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Malta and Luxembourg celebrate friendly highs

Published: Thursday 10 February 2011, 10.14CET
Justin Haber told UEFA.com he will not find it easy to forget his two penalty saves in Malta's 0-0 draw with Switzerland while Luxembourg are still celebrating a 2-1 win over Slovakia.
by Domenic Aquilina & Klaus Klump
Malta and Luxembourg celebrate friendly highs
Justin Haber pushes Alexander Frei's early penalty on to the post ©Domenic Aquilina
 
Published: Thursday 10 February 2011, 10.14CET

Malta and Luxembourg celebrate friendly highs

Justin Haber told UEFA.com he will not find it easy to forget his two penalty saves in Malta's 0-0 draw with Switzerland while Luxembourg are still celebrating a 2-1 win over Slovakia.

Malta goalkeeper Justin Haber was the star of the show as he saved two penalties to give his side a morale-boosting 0-0 friendly draw with Switzerland on a fine night for some of Europe's smaller nations.

The 29-year-old, who plays for Ferencvárosi TC in Hungary, kept Ottmar Hitzfeld's team at bay almost single-handedly, pushing a second-minute Alexander Frei spot kick on to the post and then denying a Gökhan Inler penalty after the interval. He told UEFA.com: "The two saves were the icing on the cake on a night I won't forget in a hurry."

He added: "I am very pleased, not only for my two penalty saves but because we all did our best to get a more than creditable result against such high-ranking opponents. Switzerland beat Spain at the World Cup and they fielded their best side. This result definitely boosts our morale for next month's qualifier at home to Greece."

Haber became the first Maltese goalkeeper to keep out two penalties in a single international; back on 6 December 1986, Alessandro Altobelli missed two in Italy's 2-0 UEFA European Championship qualifying win against Malta, yet goalkeeper John Bonello saved only the second one, with the first being put wide.

While Haber and his team-mates celebrated, Hitzfeld may consider giving his charges extra spot-kick practice before they visit Bulgaria in their next UEFA EURO 2012 game on 26 March. "We had enough chances, especially from the spot," said Switzerland's coach. "If you miss two penalties it is a shock, and also motivation for your opponents."

Slovakia coach Vladimír Weiss also had a gloomy evening. Two Daniel Da Mota goals handed the side that beat Italy at last year's FIFA World Cup a 2-1 defeat in Luxembourg – not that Weiss saw much of it. "It must be a big day for Luxembourg," he said. "The result was sensational and we have to be disappointed, but that's all I can say, because after our first goal I couldn't see anything because of the fog."

Meanwhile, Da Mota – who is also scoring freely for F91 Dudelange – was delighted. "There's really no better feeling than to come off the bench, score two goals and turn the match on its head," said the 25-year-old, who has Portuguese parentage. "Our performance was down to our fantastic preparation."

His coach Luc Holtz agreed. "The level of effort we put in has finally paid dividends," he said, adding: "Now we have to take the momentum and confidence gained from this match into our upcoming encounter with France. Our opponents are a different class, but if we put in a similar type of performance, we have a chance to create even more of an upset than we did against Switzerland [a 2-1 win during 2010 World Cup qualifying]."

Last updated: 10/02/11 14.05CET

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