F.Y.R. Macedonia 5-0 Malta
F.Y.R. Macedonia warmed up for their EURO 2004™ qualification opener next month with a convincing friendly victory against Malta tonight.
Macedonian coach Nikola Ilievski gave five players their international debuts - Velice Sumulikoski, Ace Stojkov, Boban Grncarov, Aleksandar Vasovski and Goce Toleski - as he shaped his team in preparation for their opening Group 7 encounter with Liechtenstein. And goals from Stojkov, Gjorgji Hristov, Goran Pandev plus a double from Artim Sakiri gave the home side a resounding win at the City stadium.
Macedonia, whose Group 7 opponents are England, Turkey and Slovakia, went ahead in the 37th minute when 19-year-old Stojkov beat Maltese goalkeeper Mario Muscat after latching on to Hristov's pass. Sakiri finished a three-man move just three minutes later to extend the lead.
Hristov, Macedonia's all-time leading scorer, scored his 14th international goal after 54 minutes to make it 3-0 following an assist from Goran Pandev.
The fourth goal came after the best move of the game on the hour mark. Sumulikoski skipped past two defenders before slipping the ball to Hristov in the penalty area. He in turn found Sakiri in space and the onrushing midfield player scored with a well-struck shot from 18 metres.
Malta's best chances came in the final ten minutes but Gilbert Agius fired over the bar while Michael Mifsud hit the post from close range. Pandev completed the rout with his first international goal two minutes from time.
Ilievski claimed afterwards that he was concerned despite the win. "I'm not satisfied despite the 5-0 win," he said. "We relaxed in some phases, that is not allowed in qualification matches."
Macedonian captain Igor Sasa Nikolovski, however, was delighted. "We fulfilled all the tasks that the coach asked from us. I'm satisfied with the win," he said.
Malta coach Sigfried Held said: "That was a black night for us. I expected a tough game, but we played without will, without heart and my players didn't cover their rivals."
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