Good evening and welcome to Sports Mole
's live commentary of the Euro 2020
qualifier between Malta
from Ta'Qali. Spain beat Norway 2-1 on Saturday to open their qualification campaign with a victory, but Malta will be full of confidence following their 2-1 home success over the Faroe Islands. Stay tuned for live minute-by-minute updates of this Group F clash!
MALTA: Bonello; Mbong, Muscat, Caruana, Borg, Zerafa; Corbolan, Guillaumier, Fenech, Mintoff; Nwoko
SPAIN: Kepa; Roberto, Ramos, Hermoso, Gaya; Canales, Saul, Rodri; Bernat, Morata, Asensio
Malta are without their most experienced defender through suspension, with Andrei Agius receiving a red card against the Faroe Islands at the weekend. Zach Muscat for Agius is the change in central defence, but the nation's record goalscorer Michael Mifsud also drops out as Ray Farrugia switches to a 5-4-1 formation, with Joseph Zerafa and John Mintoff also coming into the XI.
As for Spain, only Sergio Ramos, Marco Asensio and Alvaro Morata remain from the team that started the 2-1 win over Norway at the weekend. Kepa replaces David de Gea between the sticks, while Sergi Roberto, Mario Hermoso, Jose Gaya, Rodri Hernandez, Sergio Canales, Saul Niguez and Juan Bernat all come into the side tonight. Chances for a number of players here.
Tonight will be the eighth international meeting between the two teams. Spain have won each of the previous seven, including a 4-0 victory when they last locked horns in February 1997. Can Malta pull off one of the biggest shocks ever in international football? Stay tuned to find out!
KICKOFF: Malta kick things off tonight...
... as expected, it has not taken too long for Spain to take control of the possession, with Ramos and Rodri Hernandez enjoying plenty of early touches. Could be a long night for Malta.
Malta have competed in every qualifier for the European Championships and World Cup, but have never managed to make it to the finals of any major international competition. Before Saturday's win over the Faroe Islands, meanwhile, they had not won an international fixture since beating Ukraine in a friendly back in June 2017. Spain really should win this one fairly comfortably.
CLOSE! Half-chance for Spain as Ramos meets a free kick from Canales, but his header was always rising over the Malta crossbar. The early pressure is coming from the away side here.
Spain also ensured that they would open their Group F qualification campaign with a victory as they recorded a 2-1 success over Norway at the Mestalla on Saturday. Sergio Ramos's 71st-minute penalty proved to be the winning goal, but it was far from convincing from Luis Enrique's side.
No longer able to call upon the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Gerard Pique, it is very much a different era for Spain. There is still plenty of talent in the squad, but they are a team very much going through a transitional period. La Roja continue to put the early pressure on Malta, but Zerafa has just won a free kick from Morata to ease some of the pressure on his side.
Pass, pass, pass from Spain as they continue to work the ball into forward positions. Canales just delivered a dangerous cross towards Morata, but Zerafa did well to make the clearance.
It has been a disappointing few years for Spain; they exited the 2014 World Cup in the group stage before being knocked out of last year's World Cup in the round of 16. La Roja are three-time winners of the European Championships - including back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2012 - but they were eliminated from the 2016 competition in the round of 16. There is plenty for Enrique to work on.
There is around 400 Spain supporters in the stadium tonight; their team has been on the front foot thus far, but no chances to report since Ramos headed that Canales free kick over.
Spain have won each of their last four away European Championship qualifiers, with their last defeat on the road coming against Slovakia in October 2014. Home and away, La Roja have been victorious in their last nine European Championship qualifiers and will fancy their chances of making it 10 in a row against Malta, who have hardly been out of their own half thus far.
CLOSE! Saul Niguez sees his long-range strike just dip wide of the Malta post.
With Mifsud left on the bench, Kyrian Nwoko - who scored his first international goal at the weekend - is leading the line for Malta, but the Valletta attacker has been left chasing shadows as La Roja continue to move the ball. The home side are defending very, very well here, though.
CHANCE! Another big chance for Saul, but the midfielder fires a low Roberto cross over!
Spain will travel to the Faroe Islands in their next qualifier on June 7, before welcoming Sweden and travelling to Romania in their next two. It is not the most difficult of groups, but there is no question that Sweden have the credentials to cause Spain issues, as Norway did on Saturday night.
A win, with a clean sheet and plenty of goals, will be the order of the day for Spain, and they are certainly capable of running up a score, having put four past Wales and six past Croatia in the latter stages of 2018. Malta continue to hold firm in front of their own fans, though.
Well, it is very much a case of 'so far, so good' for Malta, with the score still goalless. Saul has had two decent openings, but has taken neither. It is all one-way traffic here, though.
Tonight brings the eighth international meeting between the two teams. Spain have won each of the previous seven, including a 4-0 victory when they last locked horns in February 1997. Spain's biggest victory over Malta was a 12-1 home success in December 1983, while La Roja have won 3-2, 2-0 and 3-0 on their travels. This is still goalless, however, with 27 minutes on the clock.
Malta are not a team used to winning matches. All but one of their current squad plays their football in the Maltese league, with the only exception being Zach Muscat, who turns out for Olhanense in Portugal. They are all professionals, but obviously not at a similar level to Spain's players.
As mentioned, former Coventry City forward Michael Mifsud, who has 41 goals in 137 appearances for his national team, is on the bench for Malta. Currently with Birkirkara, the 37-year-old was joined in attack by Nwoko at the weekend, but was named on the bench for this one.
SAVE! Decent stop from the Malta goalkeeper to keep out a header from Morata.
GOAL! MALTA 0-1 SPAIN (MORATA)
Spain make the breakthrough in the 31st minute as Morata breaks into the Malta box before squeezing one through the arms of Bonello, who might feel that he should have saved it!
CHANCE! Saul again fires over the Malta crossbar from inside the box!
Mintoff is a touch fortunate to escape a yellow for a very late challenge on Gaya. Spain continue to dominate the ball, but Malta will be delighted with how things are going here.
Asensio versus Mbong has been a good battle thus far tonight...
Little over five minutes of the first period remaining and Morata's goal is the difference. Malta just cannot find a way out of their own half at the moment, but they are still defending well.
Spain have a free kick in a dangerous area as Nwoko fells Ramos...
... Asensio's free kick misses the crossbar.
Malta would be absolutely delighted if they could get to the break just 1-0 behind. Spain have had loads and loads of the ball, but have been very sloppy on a number of occasions.
Bonello is out to gather a loose attempt from Morata, which looked like a pass or a weak shot. I should not imagine that there will be too much added time at the end of the first period.
Hermoso scoops over the Malta crossbar from distance as Malta look to break.
HALF TIME: MALTA 0-1 SPAIN
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Spain leading Malta 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Morata. Spain have been dominant, but clear chances have actually been few and far between, meaning that Malta can be delighted with their showing thus far.
STATISTICS! Spain had 80% possession in the first period, while they managed three shots on target from 10 attempts. Malta did not have a single attempt and in truth, have not really had the ball in Spain's half. No yellow cards to report; it has just not been that type of football match.
BENCH WATCH! Spain have an embarrassment of riches on their bench tonight, with the likes of Alba, Busquets, Ceballos, Jaime Mata, Muniain and Navas all available. As for Malta, their record goalscorer Mifsud is available, and it would not be a surprise to see the forward in the second half.
KICKOFF: Spain resume the action here...
... no changes from either side at the break, which is not too much of a surprise. However, you suspect that both managers will have alterations in mind as the second period develops here.
The only goal of the match thus far...
Malta have a throw down the left, but it quickly breaks down and Spain can break once again. Bernat took a knock a couple of moments ago, but seems fine to continue for the moment.
Asensio lines one up outside the box, but Borg makes a smart block. Spain do win a free kick, though, as Saul is brought to the ground by Borg moments later. Dangerous position...
... Ramos hits the wall with his free kick.
SPAIN SUB! Muniain replaces Bernat for Spain.
CHANCE! Morata heads a Roberto cross wide of the Malta post.
Still all Spain in terms of possession, but Malta are not having to do that much to keep the score down. There is no getting away from the fact that the visitors have been poor.
SAVE! Decent save from the Malta stopper to keep out a low attempt from Asensio.
Muniain is chopped to the ground by Borg as the pace of the match slows down. We are entering the stage of the match where some of the Malta players will be feeling the pace.
SAVE! Another good save from Bonello to keep out a strike from Asensio.
SHOT! Roberto smashes harmlessly wide of the Malta post from distance.
SPAIN SUB! Navas replaces Saul for the away side.
MALTA SUB! R Muscat replaces Mbong for the home side.
Malta's goalkeeper fails to come and collect a dangerous corner, but the home side again defend well with Borg making the clearance. Still 1-0 with 68 minutes on the clock here.
MALTA SUB! Mifsud replaces Mintoff for the home side.
Malta are certainly pushing higher up the field at the moment, but they might be made to regret that as Spain have all sorts of space on the counter-attack. Huge last 20 minutes here.
YELLOW CARD! Corbolan (Malta) is booked for a foul on Canales.
GOAL! MALTA 0-2 SPAIN (MORATA)
And there is the second for Spain! Morata doubles the away side's advantage with a bullet header from a Navas cross. That should be that in terms of the three points tonight.
Mifsud breaks into a dangerous position for Malta, but the offside flag is raised.
Navas continues to cause problems in a wide area as he delivers another dangerous cross towards Morata, but Bonello just about does enough to palm clear under intense pressure.
SAVE! Smart save from Bonello to keep out a long-range Ramos strike.
SPAIN SUB! Rodrigo for Morata is Spain's third change here.
All Spain in terms of possession as they continue to pass and probe, looking to add more goals in the final 10 minutes of this Euro 2020 qualifier. Can the home side find a response?
Still all Spain here, but Malta have a goal kick as Navas could not reach a through pass from Asensio. Still the best part of 10 minutes to play before the night is out here.
MALTA SUB! Micallef replaces Caruana for the home side.
CLOSE! Canales comes close to finding the corner of the net following a smart exchange with Roberto. We have not really seen enough of that type of football from the visitors tonight.
Pass, pass, pass from Spain as they continue to move the ball with their possession around 80% approaching the final moments. Malta have still not had a single shot tonight.
SHOT! Malta have their first shot as Nwoko tests Kepa from distance!
We are into the first of four additional minutes here.
Not an awful lot to report in stoppage time and it does appear that it will finish 2-0 Spain. The points are pretty much secure, but the performance has again been disappointing here.
SHOT! Mifsud fires high and wide of the Spain crossbar from distance.
SAVE! Smart save from Bonello to keep out a strike from Asensio.
CHANCE! Ramos heads the final chance over from close range!
FULL TIME: MALTA 0-2 SPAIN
So there we have it. Spain make it two wins from their first two Euro 2020 qualification fixtures courtesy of a 2-0 victory against Malta in Ta'Qali on Tuesday night. Not too impressive from the visitors, but the points have been secured. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live coverage once again. See you next time!