Prolific KKS Lech Poznań striker Artjoms Rudņevs struck his maiden international goal as Latvia claimed their first home win in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying at the final time of asking.
Rudņevs found the net with seven minutes remaining of his 15th appearance, after Aleksejs Višņakovs had put Aleksandrs Starkovs' men ahead just after the half-hour. The win lifted them to fourth in Group F ahead of their final outing away against Croatia on Tuesday, while Malta remain bottom.
Latvia began to dominate possession from the off and Višņakovs squandered the first opening of the night before Rudņevs missed the target from inside the area. With Malta appearing content to wait for chances on the counterattack, the home side steadily built pressure and it eventually told when Višņakovs swivelled in the box to lose his marker and buried the ball inside the far corner.
The goal boosted Latvia's confidence and they continued to carve out chances, with Māris Verpakovskis clattering the crossbar with a fine shot. Malta slowly began to create danger, however, and the hosts were slightly fortunate on 58 minutes when Clayton Failla fired the ball against a post.
Ivans Lukjanovs then failed to find the net from five metres out at the other end before Andrew Hogg did extremely well to parry a strike from Rudņevs. The 23-year-old forward was nonetheless determined to open his Latvia count and finally did precisely that from close range as Latvia moved a point clear of Georgia – with Croatia and Greece already assured the top two spots in the section.
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