The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

Valletta stay in pole at start of final round; Saints revival continues; Naxxar beat Sliema

Sunday, 14 February 2016, 06:54 Last update: about 5 years ago

QORMI-          0


Qormi: J.M. Vella, C. Gauci, O. Sidibe, T. Gusman (C. Barbara), D. Leeflang, Y. Yankam, A. Cassar, I. Micallef (E. Vella), N. Ojuola, T. Vella (S. Zammit), K. Magro

Valletta: H. Bonello, J. Caruana (L. Cremona), R. Camilleri, J. Gill, R. Briffa, M. Mifsud (J. Borg), R. Ledesma, F. Falcone, C. Pani, Jhonnattann (J. Suda), R. Romao

Referee: G. Tonna

Asst.refs: M. Scerri, M. Borg

Additional asst.refs:  F. Zammit, E. Azzopardi

4th official: D. Sultana

Scorers: J. Gill 53, F. Falcone 69

Yellow cards: C. Pani, R. Camilleri

Player of the match: Jhonnattann (Valletta)

TMI top 3: 1. Jhonnattann   2. R. Briffa  3. O. Sidibe

Attendance: 831


Two headed goals by Juan Gill and Federico Falcone in the second half, made sure Valletta win this match against struggling Qormi and start the Premier League’s third phase in pole position.This was Valletta’s fourth win on the trot as they remain unbeaten in 11 outings to consolidate their primacy, leaving  Qormi hoping to prosper against more amendable opponents in their bid for Premier League survival.

Johann Scicluna’s side have now gone pointless and winless in ten matches and the threat of relegation is severe.

Qormi went into this match with a strategy of damage limitation, having conceded 14 goals, without scoring any, in the previous three league matches.

But a porous defence and meek attack again proved the flaws in that strategy and present a serious threat to Qormi’s survival prospects, with problems on and off the pitch.

 The only surprise in a one-dimesnional match was the fact that it took virtually more than an hour of the game before it was concluded.

As expected, Valletta, with Michael Mifsud back from suspension, started confidently enough and hit the woodwork twice in the first period through Ledesma and Falcone but it was still goalless at halftime. Ledesma’s shot, following a short corner after 18 minutes, thumped agains the bar, with keeper Jean Mattias Vella rooted to his line. Towards the end of the half, Falcone’s firm header, on a Jhonnattan cross, was pushed against the underside of the bar by Vella.

The Qormi keeper pulled another smart save in the half’s added time, saving Pani’s long range drive into a corner.

But Valletta needed only eight minutes into the second half to break the deadlock. On a Jhonnattann corner from the left, Juan Gill headed in from close range, despite the Qormi keeper pushing the ball out, but after it had crossed the line.

Jhonnattann continued to be the most mobile and threatening player on the pitch. He played the ball wide to Mifsud, whose low diagonal drive was deflected into a corner.

But the points really looked safe when Valletta doubled their advantage on 69 minutes. The overlapping Romao sent a deep cross from the right and the towering Federico Falcone rose high to head in at the far end.

Now struggling to get the ball forward and offering little threat, Qormi needed some set piece to get back into the game. But when awarded a free kick on the edge of the Valletta area eight minutes from the end, Leeflang’s shot was blocked by the Valletta wall.


ST ANDREWS –               1


St Andrews: J. Galea, E. Beltre, D. Camilleri, B. Che, J. Cuestra (R. Sammut), V. Oseghale (L. Grech), M. Desira Buttigieg (K. Nwoko), W. Salomon, J. Farrugia, F. Onwudinjo, M. Johnson

Tarxien R: A. Cassar, B. De Oliveira, T. Tabone Desira (B. Muscat), T. Caruana, A. Azzopardi, C. Hevia Menendez (C. Frances), L. Montebello, S. Prendes (A. Nilsson), A. Alves, M. Tabone, J. Oliveira

Referee: C. Pisani

Asst.refs: W. Debattista, D. Castillo

Additional asst.refs: M. Borg, I. Barbara

4th offcial: P. Abela

Scorers: L. Montebello 57, J. Nwoko 62

Yellow cards: B. Che, B. De Oliveira, W. Salomon, B. Muscat, L. Montebello

Player of the match: V. Oseghale (St Andrews)

TMI top 3: 1. A. Alves  2. P. Cuestra  3. V. Oseghale


St Andrews maintained their revival under coach Jose Borg as they try to crawl out of the relegation zone. Against stronger opponents like Tarxien Rainbows, the Saints  gritted their teeth, stuck out their chest and hung in for the kind of point that is winning them a new sort of admiration.

It was a point well earned for the Premiuer League newcomers as they now start the third phase with three points when these are halved.

St Andrews were still on a high following their historic first Premeier League win against Naxxar the previous week. Their c oach made only one change as Victor Oseghale started instead of Nkeke.

Tarxien  had to rely on their foreigners -  Bruno De Oliveria’s solid defending, and Alex Alves’ running and delivery - but they could not go beyond a point. The rest of the team performed below par and they looked far from convincing.

A scrappy first half, that produced precious little in terms of good football, was best forgotten by both sides.

Tarxien were struggling to get any meaningful possession and the game progressed to the Saints’ liking – pressing in midfield to stifle their opponents once they crossed the halfway line.

Cuestra provided some threat from the Saints, placing his free kick fractionally off target in the opening minutes and then shooting straight at keeper Cassar after picking Salomon’s pass.

Tarxien never seriously tested the Saints’ reargurad during the first 45 minutes, with Menendez’s tame effort on the half hour, easily blocked by the St Andrews’ custodian Galea.

Both sides were forced to effect a substitution. Tabone Desira limped off touching his groin midway through the half for Tarxien. Past the half hour, St Andrews’ Desira Buttigieg was stretchered off and replaced by Kyrian Nwoko.

Tarxien were a transformed side after the interval and well before they broke the deadlock, short of the hour, they had carved three openings and hit the woodwork. A good run down the right and an inviting cross by Alves found Joao Oliveira unmarked but the latter wastefully skoied the ball.

On 48 minutes, from an Oliveira corner, Triston Caruna clipped the bar with his glancing header. Soon after Azzopardi headed Alves’ cross wide, but Tarxien’s efforts were rewarded on 57 minutes. Joao Oliveira won possession on the left and cut towards the middle inside the Saints’ area before playing a square pass to Luke Montebello who beat keeper Galea with a low drive at the near post.

The Rainbows held to their lread for only five minutes though. Salomon’s shot from outside the area was going wide but substitute Joseph Nwoko nipped in from behind the Tarxien defenders to shoot past keeper Cassar.

That goal unnerved Tarxien and St Andrews immediately went close with a Che header from a Farrugia corner.

Francers went in for Hevia Menendez, a negligible presence for the Rainbows yesterday, but St Andrews were playing the better football and they created another chance in the 74th minute when Muscat had to clear Che’s effort on the goal line following an Oseghale cross.


Alex Nilsson’s inclusion in the late stages was not enough for Tarxien to win this match and, in the final analysis, they did not desereve to either.


Sliema W.  1

Naxxar L.    2


Sliema W.: G. Zammit, A. Muscat, M. Scerri, D. Priso, C. Gatt Baldacchino (S. Shodiya), M. Potezica, J. Bezzina (S. Fidelis), D. Rocha Dos Santos, G. Muir, JP Farrugia, S. Bianciardi.

Naxxar L.: A. Gallinetta, A. Hungria Rosero, A. Scicluna, E. Vallecillo Casado, D. Toure (J. Ellul), D. Bonnici (M. Fenech), J. Debono, D. Fenech, A. Buhagiar, EM Hamutenya, N. Jasic.

Referee: M. Degabriele

Asst refs: A. Camilleri, C. Francalanza.

4th official: M. Apap.

Scorers: D. Toure, D. Bonnici, S. Shodiya.

Yellow cards: M. Scerri, J. Bezzina, D. Rocha dos Santos, A. Scicluna.

Player of the match: J. Debono

TMI Top 3: 1. J. Debono; 2. D. Bonnici, A. Gallinetta.

Attendance: 408




Two second half strikes within four minutes gave Naxxar a new lease of life in their battle against relegation.

Demba Toure broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute while Duane Bonnici added a second four minutes later. Sliema could onlky reduce the margin in the 89th minute and, of course, it was not enough to save the day for them.

The victory enabled the Lions to sigh with relief. With Qormi losing to Valletta in the other match yesterday, they have now climbed onto the 14 point mark, five more than the Yellow Blacks.

It was a deserved win for Naxxar as they played the more direct football and made the most of the few chances that came their way.

Sliema were a pitiful side, especially in the second half, when they failed to react after suffering those two quick goals. For the record, this was Sliema’s fifth consecutive defeat.

The first half was rather monotonous though Sliema seemed to have created the better opportunities, especially through former Hibs striker Jean Paul Farrugia.

The latter and Naxxar goalie Gallinetta were the protagonists in the opening 45 minutes. They seemed to be fighting the battle against each other, as the Italian goalie denied the Sliema striker at least twice from opening the score with excellent saves.

Otherwise, Naxxar fought gamely all the way and even had a few good chances of their own, but Sliema defended well to keep their net intact.

In the second half, Sliema failed to create any real scoring chances as Naxxar were well organised at the back. And in their sporadic attacks, the Lions dealt two fatal blows from which the Wanderers failed to recover.

On their part, Sliema had Jean Paul Farrugia well under control in the second half, and they lost much of their firepower up front.

Naxxar went close to opening the score on the fourth minute when Duane Bonnici was set by David Fenech in the Sliema area, but Clifford Gatt Baldacchino managed to block to corner in extremis.

In the 11th minute, Sliema replied with a Johann Bezzina fine pass to Jean Paul Farrugia, whose effort was blocked by the onrushing Naxxar goalie Gallinetta.

In the 22nd minute, from a Bezzina cross, Jean Paul Farrugia had a fine header excellently turned to corner by the diving Gallinetta.

In the 26th minute, Gallinetta again denied Farrugia, but this time the Sliema striker’s effort was weak.

A minute before the interval, at the other end, Demba Toure set Duane Bonnici in the area, but the latter’s shot was saved with relative ease by Glenn Zammit.

The first half ended with a Jurgen Debono freekick which went well over the Sliema post.

Naxxar took the lead in the 52nd minute. From a Jurgen Debono freekick, Toure solved a melee in front of goalie Zammit, hitting into the net from close in.

Sliema failed to rally and it was no surprise that Naxxar scored a second goal in the 56th minute. From a perfect Jurgen Debono pass, Gatt Baldacchino failed to clear and Duane Bonnici advanced on the left to beat Zammit with a low shot.

In the 72nd minute, Naxxar went close to add a third goal through a 25-metre shot from Jurgen Debono which went just wide.

At the other end, Sliema’s Bezzina also went close with a shot from the edge of the area.

Sliema reduced the arrears in the 89th minute, when from an Alex Muscat cross, the Naxxar defence was caught napping. The ball went to Shola Shodiya who made no mistake with a low shot.

The end soon came with Naxxar holding on to their slender lead.



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