In the UEFA Nations League D, Group 3, Kosovo took on Malta in the Pristina City Stadium. A 3-1 victory for the Kosovans, this took them to the top of the group with 7 points from 3 matches (2W-1D-0L), 5 goals scored and only 1 conceded. Azerbaijan and Faroe Islands are the other two nations to complete the four-nation group.
In this match, Lazio had one player in action: new arrival (from RB Salzburg) Valon Berisha. A player Laziali have been unable to see much of so far this season due to injury, Berisha fully recovered ahead of the Europa League Matchday 2 clash with Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany where he made his debut for the club in an unfortunate 4-1 loss; following this, he debuted in the Serie A TIM as he played the final minutes of the match against Fiorentina in Matchday 8 last weekend in a 1-0 victory.
With the international break arriving after these two matches, it was without a doubt that the player would be called upon by his nation: an experienced player and vice-captain for the side, he has made 11 appearances so far for the nation, scoring 1 goal – however, this is only since 2016, when he switched allegiances from Norway, after Kosovo became a FIFA member; before this date, he had made over 70 appearances (youth and senior team) for Noway.
Getting back on track to the match against Malta, he started as a center attacking midfielder in manager Bernard Challandes’ 4-2-3-1 formation, playing 74′ and picking up an assist before being subbed off for 23-year old Besar Halimi. Overall, the match was dominated by the Dardanians as they outshot the Ħomor by 25 (14 on target) to 4 (2 on target) and had 67% ball possession. They took the lead in the 30′ with the first of two goals from left-back Benjamin Kololli, the 26-year old currently playing for Zürich in Switzerland. This was the goal Valon (#14) assisted as he received the ball from the defender (#17) before showing terrific vision to play him through to goal. The second goal came from center back Andrei Agius of Malta as he evened the score in the 51′ off a corner whipped in from the right corner flag. The third goal of the match, and second for Kosovo, came from 24-year old Çaykur Rizesporstriker striker Vedat Muriqi in the 68′. After missing a sitter in the 6-yard box, he smashed a left footed shot into the bottom left corner. The final goal of the match, and third for Kosovo, came from Kololli once again in the 81′ he smashed a shot through the Maltese goalkeeper.
A good performance from the nation, it is important to note that 37-year old captain, Michael Mifsud of Malta, received a red card after receiving his second yellow in the 70′. Also, 19-year old Genk right-winger Edon Zhegrova (#22) of Kosovo hit two posts in this match – one in each half.
The joy of victory also resulted in a message from Berisha being sent on his Instagram account where he wrote: “We continue to win for our fans with a fantastic atmosphere around. Together we are stronger”. Valon was one of the highest rated players in this match: he had 3 shots (1 on target), 45 total passes (37 accurate; 4 key passes), and was the set-piece specialist taking 5 corners.