The Malta Independent 19 September 2020, Saturday

St Andrews’ miracle almost complete as Naxxar and Qormi are relegated

Saturday, 30 April 2016, 07:50 Last update: about 5 years ago

The miracle St Andrews needed at the start of the second phase is almost complete. Having gone through 19 matches without collecting a single point, they finally came into their own near the end of the first phase, culminating in yesterday’s important win which sees them fighting another day to save their status.

In fact, with Naxxar losing to Sliema, it is the Lions and Qormi who are automatically relegated to next year’s first division, while the Saints now face Senglea, third placed in the first division, in a play-off to determine who will play Premier League football next season.

It was a deserved win for the Saints who led 3-2 at the interval. Then they overcame a partial revival by Qormi to take the game in hand once again, scoring a fourth goal near the end which ascertained their victory.

In the second half, Qormi started on the offensive in search of an equaliser, but when their enthusiasm faded, out, St Andrews emerged as the better team to go on and win the game, thus pushing their opponents in next season’s first division.

From these columns I wish both Qormi and Naxxar a speedy return to the Premier League.

In the 4th minute, from a Farrugia corner, it was Oseghale who tested Qormi goalie Vella who, however, saved well.

Three minutes later, at the other end, Qormi had a good chance to open the scoring, but Terence Vella’s shot was turned to corner by goalie Galea.

In the 16th minute, an Nwoko effort was easily saved by Vella.

St Andrews broke the deadlock in the 17th minute. From a Farrugia corner, goalie Vella effected a bad sortie. A defender also cleared badly and Bong Che was on hand to head home from close in.

Qormi did not take long to equalise. From an Ujuola cross, goalie Galea punched out badly and Ryan Micallef was on the right spot to head home into the empty net.

In the 31st minute, a Perez Cuestra effort was deflected to a corner from which a shot by Che hit the post and Nkene hit home the rebound.

St Andrews established a twogoal lead in the 33rd minute when Salomon Wisdom advanced unhindered to beat the onrushing goalie Vella.

Qormi were back in contention in the 40th minute as they pulled back a goal. And what a score it was! Terence Vella took a freekick just outside the area and his rising full blooded shot rocketed into the top corner.

Just before the interval whistle, Qormi almost equalised. From a Ujuola cross, it was Terence Vella who rose above friend and foe to head against the crossbar from the angle.

St Andrews could have scored again in the 55th minute when from a Wisdom cross, Perez Cuestra miskicked from an ideal position.

In the 70th minute, St Andrews goalie Jake Galea was a protagonist as he blocked a close range effort from substitute Go.

Eight minutes later, it was Qormi goalie Vella who denied Perez Cuestra turning the latter’s effort to corner in style. And two minutes later, it was the post that denied Oseghale from increasing the Saints’ lead.

St Andrews made sure of winning all the three ‘salvation’ points whilst condemning Qormi when they scored a fourth in the 84th minute. It was Oseghale who advanced on the left flank to pass to the unmarked Perez Cuestra who beat Vella.

Spoils shared in yawn-laden match

 

Balzan and Birkirkara took a point apiece in their last league commitment yesterday - a yawnladen match that only came to life in the final moments.

Balzan took the lead through an own goal by Cain Attard 12 minutes from the end and substitute Ryan Camenzuli equalised two minutes later.

The point was enough for Birkirkara to retain third place in the standings, three points ahead of the same Balzan, and one point behind Hibernians, who will therefore be the runners-up.

Neither side had any particular interest in the match – both had qualified earlier to take part in next season’s Europa League.

But a victory would have catapulted the Stripes over Hibernians in second place in the event of a defeat for the Paolites today against Valletta.

The match failed to take off for quite a long time as a lot of midfield play ensued. Neither of the two goalkeepers was seriously tested during the whole of the first 45 minutes. In fact, the match was characterised by the superiority of the two defences over the two respective front lines.

So poor were the two front lines, that strikers like Kaljevic and Effiong of Balzan and Plut of Birkirkara were only restricted to just one effort each, the former two delivering crosses which Kopric saved with great ease, while Plut had a shot from outside the area going well over the bar.

The only items of note were a Guillaumier shot saved by Balzan goalie Cassar and at the other end, an Effiong low cross going wide.

There was an overall improvement in the second half, especially from Birkirkara’s part, who appeared to be the more constructive side, but they still found Balzan’s rearguard, inspired by goalie Christian Cassar, difficult to penetrate.

The first shot on goal in the second half arrived in the 52nd minute – a freekick by Mazzetti which goalie Cassar saved with little difficulty.

Birkirkara insisted on attack and 10 minutes later, Plut tested goalie Cassar seriously, but the goalie punched the ball away. And soon after, substitute Camenzuli was also thwarted by Cassar who saved his shot with difficulty.

At the other end, Kaljevic dribbled round a defender, but instead of shooting at goal, elected to cross low where there were no takers.

Minutes later, substitute Vujacic also had a good opportunity but his low shot was central and easy prey for goalie Kopric.

Balzan opened the scoring on 78 minutes when following a cross from the right, Cain Attard, in an effort to head the ball back to goalie Kopric, sent the goalie and the ball the wrong way. The desperate attempt of Mazzetti to clear from over the goal line failed as the ball landed at the back of the net.

But Balzan’s joy was short-lived as substitute Ryan Camenzuli hit home a first timer past the helpless Cassar just two minutes later.

 

Polished Wanderers condemn Naxxar

 

A polished second half display by Sliema Wanderers proved to be fatal for Naxxar Lions who werer relegated to First Division football next season together with Qormi who lost their direct clash against St. Andrew’s.

Naxxar Lions surely went down fighting yesterday as they desperately needed at least a draw to force a decider. They had some good moments at the start of the match and even managed to forge ahead thirty seconds into the second half.

But Sliema were a different lot after going a goal down and dominated the rest of the match with a superb performance, and their victory could have been even bigger. This augurs well for the Wanderers who can now concentrate on their semi final clash against Birkirkara in the FA Trophy.

Naxxar started like a house on fire with Elezaj making a great save off Vellacillo after barely three minutes.

Five minutes later another Naxxar dangerous move with a Jurgen Debono deflected shot slightly missing the target.

On 13 minutes Sliema’s first move with Alex Muscat passing towards Potezica whose effort hit the side netting. Sliema were now more in the game with Priso making some good runs on the right flank.

On 24 minutes Jean Paul Farrugia shielded the ball before trying a shot on the turn that went slightly over the bar. Sliema continued to show the better ideas and Gallinetta made a great save of an Alex Muscat scorcher.

The goal was in the offing and on 34 minutes Denni was tripped by Jurgen Debono for an obvious penalty. From the penalty spot Denni’s central shot was blocked by Gallinetta but from the rebound the same Denni made no mistake.

Naxxar almost obtained an immediate equaliser with an Andrew Scicluna header missing the upright by a whisker. On 40 minutes Vellacillo made a good run on the left flank and his cross was handled by Gatt Baldacchino and from the resultant penalty the same Vellacillo made no mistake with a low drive.

Thirty seconds into the second half the Sliema defence was caught napping and Vellacillo scored with a low drive with the ball hitting the base of the upright before finishing at the back of the net. Sliema were back on level terms on 61 minutes when Jean Paul Farrugia went past three Naxxar defenders before beating Gallinetta with a low drive. Three minutes later Sliema turned the tide in their favour when Johann Bezzina scored a gem from 25 meters.

Naxxar were now stunned and Farrugia missed a glorious chance from a free header following a Friggieri cross. Sliema were now all over the place and Farrugia almost added a fourth. However on 74 minutes Elezaj saved his side when he blocked a Vellacillo header.

Nine minutes from time Naxxar’s fate was sealed when Sliema scored a fourth goal, again through Jean Paul Farrugia who was served by substitute Sansone.

Tarxien have the last laugh in end of season thriller

Tarxien once again beat Floriana, the second time this season, in a spectacular match that brought both sides commitments to an end this season. The game was a delight to watch and could have gone either way had it not been for Andrea Cassar’s string of heroic saves, especially in the first half.

The Greens should have easily wrapped the match in the first part, but Cassar was in great form and saved everything that came his way. In the second half Floriana staged a great comeback with two quick goals to obtain the equaliser, but had to bow their heads to a Luke Montebello well taken goal fifteen minutes from time.

On four minutes Cassar made a brilliant save off a Fontanella point blank effort. On 14 minutes Tarxien forged ahead in their first real danger when Alex Nilsson robbed Clyde Borg of the ball and all alone in front of goal made no mistake beating Grech with a low drive. However Nilsson injured his hamstring and was immediately substituted.

Floriana were very unlucky six minutes later when Chiesa passed towards Fontanella whose first timer slammed against the crossbar. Floriana held territorial advantage with Tarxien defending their lead and trying their menacing fast breaks.

Cassar again saved the day for the Rainbows on 32 minutes when he saved an overhead kick from Nicolas Chiesa. On 42 minutes Cassar was in Superman mode saving with his foot a Fontanella close range effort, blocking Villa’s rebound and finally diving in Fontanella’s feet from the second rebound.

Just before the break Tarxien almost doubled the in a rare fast break when Fernandes Prendes dribbled his way till the edge of the area but his effort went slightly over the crossbar.

On the resumption Floriana continued to dictate matters but failed to worry Cassar. On 61 minutes Tarxien doubled the score when Claudio Frances deceived Grech with a great lob from over 25 meters.

But two minutes later Floriana found a way past Cassar when Fontanella lobbed beautifully home over the onrushing Cassar. This goal was the tonic Floriana needed as three minutes later they drew level. A Juninho Cabral freekick smashed against the upright and from the rebound Clyde Borg drilled the ball home.

The match was now a spectacular one with Bruno anticipating Fontanella who was about to score and on the other end Luke Montebello left the Greens’ defence reeling, but Grech saved in great style.

But Luke Montebello was not to be denied on 75 minutes when with a similar action he made his way inside the area to beat Grech with an angled low drive.

Floriana pressed for the equaliser but left some gaps at the back. On 90 minutes Cassar made his last spectacular save blocking Cabral’s shot destined for the back of the net.

 

 

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