The Malta Independent 23 February 2020, Sunday

Premier League: Wins for Balzan, Pembroke, Valletta and Mosta

Wednesday, 2 December 2015, 08:31 Last update: about 5 years ago

St Andrews          0      

Pembroke  4


St Andrews:  K. Calleja, N. Ghio, D. Camilleri (L. Grech), M. Sehitaj (M. Johnson), E. Nkene, M. Guillaumier, M. Desira Buttigieg (N. Vella Petroni), M. Grima, J. Farrugia, E. Uzeh, C. Cumbo.

Pembroke: M. Farrugia, G. Bardsley (PP Sammut), A. Cini, M. Attard, O. Bugeja, P. Barbetti (L. Micallef), K. O’Brien, A. Laudisi, G. Villalobos, A. Martz (S. Arab), Z. Levniac.

Referee: P. Farrugia.

Asst refs: J. Spiteri, R. Aquilina.

4th official: M. Borg.

Scorers: G. Villalobos, C. Cumbo (own goal), A. Laudisi, K. O’Brien,

Yellow cards: M. Sehitaj, E. Nkene, P. Barbetti,

Red cards: E. Uzeh.

Player of the match: G. Villalobos.

TMI Top 3: 1. G. Villalobos, 2. A. Laudisi, 3. E. Nkene.

Attendance: 281.

Henry Brincat


Pembroke made a step forward towards salvation yesterday when they beat bottom club St Andrews comfortably.

It was a very deserved win for the Athleta side who were the better side - as the result clearly indicates.

The Athleta are now on the 17-point mark – a very impressive amount of points for a team in its debut season in the Premier League.

Pembroke were by far the better side on the field of play and they never allowed the Saints to settle down to any pattern of play. In Villalobos and Laudisi, they had their match-winners – both were in very good form yesterday.

St Andrews had Jose Borg taking the place of former coach Wayne Attard who resigned after a disastrous opening 12 matches (all defeats).

Yesterday it was the same old story as the Saints suffered their 13th defeat from as many matches.

It is quite unfortunate to see this side making it to the Premier League, only to become a cushion for all their opponents. I believe we have never had a team figuring so poorly in our top sphere.

The Saints will find it difficult to retain their status, but I am sure that their young team is at least gaining much needed experience, despite the disastrous results.

The early exchanges were shared, but Pembroke took the lead on the 10th minute. A Laudisi cross was cleared badly by the Saints’ defence and Villalobos found the net with an angled shot.

St Andrews replied with a cross by Michael Grima to Dale Camilleri, but the latter’s effort went well over the bar.

In the 21st minute, the Saints were awarded a freekick just outside the area, but Farrugia hit the ball over.

In the 31st minute, Pembroke missed a good opportunity through Laudisi who, with only goalie Calleja to beat, preferred a low cross and the ball was eventually cleared.

In the 33rd minute, Pembroke scored a second goal. It was Saints’ defender Cumbo who unfortunately deviated a Villalobos cross into his own net.

Pembroke added a third goal in the 40th minute, when Villalobos set Laudisi splendidly for the latter to beat the onrushing Calleja.

The Saints replied with a Dale Camilleri fine shot which was turned to corner by Farrugia.

Before the interval, it was Nkene who avoided a fourth goal as he cleared to corner from over the line a Bardsley effort.

In the second half, Pembroke reduced the rhythm considerably and the Saints could move forward more frequently, but they struggled to get going.

To compound their misery, the Saints were reduced to 10 men in the 70th minute when Uzeh was dismissed following a second yellow card.

And Pembroke soon took advantage to add a fourth goal to their tally in the 73rd minute. The omnipresent Villalobos set Kyle O’Brien in the area, and the latter found the net with a low shot.

Two minutes later, it was Calleja who avoided a fifth goal, blocking a Laudisi effort from close range.

Till the end, Pembroke dominated and toyed with their opponents playing the possession game for most of the time.



QORMI –      1   

MOSTA-         3

Qormi: J.M. Vella, A. Cassar, O. Sidibe, N. Ojuola, Y. Yankam (T.Gusman), D. Leeflang, C. Gauci, K. Magro, C. Monti, E. Vella, A. Nilsson

Mosta: O. Borg, T. Farrugia, M. Micallef, O. Guobadia (S. Fidelis), A. Borg, O. Dovatus, E. Murga (K. Frendo), I. Zammit (G. De Paula), R. Ekani, H. Yau, D. Falzon

Referee: S. Spiteri

Asst.refs: E. Spiteri, S. Attard

4th official: A.M. Sant

Scorers: D. Leeflang 43, I. Zammit 45,  E. Murga 61, G. De Paula 84

Yellow cards: H. Yau

Red card: N. Ojuola

Player of the match: I. Zammit (Mosta)

TMI top 3: 1. H. Yau  2. M. Micallef  3. A. Cassar



Qormi were unable to thwart Mosta’s strong challenge, especially after playing for almost a whole hour with ten men, and succumbed to defeat despite scoring first.

Mosta , who always showed a greater willingness to push forward,  were able to turn the tables on their opponents and return to winning ways after more than a month.

Qormi were bouyed by two consecutive draws lately, against Naxxar Lions and Pembroke, but injuries deprived them of defender Berntsson and striker Terence Vella yesterday.

Mosta dropped four players from the side that lost to Floriana. Micheletti, Chukwide, Fidelis and Ryan Grech made way for Ian Zammit, Rodriguez Ekani, Hassan Yau and Dyson Falzon in the starting line-up.

They dominated despite going into the game on a downer, having failed to win in their previous three matches, although Qormi made a bright start, going close through a Yankam effort after nine minutes and hitting the bar with a Nilsson header, off a Monti cross, one minute later.

Mosta threatened midway through the half and Qormi keeper Vella stretched himself to hold out a Dovatus dipper.

Qormi came up with another shot on goal through Yankam. On the other end Zammit forced keeper Vella into a  difficult save. Towards the half hour, an insidious Murga cross from the left was cleared by the Qormi defence and Yau’s effort on the loose ball was blocked into a corner.

The most talked about episode of the first half was the harsh dismissal of Qormi defender Ojuola past the half hour, for his tackle on Zammit some 20 metres away from goal towards the right, probably adjudged by the referee to have hampered a goal scoring opportunity.

Minutes later, Micallef was blatantly felled inside the Qormi area but Mosta’s claims for a penalty were turned down by the referee.

Although down to ten men, Qormi grabbed the lead on 43 minutes. Adrian Borg hesitated to clear on the edge of the area. Djamel Leeflang robbed him of the ball and coolly beat keeper Omar Borg.

But Qormi’s advantage lasted only two minutes. From a Dovatus free kick from the right, Ian Zammit hit a powerful low strike that passed beneth the Qormi keeper’s outstretched body to level matters.

Mosta remained stronger and more coherent than their oppenents in the second half, although Mosta keeepr Borg had to stretch himslef to hold out a Nilsson low drive soon after the restart. On 55 minutes Zammit’s cross from the right fell invitingly to Dovatus whose effort was blocked by Gauci.

Edin Murga became highly influential towards the hour. He first hit the bar off a Micallef cross and then scored with a rasping shot from outside the area to give Mosta the lead, as Qormi were looking vulnerable at the back.

Qormi tried to stay compact to limit the damage as Mosta did not continue to create clear cut chancesdespite their extra man. They still looked potent enough however to score their thrid an assuring goal six minutes from normal time. Substitute Gustavo De Paula picked Yau’s pass and beat keeper Vella with a low diagonal shot.



Balzan        4

Naxxar L.    2


Balzan: C. Cassar, D. Grima, J. Grioli, G. Mensha (P. Lapira), L. Micallef (M. Focsa), C. Brincat (S. Arab), A. Effiong, E. Serrano Valero, E. Bilbao Zarate, S. Bezzina, T. Agius.

Naxxar L.: J. Azzopardi, B. Rajovic, A. Scicluna, L. Lodetti (D. Bonnici), R.C. Cardozo, T. Sarina, D. Toure, JA Pereira, J. Debono (D. Falzon), I. Grech, A. Viera dos Santos (D. Fenech).

Referee: M. Apap.

Asst refs: M. Scerri, CL Francalanza.

Additional Asst. Refs: A. Azzopardi, E. Azzopardi.

4th official: P. Apap.

Scorers: G. Mensha, A. Effiong 2, D. Toure, L. Micallef, S. Bezzina (own goal),

Yellow cards: A. Scicluna, D. Grima, E. Serrano Valero, L. Micallef, T. Agius, I. Grech,

Player of the match: G. Mensha.

TMI Top 3: 1. G. Mensha, 2. A. Effiong, 3. R. Cardozo.


Henry Brincat


Balzan maintained the pace in the top positions of the standings after registering a comfortable 4-2 win over lowly placed Naxxar Lions.

In actual fact, Balzan became temporary leaders of the Premier League ahead of the Valletta-Sliema clash which was played later yesterday.

Balzan assured themselves of the three points in the first half when they were leading by two goals.

It was a deserved win. Not only they enjoyed the lion’s share of the exchanges, but they also produced the better ideas as their opponents were more intent on defending their goal rather than moving forward, especially in the first half.

So poor were the Lions in those opening 45 minutes that they did not even test Balzan goalie Cassar once and rarely, if ever, showed any clear ideas as to how to penetrate Balzan’s defence.

T he Lions, however, were a different proposition in the second half as they started aggressively in an effort to get back into the match.

But it was Balzan who scored again and although Naxxar quickly pulled one back, Balzan were good enough to add another goal to make their victory more convincing. A late second goal for Naxxar proved to be little consolation for the Lions.

Naxxar were missing the services of Gnenegbe and Buhagiar, both ruled out through suspension, but had Thomas Sarina and Joe Angel Pereira making their debut.

The match had a quiet start, but in the 12th minute, from a Grioli corner, a Serrano header was only parried partially by Azzopardi and Lodetti was on hand to clear the ball away.

Balzan took the lead on the 24th minute. From a Terence Vella freekick, it was Godwin Mensha who flicked the ball into the net.

Balzan kept the initiative and on the 30th minute, Steve Bezzina tested Azzopardi with a strong low shot from 25 metres, but the goalie saved.

Soon after, from a Grioli cross, it was Clive Brincat who just missed the target with a fine header.

Naxxar’s first real attack arrived in the 36th minute. From a cross from the left by Pereira, it was Serrano who cleared to corner before Toure could conclude.

Soon after, at the other end, it was 2-0. In a fast counterattack, Mensha set Effiong who had his first attempt blocked, but he took the rebound and planted the ball into an empty net.

Naxxar started the second half more aggressively and on the 50th minute, Sarina brought the best out of Cassar with a 35-metre humdinger, but the goalie managed to turn to corner with difficulty.

In the 64th minute, it was goalie Cassar who turned to another corner Darren Falzon’s inswinger.

Three minutes later, at the other end, Balzan increased their lead with a third goal. A fine exchange of the ball between Effiong and Mensha ended with the latter’s cross being headed easily into the net by the unmarked Effiong.

Naxxar reduced the arrears in the 70th minute when from a freekick, it was Demba Toure who concluded into the net after a melee in front of the Balzan goal.

Balzan scored their fourth goal on the 79th minute. From a Mensha cross, goalie Azzopardi palmed the ball out from where Lydon Micallef could head into the empty net.

In the 82nd minute, Effiong set Mensha but the latter, all alone in front of Azzopardi, failed to control an easy ball and the chance went begging.

Naxxar pulled another back on the 87th minute when from a Falzon corner, Steve Bezzina unfortunately headed past his own goalie. It was little consolation for the beleaguered Lions.




VALLETTA-                       4

Sliema W: G. Zammit, B. Essel (K. Hendry), M. Mifsud, R. Ledesma (C. Gatt Baldacchino), A. Friggieri, M. Potezica, P. Xuereb, M. Kerlon, G. Muir, S. Bianciardi, L. Dimech

Valletta: N. Vella, J. Caruana, I. Azzopardi, R. Camilleri, J. Cruz, R. Briffa, N. Priso (U. Uchenna), F. Falcone, C. Pani (N. Pulis), A. Nafti (J.P. Mifsud Triganza),R. Romao

Referee: G. Tonna

Asst.refs: D. Sultana, L. Portelli

4th official: M. Spiteri

Scorers: N. Priso 33, F. Falcone 44, 52, K. Nafti 50, M. Potezica 55, S. Kerlon 65 pen

Yellow cards: G. Zammit, M. Potezica

Red card: I. Azzopardi

Player of the match: A. Nafti (Valletta)

TMI top 3: 1. A. Nafti  2. M. Mifsud  3. F. Falcone



For almost an hour, leaders Valletta boasted that blend of flair, physique and frightening pace that saw them take a four-goal lead thanks to a Priso opener,  a Falcone brace, and another by the inspirational Nafti as the Sliema Wanderers’ defence had been pulled horribly out of shape.

But a remarkable 35-minute comeback by a resurructed Sliema side, saw them pull two goals back through Potezica and a Kerlon penalty and put sustained pressure on their opponents, after Valletta defender Ian Azzopardi was sent off, playing well enbough to suggest that their current lowly position is a false one.

Unfortunately for the Wanderers, their efforts fell short and could not deny Valletta holding a grip on the Premier League primacy as they themselves succumbed to another painful defeat.

Valletta’s attack was bolstered by the return from suspension of Federico Falcone as Jonathan Caruana started at the back after a long absence. Still the Citizens missed the injured keper Henry Bonello, Jhonnattan and Llewylan Cremona.

With Briffa and Pani holding a grip in midfield, Valletta could craft several balls for the front runners, Falcone, Nafti and Priso and Sliema were forced to chase their opponents in the opening stages. The Wanderers relied on the mobility of Friggieri, who had an early shot deflected into a corner after a dangerous surge inside the Valletta area.

The injuries and suspensions of Alex Muscat, Jonathan Bezzina and Pedro Calcado, with Mark Scerri sitting on the bench, also hindered Stephen Azzopardi’s side, with only one win and four points to show in their last seven matches.

Sliema had set up to frustrate the leaders, to limit their space and punch on the counter, but their flimsy midfield was often outplayed by stronger opponents.

Falcone had his shot saved on 21 minutes and Pani’s long range drive hit the foot of the post soon after.

The Valletta goal was not long coming though. Past the half hour, Ndjongo Priso powered himself down the left, beat Muir’s challenge to advance inside the Valletta area and slot the ball between keeper Zammit and the near post.

With their powerful attacking trio, Valletta always looked the likelier to score again. Hardly one minute before the break, right back Romao delivered a cross from the right for Nafti to hit from close range. Keeper Zammit was excellent to repel his shot but poacher Federico Falcone was quick to score with a scissors kick and  give Valletta a comfortable two-goal cushion by halftime.

Valletta completely took over in the opening moments of the second half, their running, passing and imagination making Sliema look like sorry bystanders.

The leaders put the match to bed with two goals in quick succession soon after the restart. On 50 minutes they won a direct free kick on the edge of the Sliema area and Abdelkarim Nafti placed the ball beyond the keeper’s reach.

Two minutes later Nafti played an intelligent splitting pass to Falcone who turned inside the Sliema area to beat Zammit with a low drive.

Sliema finally woke up from their slumber and pulled one back on 55 minutes. Kerlon played the ball wide to Ledesma, whose shot was repelled by keeper Vella and Marko Potezica shot in the rebound.

And with Valletta going through a mental block, Sliema looked menacing with a Mifsud grounder, forcing keeper Vella to stretch himself and save and another Mifsud glancing header going tantalisingly wide past the hour.

Sliema even reduced the arrears further on 65 minutes when awarded a penalty for Azzopardi’s foul on Muir inside the Valletta area that had the Valletta defender sent off and Kelron converting from the spot.

Sliema had taken the bit between their teeth and on 75 minhutes keeper Vella pulled off a smart save off a Kerlon curling shot towards the top corner and Friggieri went close agfain with another rising shot.

Sustained late pressure spread anxiety with a Pani short indirect free kick from inside the Valletta area headed by Kerlon but Valletta’s advantage was enough to see them drive their win home.


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