The Malta Independent 14 November 2018, Wednesday

Valletta dig deep to edge plucky Maroons; Hamrun back to winning form against 10-man Sliema

Saturday, 14 January 2017, 18:20 Last update: about 3 years ago

Valletta-Gzira 1-0

Valletta: D. Bartkus, J. Caruana (S. Malano), S. Borg, R. Camilleri, L. Montebello (L. Cremona), C. Pani (J. Borg), U. Uchenna, L. Aguirre, Jhonnattann, R. Muscat, R. Romao

Gzira U: M. Boerchio, A. White, S. Diamoutene, Z. Scerri, G. Conti (K. Pulo), J. Borg (S. Grixti), J. Bondin, L. Zome, J. Corbolan, M. Avila Perez, I. Adeshina (E. Amaira)

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Referee: E. Grech

Asst.refs: J. Spiteri. C. Azzopardi

Additional asst.refs: T. Farrugia Cann, A. Johnson

4th official; T. Debono

Scorers: L. Montebello 58

Yellow cards: S. Malano, L. Aguirre, S. Diamoutene

Player of the match: G. Conti (Gzira U)

TMI top 3: 1. Z. Scerri  2. G. Conti  3. S. Borg

Attendance: 602

SILVIO VELLA

Valletta were back in the groove after their reverse against Hibernains the previos week and three winless matches that had dropped them to fifth in the standings. But it was far from an impressive performance by the champions who had to break more sweat than expected to edge plucky Gzira with a decisive Luke Montebello goal short of the hour.

This win now lifts Valletta temporary to third place, four points adrift of leaders Balzan, who play today.

Gzira initially seemed there for the taking but emerged as deserving opponents, who again put up a decent challenge, only to be foiled by that moment of ingenuity.

Valletta looked expensively sluggish in the first half. Their problems in attack looked evident. With Federico Falcone already gone and his replacement Tomas Radzinevicius suspended, Luke Montebello started in attack. But even Jhonnattann, most probaly making his final appearance for Valletta before moving abroad, failed to show his true qualities yesterday.

Despite the encouraging performance against Balzan the previous week, Gzira coach Darren Abdilla deemed it fit to make three changes to his side yesterday. He dropped Gatt Baldacchino, Azzopardi and Correa and started with Andre White, Gianmarco Conti and Jacob Borg instead.

Photos Domenic Aquilina

The Maroons had come to be compact, with a tight midfield trio plus wide midfielders who played deep to hold out Aguirre’s and Romao’s overlaps.

But before Valletta had even settled into the game, Gzira had what looked like a legitimate call for a penalty ignored by the referee. Adeshina fell inside the area when apparantly tackled by  Camilleri from behind.

Shots from a distance by Avila Perez and Conti missed the target and a Corbolan free kick after 20 minutes went narrowly wide.

Valletta, looking toothless up front, needed to organise themselves in midfield. When they needed leadership, the team merely looked confused and dazed. The running of Pani, Uchenna and Muscat lacked purpose.

When Uchenna made progress through the middle, he missed the target completely. To complicate matters further, Jonathan Caruana was forced to leave the field with some muscular problem and be replaced by Santiago Malano.

Valletta’s real threat in this first half came on 39 minutes. Muscat’s shot from a distance took a wicked deflection and rebounded off the underside of the bar with Gzira keeper Boerchio beaten.

Valletta looked slightly better in the second half but Gzira still carved out chances. The Valletta fans were treated to a half chance on 52 minutes when Pani played one-two with Jhonnattann but put his final shot wide. On the other end, Zome reached for the ball before Valletta keeper Bartkus, on a Conti floating free kick, but headed just over.

The atmosphere in the Valletta side had been long subdued until Gzira finally wilted and Valletta broke the deadlock two minutes short of the hour. Aguirre played the ball forward to Luke Montebello who went past White and left keeper Boerchio stranded with his perfect strike.

That goal robbed Gzira of all their confidence and although they kept pushing for an equaliser, they did that without really threatening the Valletta defence who remained solid till the end.

PEMBROKE ATHLETA - 2

ST ANDREWS -               2

Pembroke: M. Calleja Cremona, D. Falzon, A. Dhrami, Z. Levnaic, O. Bugeja, P. Giannopoulos, I. Ropras, S. Shodija, A. Scozzese, S. Racic, A. Borg

St Andrews: J. Galea, E. Beltre, A. Bakmaz, D. Camilleri, K. Kesinovic, M. Johnson (N. Belacevic), F. Udoh (J. Walker), I. Paz, J. Farrugia, Z. Kastrevec (R. Darmanin), K. Nwoko

Referee: M. Apap

Asst.refs: M. Scerri, W. Debattista

4th official: M. Spiteri

Scorers: I. Paz 25, 78, A. Dharmi 32, S. Racic 50

Yellow cards: D. Falzon, I. Paz, Z. Levnaic, S. Racic, O. Bugeja

Player of the match: I. Paz (St Andrews)

TMI top 3: 1. I. Paz   2. A. Scozzese  3. M. Calleja Cremona

SILVIO VELLA

Bottom side Pembroke Athleta fought gallantly and were value for a draw against neighbours St Andrews in an entertaining encounter that produced four goals and plenty of drama.

Although this draw keeps Pembroke winless in seven matches since last November, they can pick up on many positives, most notably the two goals scored and the chances created. This point could prove a springboard to survival.

St Andrews, who dominated the match for long stretches, surrendered their first half lead and had to fight hard for a draw, thanks to a disputable penalty, after falling behind early in the second half. This third consecutive draw keeps them unbeaten in the last five matches.

Pembroke keep reshuffling their side after the departures of Maksymov, Mariano and Manevski. They engaged two new Greek midfielders, Iraklis Roppas and Panagiotis Giannopoulos, both handed starts by coach Shakjiri yesterday. Darren Falzon, formerly of Hamrun Spartans, was making his first appearance with the new club and he played wide up front, in support of Racic. Miguel Attard was suspended.

St Andrews also had Bong Won Che suspended and dropped Brandle, but they were boosted by the return of Enmy Beltre and Ante Bakmaz in defence.

Photos Domenic Aquilina

The Saints dominated the first half in front of a sparse crowd at Hibernians stadium. Paz had already stung the palms of Pembroke keeper Calleja Cremona after three minutes and St Andrews enjoyed territorial dominance in the opening stages.

Pembroke survived the onslaught and then applied some pressure themselves, with a Giannopoulos shot from a distance.

That proved to be only brief respite for Pembroke and St Andrews got the goal their first-half performance merited after 25 minutes, although it came from a dead ball situation. Keeper Calleja Cremona was late on the ball from Ivan Paz’s inswinging free kick from outside the area on the right and failed to hold it out.

Soon after, Nwoko’s powerful strike was well saved by goalkeeper Calleja Cremona.

Pembroke sought an immediate response. They thought they had an equaliser on 28 minutes when, from a Falzon corner, Racic skied the ball wastefully from an ideal position.

They did level matters however past the half hour. Saints’ keeper Galea parried Giannopoulos’ shot, the ball fell to Arber Dhrami whose effort took a slight deflection off a St Andrews player to finish into the net.

On 35 minutes Racic again headed a Roppas free kick fractionally wide and that heralded Pembroke’s best patch.

Before the half was over, St Andrews then reaffirmed things and threatened with a Johnson’s header that missed the target and a Camilleri shot that went over.

Pembroke started the second half on the front foot and went ahead after only five minutes. Shodiya played a splitting pass inside the Saints’ area and Stevan Racic turned well to score with a low diagonal drive.

As Pembroke retreated deeper, St Andrews poured forward in search of an equaliser. A Paz free kick clipped the bar and Saints’ coach Doncic put in strikers Ryan Darmanin and Nenad Belacevic.

St Andrews got some reward when awarded a very soft penalty on 78 minutes after Shodiya challenged Beltre inside the area.

Calleja Cremona saved Paz’s shot from the spot but was rendered helpless on the loose ball as Paz hit it in despite Bugeja’s block.

In a late surge, St Andrews had a Kesinovic goal rightly disallowed for an offside and Nwoko was denied by keeper Calleja Cremona, who footed it out his effort  to save his side a point.

 

Sliema W.  1

Hamrun S. 2

 

Sliema W.: G. Zammit, F. Temile, M. Potezika, S. Bianchiardi, P. Xuereb, W. Salomon (R. Spiteri), D.dos Santos, J. Mintoff, M. Scerri, B. Muscat, JP Farrugia.

Hamrun S.: D. Cassar, L. Motta dos Santos (N. Saturday), K. Micallef, L. Sciberras, JP Mifsud Triganza, M. Giusti (P.Chircop), L. Grech, M. Micallef, J. Grech, LM Vergara, S. Dos Anjos.

Referee: M. DeGabriele.

Asst refs: L. Portelli, S. Attard.

4th official: A. M. Sant.

Scorers: J. Grech pen., M. Potezika o.g., D. Dos Santos pen., P. Chircop.

Yellow cards: M. Giusti, M. Scerri, SR Dos Anjos,  Micallef.

Red cards: J. Mintoff

Player of the match: Jake Grech

TMI Top 3: 1. J. Grech; 2. D. Dos Santos; 3. M. Giusti.

 

Henry Brincat

 

Hamrun Spartans returned to winning form yesterday as they overcame a 10-man Sliema side by the odd goal in three.

The victory enabled the Spartans to continue distancing themselves from the bottom end of the table and it sent them into seventh place on 23 points, one behind Sliema.

The Wanderers paraded their new signing Frank Temile, who left Birkirkara in return for Sliema’s Gary Muir.

Sliema saw more of the ball in the first half and were unlucky not to have taken the lead on at least two occasions through good headers by Jean Paul Farrugia.

But Hamrun defended well and even had their own good moments up front before they eventually took the lead in added time through that Jake Grech penalty.

In the second half, the Wanderers started on attack in search of an equaliser, but they were shocked when an unfortunate own goal by Potezika gave their opponents a good 2-0 lead.

It became even more difficult for John Buttigieg’s side when John Mintoff saw red following a second yellow card, but ironically, Sliema hit back strongly to get back into contention thanks to a Denni dos Santos penalty.

From then on, it was an almost continuous Sliema assault on the Hamrun goal, but the Spartans remained well organised and calm at the back to collect all the three points.

Sliema had Alex Muscat (suspended) and Terlaziz missing from their line-up. On Hamrun’s part, Karl Micallef made his debut, while new signing Brandon remained on the bench for the whole duration of the game and still has to make his debut.

Hamrun provided the first thrill in the second minute – a Jake Grech freekick which was missed by friend and foe but went past the left upright of the post defended by Zammit.

Soon after, Hamrun goalie Cassar easily saved a Denni dos Santos freekick.

Two minutes later, at the other end, Mifsud Triganza set Motta dos Santos on the right flank. The latter advanced into the Sliema area but his effort went just over.

In the 17th minute, Jean Paul Farrugia was unlucky not to have given the lead to Sliema when his fine header, off a Dos Santos freekick, hit the upright before going wide.

On 26 minutes, a Jake Grech freekick forced Sliema goalie Zammit into a good save, sending the ball to an abortive corner.

In the 34th minute, Jean Paul Farrugia was again close for Sliema with another good header which just missed the target.

In first half added time, from a Jake Grech freekick, John Mintoff handled the ball and Mr DeGabriele awarded the Spartans a penalty. From the spotkick, Grech made no mistake to the delight of the club’s fans.

Soon after the start of the second half, Denni dos Santos had a freekick going just wide of the Hamrun goal.

Despite Sliema’s offensive, it was Hamrun who scored a second – albeit an own goal. It was substitute Nanapere Saturday who set Jake Grech on the right and from the latter’s low cross, Potezika unfortunately hit the ball into his own net in an effort to clear.

Sliema ended in 10 men in the 66th minute when John Mintoff was shown a second yellow card for a bad foul on Giusti. Mifsud Triganza’s low freekick was saved by Zammit.

Soon after, at the other end, Sliema were awarded a penalty when Jean Paul Farrugia was hit in the face by Sergio Raphael Dos Anjos in the area. Dos Santos converted the spotkick in style to put the Blues back in contention.

In the 74th minute, it was substitute Ryan Spiteri who missed a good chance for Sliema, hitting wide from a good position.

Four minutes later, Hamrun threatened seriously once again through Massimiliano Giusti who indulged in a solo move which ended with a rising shot that hit the post and the back of goalie Zammit before the ball finished in a corner.

In added time, Sliema again had a chance to equalise, but a fierce Denni dos Santos effort was well saved by the diving David Cassar.

Mosta        0

Tarxien R.   2

 

Mosta: Y. Cini, F. Onwudinjo, D. Djoufack, D. Fenech, G. Bezak (A. Caruana), P. Calcado, K. Magro, C. Hengbart, E. Mikes, LV Oseghale (C. Camilleri), N. Frendo.

Tarxien R.: P. Schranz, E. Baker, E. Marcelina, T. Caruana (A. Azzopardi), D. Ponce (J. Galea), A. Nilsson, S. Prendes, D. Zerafa, A. Da Paixao Alves, M. Tabone, K. Zammit (S. Borg).

Referee: G. Tonna.

Asst refs: E. Spiteri, P. Abela.

4th official: P. Farrugia.

Scorers: A. Nilsson, D. Zerafa.

Yellow cards: E. Baker, P. Calcado.

Player of the match: D. Ponce.

TMI Top 3: 1. D. Ponce, 2. A. Nilsson, 3. D. Djoufack.

Attendance: 575.

 

Henry Brincat

 

Tarxien Rainbows obtained a third consecutive win yesterday evening beating lowly Mosta by two first half goals.

Striker Alex Nilsson set them on the way to their victory with an early sixth minute goal and that was followed by a second from Daniel Zerafa, after a lapse by goalie Cini.

It was undoubtedly a deserved win for the Rainbows who were in control from start to finish.

After their 1-1 draw against St Andrews last week, I expected Mosta to continue with a positive run, but it was not to be, as they were subdued by a superior Tarxien side.

The Rainbows maintained their recent impressive run – 11 points from their last five matches - which has lifted them on to the 24 point mark in joint sixth place with Sliema.

Jesmond Zerafa has certainly brought serenity in this Tarxien side which is growing in confidence with Daniel Ponce a great master in the middle of the pitch – no surprise he was voted player of the match.

In the first half, he had a say in the first goal apart from his excellent distribution of the ball.

Mosta were weak at the back and also failed to penetrate the strong Tarxien rearguard with their much fewer efforts mostly going astray.

It must be said that Mosta are trying hard to improve their lowly position, but the going is tough and unless they show a vast improvement, they will be facing a very tough time to avoid being relegated.

Tarxien did not take long to take the lead. In fact, only six minutes had elapsed when Daniel Ponce set Alex Nilsson in the area for the latter to beat goalie Yenz Cini with a hard shot.

Mosta had to wait till the 19th minute to force a deflected shot by Neil Frendo which was however, well saved by goalie Philip Schranz.

It was 2-0 in the 24th minute. From a Ponce corner Cini effected a bad sortie as he was anticipated by Daniel Zerafa who headed into the net.

On the half hour, it was Erik Mikes who had a good chance for Mosta, but his shot was blocked to a corner by Baker.

In the 32nd minute, in a swift counter-attack, Nilsson set Ponce on the left flank. The latter advanced into the area, but his good effort was partially saved by Cini and a Mosta defender cleared to safety.

Two minutes later, Mosta went close to bridging the gap through Neil Frendo, but his fine effort went past the upright.

Soon after the start of the second half, Mosta had a Da Piaxao Alves effort from a direct freekick going wide of the left post.

In the 63rd minute, Tarxien almost notched a third goal but a Triston Caruana effort from the angle was cleared off the line by Mosta’s French defender Cedric Hengbart.

In the 74th minute, Mosta’s only effort came from Kurt Magro, but it just missed the target.

 

 

 

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