Nigerian-born attacker, Joseph Mbong was in action for all 90 minutes with Malta’s senior national team, but his efforts could not save the European island nation from falling 3-0 to Northern Ireland, megasportsarena.com reports.
The battling attacker, whose father, Essien ‘Papa’ Mbong, was a hero with Julius Berger FC of Lagos several years ago, could not make a difference in the game, as Ian Baraclough recorded his first win as Northern Ireland’s coach.
The friendly in Austria turned against Mbong’s side after Jordan Jones capitalised on a defensive mistake just two minutes in, following which quickfire second-half goals from Gavin Whyte and Ali McCann effectively ended the game as a contest.
It was not always convincing against a side ranked 175th in the world and dealing with a host of problems coming into the game, but the experienced side chosen by Baraclough got the job done in a fixture hastily arranged after a planned trip to Turkey fell victim to the pandemic.
Baraclough had a number of fresh faces in his 22-strong squad for the game, but they were all made to wait on the bench as he picked a strong side including Stuart Dallas as captain, Craig Cathcart, Paddy McNair and Josh Magennis.
On the other hand, Malta’s coach, Devis Mangia had expressed concerns over the fitness of his squad, made up almost entirely of domestic-based players at a time when the Maltese Premier League has been suspended since March.
There was certainly a large degree of rustiness in the awful clearance played by Ferdinando Apap, once of Sheffield FC in the Northern Premier League, as he inadvertently played in Jones on the edge of the area with barely 90 seconds gone.
The Rangers winger duly punished the mistake as he fired beyond Henry Bonello for his first international goal, much to the chagrin of Mbong, who was born in Nigeria and was only two when his family relocated to Malta.
His late father signed for Hibernians FC and was a hero of the game for the island before his death but, while his son speaks perfect Maltese, his application for the country’s international passport was delayed for a long while before it finally received a seal of approval.
Back then, the youngster and his parents were pushed to the limit, as they had to battle tooth and nail before he could receive the Maltese passport, but he eventually got the clearance that paved the way for his involvement with his adopted country from under-17 level to the seniors.
Mbong acknowledged the influence of his father on his career, but pointed out further that his allegiance is for Malta, as he declared: “I have been playing for Hibernians from Under-10.
“My father was a big influence; after all it was he who took me to Hibs. I always wanted to be like him.”