’s physical prowess.
Early in the second half, Farrugia produced a dangerous free-kick but Estonia goalkeeper Getrin Strigin saved.
The two coaches made a series of substitutions in the second period but Estonia struck the winner nine minutes from the end.
Katrin Loo beat Xuereb with a strong free-kick from just outside the penalty box.
Malta and Estonia meet again on Thursday at the Centenary Stadium (kick-off 6.30pm).
Janice Xuereb, Gabriella Zahra, AnnMarie Said (Brenda Borg 33), Stephania Farrugia, Roxanne Micallef (Claudette Xuereb 46), Maria Farrugia, Shona Zammit, Jade Flask, Charlene Zammit © (Rebecca Bajada 57), Emma Xuereb (Raina Giusti 82), Alishia Sultana.
COACH: Mark Gatt
Getrin Strigin, Kairi Himanen, Kethy Ounpuu © (Kelly Rosen 80), Ketlin Saar, Berle Brant, Siret Raamet, Katrin Loo, Eneli Kutter, Kristina Bannikova (Liivi Sormus 90), Lisette Tammik (Samanta Uueda 59), Gerli Israel (Ulrika Tulp 78).
COACH: Jarmo Matikainen
Referee: Tania Fernandes Morais (Luxembourg FA).