Balzan: I. Janjusevic, S. Arab (A. Effiong 54 min), B. Giglio De Oliveira, B. Kaljevic, R. Fenech, S. Bezzina, A. Da Silva Souza, A. Nafti (L. Micallef 69 min), E. Serrano Valero, P. Fenech, A. De Barros.
Valletta: D. Bartkus, J. Caruana, S. Borg, R. Camilleri, S. Malano (L. Cremona 82 min), L. Montebello (M. Mifsud 70 min), C. Pani, U. Calistus (J. Borg 65 min), L. Aguirre, V. Alinho, R. Romao.
Referee: Clayton Pisani
Ass.referees: A. Camilleri, T. Debono
Fourth official: J. Spiteri.
Scorer: Romeo Romao 20 min
Yellow cards: S. Borg, C. Pani, M. Mifsud, B. Giglio de Oliveira, R. fenech, S. Bezzina, A. de Barros, L. Micallef
Red card: A. De Barros 85 min
Player of the match: Romeo Romao (Valletta)
TMI best three: 1. J. Caruana, 2. C. Pani, 3. A. Da Silva Sousa
Champions Valletta are back in full contention to retain the title as they beat league leaders Balzan, thanks to a stunning goal scored by Romeo Romao on 20 minutes.
Romao received an inch-perfect pass from Calistus from the other side of the field, and from an almost impossible angle fired in the roof of the net, giving Janjusevic no chance to save.
It was a deserved victory for Valletta who played a brilliant game, completely having the edge in the first half with Balzan out of the picture.
In the second period, especially with the inclusion of Alfred Effiong, Balzan had more punch up front, and Valletta had to defend for long stretches.
However although under pressure Valletta kept their cool with their three defenders, Steve Borg, Jonathan Caruana and Ryan Camilleri playing a great match, well aided on the flanks by Calistus and Aguirre.
As Valletta were under pressure coach Paul Zammit introduced youngster Jean Borg who gave the Valletta rearguard, the best in the premier league with only 17 goals, an added boost.
(Photos Domenic Aquilina)
In attack Zammit introduced veteran Mifsud half way through the second half, and Mifsud’s speed kept the Balzan defence under constant check.
Balzan finished the game with ten players when Anderson de Barros was sent off for two yellow cards, both for similar fouls on Valletta midfielder Alinho, who was also one of the best for his side.
Valletta knowing that only a victory would keep in the reckoning, went all out for an early goal, and Balzan were kept in their own half.
After Romao’s winner Valletta had some other good efforts through Malano and Pani, but the best chance came on 35 minutes when Montebello served Steve Borg who missed the upright by a whisker.
In the second half Valletta goalkeeper Bartkus showed his clas keeping his goal intact saving off Kaljevic with his extended foot, and off Da Silva Sousa on 68 minutes.
In the last quarter of the match Valletta regained their lost composure as Balzan’s firing power dried out.
Valletta had a couple of good counter breaks and in stoppage time Janjusevic made a great save to deny Aguirre from another Valletta goal.
Gzira U 4
Mosta: Y. Cini, A. Caruana, M. Toth, T. Farrugia, F. Chinatu, K. Magro (K. Reid 85 min), D. Fenech (K. Frendo 75 min), P. Calcado, Z. Brincat (L. Ozeghale 58 min), N. Priso, C. Romero.
Gzira U: J. Borg, J. Borg, A. De Queiroz Machedo Neto, S. Diamoutene, K. Pulo, J.C. Corbolan, L.R. Zome (C.A. Reyna 81 min), M. Avila Perez (I. Adeshina 88 min), Z. Scerri, A. Cohen (A. White 86 min), G. Conti.
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Ass.referees: P. Apap, P. Abela
Fourth official: Martin Borg
Scorers: Z. Scerri 54 min, G. Conti 76 min, C.A. Reyna 86 min, 92 min pen, T. Farrugia 90 min
Yellow cards: P. Calcado, R.L. Zome, Z. Scerri, Y. Cini, K. Magro
Player of the match: Juan Carlos Corbolan
TMI best three: 1. M. Avila Perez, 2. J.C. Corbolan, 3. K. Magro
Gzira United are back to winning ways after their derby defeat against Sliema, beating a sorry Mosta side 4-1 with all goals coming in the second half.
Gzira are now practically home and dry, far from any remote relegation worries. With Moises Avila Perez and Corbolan in dazzling form, there was no stopping the Maroons after the interval.
Gzira were more offensive at the start with Corbolan doing some dazzling runs that only produced chaos in the Mosta defence. On seven minutes Yenz Cini charged out of position to block the onrushing Zome, and some minutes Cini once again dived to block another Zome run.
Photos Domenic Aquilina
Gzira continued to dominate with Mosta shelled in their own penalty area, but Gzira could not get past the Mosta defence. Their only attempts came from long distance efforts from Cohen and Moises Avila Perez.
In a rare break Mosta almost surprised their opponents with a Njongo Priso run and a low drive that was well saved by Jurgen Borg. In the last stages of the first half Gzira went close when Zome and Corbolan managed to get past a couple of defenders, but again Cini managed to somehow block Zome’s close range effort.
A minute into the second half Gzira went close with a Conti grounder from the edge of the area that was well saved by Cini. On 50 minutes a Mosta opportunity with a Romero freekick slightly missing the upright.
On 54 minutes Gzira forged ahead when Cohen’s cross from the right was met by Avila Perez who had his effort blocked by a defender and the ball came in Zachary Scerri’s path, who fired the ball in the top corner of the net.
Tempers flaired on the touch line immediately afterwards, with the referee sending off Mosta’s assistant coach Johann Scicluna and Gzira’s coach Darren Abdilla. On the hour Andrew Cohen tried his luck from the edge of the area with his shot going slightly over the bar.
Mosta almost drew level on 64 minutes when Jurgen Borg had to charge out of the area to block Romero’s shot. On 76 minutes Gzira doubled the score when Corbolan darted forward in a fast break and served Gianmarco Conti whose first effort was brilliantly saved by Cini but from the rebound the same Conti fired home. It was all over now for Mosta as Gzira added a third on 86 minutes when Conti gave a through ball towards substitute Reyna who scored with a low shot.
Mosta pulled one back on 90 minutes when Tyrone Farrugia headed home a Romero freekick, but in stoppage time Ige Adeshina was floored by Farrugia, and from the penalty spot Reyna obtained his brace firing home with a fierce drive.
HAMRUN SPARTANS - 1
ST ANDREWS - 1
Hamrun S: D. Cassar, J. Neto, M. Micallef, K. Micallef, S. Arab (S. Nanapere), L. Grech, I. Misan, S. Raphael, L. Motta (J. Grech), L. Sciberras, M. Manset (D. Debono)
St Andrews: J. Galea, E. Beltre, B. Che, M. Johnson, K. Kesinovic, N. Belacevic, J. Farrugia (F. Udoh), Z. Kastrevec (D. Camilleri), I. Paz, A. Friggieri, K. Nwoko (G. McKay)
Referee: P. Farrugia
Asst.refs: E. Spiteri, T. Zammit
4th official: E. Grech
Scorers: K. Micallef 16, E. Beltre’ 49
Yellow cards: M. Johnson, S. Arab, S. Rafael, M. Manset
Player of the match: A. Friggieri (St Andrews)
TMI top 3: 1. A. Friggieri 2. J. Farrugia 3. L. Sciberras
This clash from the lower end of the table between two teams tied on 27 points before kick off, ended all square. St Andrews and Hamrun Spartans are now joined by Gzira United in a comfort zone, widening the gap between them and Mosta in eleventh place to 12 points. Premier League survival looks likely with seven macthes remaining.
Hamrun had gone into this match with no win in six matches, having lost the bulk of their self respect. They were better in the first 45 minutes and even took the lead. But their form dipped in the second half and they were caught up by Beltre’s equlaiser for St Andrews. Their unwanted succession of winless matches is extended, and, judging on this form, there is little sense of them ending any time soon.
This draw was just reward for the Saints after a spirited second-half fightback following Karl Micallef’s opener for Hamrun.
St Andrews blew a fine chance to record back-to-back victories.
Hamrun’s team showed four changes from their previous defeat against Birkirkara as Anigbogu, Paiber, Nanapere and Giusti were replaced by Sergio Rafael, Jorge Neto, Leandro Motta and Mathieu Manset.
St Andrews, who had registered their first league win in three months against Tarxien Rainbows the previous week, dropped Felix Udoh as Enmy Beltre started the match yesterday.
Hamrun were the first to break the deadlock past the quarter hour, in a match alarmingly short of quality. The Saints’ erratic clearance inside their own area allowed Hamrun defender Karl Micallef to win possession, avoid an opponent and shoot past keeper Jake Galea.
St Andrews were strangely lacklustre, offering only a muted response. That allowed the Spartans to dominate possession although the pickings were slim.
But they looked likelier to score again three minutes before the interval when they broke from midfield. Arab ran down the right, crossed low for Motta, whose shot was footed out by the Saints’s keeper.
St Andrews as a whole refused to buckle and they produced a spirited second half assault that saw them clinch an equaliser and even poured forward in search of more.
They restored equilibrium four minutes after the restart. From a Paz free kick, the ball was diverted against the Hamrun bar and it rebounded out for Enmy Beltre’ to shoot in from inside the area.
Hamrun were double lucky to survive further derision on 53 minutes. During another Saints’ attack, Nwoko and Friggieri both hit the post in quick succession, with the Hamrun keeper caught off balance.
Towards the hour, Friggieri made progress through the middle and passed the ball to the unmarked Kastrevec who messed up his shot.
Hamrun were now struggling to get any meaningful possession as St Andrews were all over them.
On 73 minutes the Spartans effected a double substitution, introducing Jake Grech and Saturday Nanapere for Motta and Arab.
The Saints kept playing the better football and they created another chance on 83 minutes. A deep Beltre’ cross shot from the right was turned into a corner by keeper Cassar.
Although ending the match encamped inside their own half, Hamrun went close in the dying minutes with a Manolito Micallef header that narrowly missed the target.
PEMBROKE A- 0
HIBERNIANS - 3
Pembroke A: A. Roppas, A.Scozzese, S. Racic, Z. Levnaic, D. Jawad, I. Roppas, M. Attard, T. Radovnikovic, T. Fenech (Z. Grech), D. Falzon, S. Eboh (J. Mifsud)
Hibernians: A. Hogg, R. Soares, D. Boljevic, M. Dias, J. Lima (D. Vella), C. Failla, B. Kristensen, Jorginho (M. Moore), J. Degabriele (J. Bezzina), G. Ribeiro, A. Agius
Referee: S. Spiteri
Asst.refs: D. Sultana, R. Aquilina
4th official: F. Zammit
Scorers: Jorginho 8, J. Degabriele 64, D. Boljevic 84
Yellow cards: Z. Levnaic, M. Attard, D. Bojevic
Player of the match: J. Degabriele (Hibernians)
TMI top 3: 1. J. Degabriele 2. G. Ribeiro 3. A. Roppas
Hibernians swept to their 17th league win, swatting aside bottom-side Pembroke Athleta with plenty to spare.
And by virtue of Balzan’s defeat, the Paolites now reclaim top spot in the standings, two points above them and three above Valletta, with things really hotting up.
Hibernians had called the tune from the first whistle and went on to lord it over their opponents. They looked stronger, slicker and more imaginative, and created several chances to prove that on the scoreboard
Once Jorginho had put them in front after eight minutes, the Paolites showed why they are so far above their opponents on the league ladder.
Pembroke, who are struggling for survival, looked horribly limited.
They offered next to nothing as an attacking threat and they cannot defend that generously and expect to get away with it, especially against quality opponents like Hibernians.
Pembroke had regular keeper Matthew Calleja Cremona suspended and replaced by Argyre Roppas in goal. That was one of five changes effected by coach Artim Shakjiri, who keeps unsettling the side. Andreas Scozzese, Darren Falzon, Miguel Attard and Tyrone Fenech were all given starts yesterday.
Hibernians, who were an unchanged side, showed more bite in the tackle and a greater willingness to push forward. It took them only eight minutes to expose the problems that remain in Pembroke’s defence. Degabriele ran down the right and Jorginho towered himself to meet his cross and head past keeper Roppas.
Hibernians held the initiative and made repeated inroads up the channels. Pembroke struggled to stop them, even on relatively simple and direct balls. Failla’s powerful drive from the left forced keeper Roppas to make an agile save into a corner.
Another Failla free kick went over before Ribeiro’s shot from a distance was parried by the Pembroke keeper. Jorginho had a shot blocked and Ribeiro lofted the ball from a promising position.
Yet, for all their dominance, the Paolites had only one goal to show at halftime.
Despite dominating possession in the second half, Hibernians failed to continue creating such a sequence of clear chances after the interval.
Pembroke defended deep and compact and looked more comfortable.
On 50 minutes Degabriele’s shot from the edge of the area was repelled by keeper Roppas.
Hibernians then reaffirmed the order of things past the hour. A Dias cross from the right was fumbled by the Pembroke keeper, the ball rolled to Jurgen Degabriele who shot in from a tight angle.
Hibernians started playing with renewed belief. Roppas effected a one-handed safe off Ribeiro’s shot and after exchanging the ball with Failla, Ribeiro’s powerful drive from inside the area skimmed the side netting.
On 82 minutes, Degabriele ran for Agius’ through pass before lobbing a long ball that Roppas tipped over into a corner.
Pembroke’s defence wilted again from the ensuing low flag kick, enabling Dejan Boljevic to hit in from close range to settle this one-sided contest six minutes from time.