Tarxien R. 1
Valletta: N. Vella, J. Caruana, D. Balbinot (J. Borg), R. Camilleri, JG Cruz, R. Briffa, F. Falcone, U. Calistus (JP Mifsud Triganza), J. Benites, A. Nafti (J.Suda), R. Romau.
Tarxien R.: A. Cassar, E. Baker, B. Giglio de Oliveira, T. Tabone Desira, T. Caruana, L. Montebello, A. Azzopardi, C. Hevia Menendez, D. Zerafa, A. Alves, JP Oliveira Santos (L. Omerou).
Referee: T. Farrugia Cann.
Asst refs: W. Debattista, C. Francalanza.
4th official: G. Tonna.
Scorers: A. Alves, F. Falcone,
Yellow cards: C. Hevia Menendez, U. Calistus, D. Zerafa, J. Caruana, F. Falcone, R. Briffa, D. Balbinot, E. Baker
Player of the match: A. Alves
TMI Top 3: 1. A. Alves, 2. R. Romau, 3. F. Falcone.
Valletta extended their lead to four points in the standings yesterday despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Tarxien Rainbows.
Valletta now enjoy a four-point lead over Hibernians ahead of the latter’s match against Mosta today. Valletta have 41 to the 37 of Hibernians. Tarxien have moved onto the 32-point mark.
The result confirms that the recent results obtained by Tarxien, especially last week’s 3-0 over Floriana, was absolutely no fluke.
Valletta enjoyed the lion’s share of the attacks in the first half, but had little to show more than the Rainbows, except perhaps a few more cornerkicks.
In fact, it was the Rainbows who created the best scoring opportunities and gave the City defence quite a number of anxious moments.
The citizens appeared shocked when Tarxien took the lead and they found it difficult to recover ground before they eventually managed to equalise.
In the second half, the rhythm slowed down considerably, but Tarxien were more adventurous and goalie Vella was kept somewhat busy.
However, neither team managed to create a clearcut scoring opportunity, though near the end, Valletta pressed hard though they never penetrated a well organised Tarxien rearguard.
City had the first shot at goal. It was from Jhonnattann Benites whose freekick was well saved by goalie Andrea Cassar.
Tarxien’s reply arrived on the 14th minute. Ebiabowei Baker set Montebello in the City area, but his shot was blocked. He took the rebound, but the ball flew slightly over the bar.
The Rainbows shocked Valletta in the 18th minute as they took the lead. It was a typical counter break initiated in midfield by Alex Alves who advanced and went round Caruana before beating Nicki Vella with a low shot.
Tarxien missed another good opportunity in the 25th minute. And it was again Baker who set Montebello in the City area. The latter lobbed over the onrushing Vella, but also slightly over the bar.
On 30 minutes, as the Rainbows insisted in attack, it was Ayrton Azzopardi who tested goalie Vella, but the shot was central and weak.
At the other end, Cassar was forced to dive and save a Jhonnattann Benites freekick as City kept searching for an equaliser.
The leveller arrived soon – in the 36th minute - after when from a Calistus cross, it was Falcone who anticipated goalie Cassar to head into the empty net.
In the 39th minute, Tarxien threatened once again through an Alvez cross which, however, found no takers in front of the Valletta goal.
Tarxien thought they had taken the lead once again in the 52nd minute. Baker set Alvez who crossed low into the City goal where Montebello flicked the ball into the net, but he was rightly ruled offside.
In the 56th minute, Ryan Camilleri came to City’s rescue as he anticipated Alvez to block to corner.
In the 68th minute, Vella had to punch away an Oliveira Santos hard shot. From the rebound, the same player’s shot went just wide.
Vella again saved City’s fort turning to corner another Oliveira Santos shot. At the other end, it was Falcone who headed just wide a Romau cross.
Valletta now took command of midfield and pressed hard for the winner. In the 78th minute, Benites went round Cassar but his angled shot was somehow stopped and cleared by a Tarxien defender. Five minutes later, the same Benites had an effort from an ideal position going wide.
That proved to be City’s final chance to get the three points, but Tarxien did not deserve to lose.
Pembroke: M. Muscat, A. Cini, M. Attard, O. Bugeja, P. Barbetti, Z. Levniac, M. Micallef, K. O’Brien, A. Laudisi, P. Shereni, G. Villalobos.
Naxxar L: J. Azzopardi, A. Scicluna, R. Grech, D. Toure, D. Falzon, D. Bonnici (A. Hungria), JA Godar Pereira, J. Debono (T. Sarina), I. Grech, GM Hamutenya, N. Tasic.
Referee: F. Zammit.
Asst refs: E. Spiteri, L. Portelli.
4th official: M. Spiteri.
Scorers: M. Micallef, G. Villalobos.
Yellow cards: R. Grech, GM Hamutenya, P. Shereni, M. Micallef,
Player of the match: M. Micallef.
TMI Top 3: 1. M. Micallef, G. Villalobos, J. Debono.
Pembroke Athleta obtained three precious points in their quest to avoid the drop when yesterday they beat companions in distress Naxxar Lions.
Second half goals by Mano Micallef and Gustavo Villalobos were enough for Pembroke to score a deserved victory for their side.
In fact, they were the more adventurous side, especially in the second half when they scored their goals.
The three points have now lifted them onto the 21 point mark, a massive 13 points above second from bottom Naxxar Lions, who remain on just eight points from the 18 matches played.
This was, however, one of the most boring Premier matches I have witnessed this season.
In the first half, there were no decent chances created by each side as both defences appeared to be superior to their opposing forwards. To be fair, Pembroke went close to taking the lead near the end of the first half.
The two sides lacked flair with Pembroke holding the edge in midfield, but it was evident, right from the start, that Naxxar’s main aim was to defend and try to surprise their opponents on the counter.
In the second half, play was slightly better, but it was Pembroke who appeared more likely to score, as in fact they did. That lonely goal enabled them to clinch all the three points.
The first goal by Mano Micallef was his first strike since joining the Athleta in this January transfer window.
The match had a quiet start but Pembroke soon took the initiative and on the 14th minute a Kyle O’Brien freekick was blocked by the Naxxar barrier with the ball being eventually cleared to safety.
Naxxar replied soon after with Bonnici setting Toure, but Muscat blocked comfortably.
Play degenerated and neither side seemed able to penetrate the opposing defence. Naxxar could have done much better through Toure on 30 minutes who sent his freekick well over the post from an ideal position.
Just before the interval, Pembroke created the first real scoring opportunity when from a Mano Micallef cornerkick, it was Villalobos who had a good header palmed away by goalie Julian Azzopardi.
In the 51st minute, Pembroke’s Barbetti should have done much better when from the edge of the area, and unhindered, he seemed to have passed the ball to goalie Azzopardi rather than kicking the ball to score.
In the 56th minute, Pembroke again threatened, this time through Laudisi, whose flick from a Cini cross found no takers.
Naxxar replied through a Hungaria effort which was blocked by a Pembroke defender to an abortive corner.
But it was Pembroke who eventually found the net. It was Laudisi who advanced on the left flank and crossed perfectly for Mano Micallef to head home past the helpless Azzopardi.
Pembroke insisted and in the 66th minute, they went close once again through Barbetti who had a good effort deviated to a corner.
Naxxar’s only reply arrived on the 71st minute through a weak Jurgen Debono effort which was easily saved by Muscat.
On 90 minutes, it was veteran goalie Muscat who avoided an awkward situation for Athleta as he rushed out of his charge to thwart Demba Toure.
At the other end, it was 2-0 as Villalobos made the most of a bad sortie by Julian Azzopardi, blocking the goalie’s clearance and hitting home into the empty net.