Qormi trash St George's and are the new leadersPublished: Wed 07 Feb 2024, 16:39
Mtarfa 3-0 Xghajra Tornados
Even without suspended Top Scorer Kurt Borg, section leaders Mtarfa made no mistake against Xghajra on Saturday afternoon at the Sirens Stadium, beating the Tornados 3-0. It was Mtarfa’s ninth consecutive league victory, in which they scored 37 goals, an impressive run. In their bid for survival, Xghajra paraded new recruit Ginel Ronde up front, an international player for the Caribbean Island nation of Bonaire, which looks to be a welcome acquisition.
Mtarfa started strongly as expected with Saturday Nanapere having a fine free kick that was saved by Lark Falzon on 16 minutes. Xghajra were quite resistant, deploying Kenneth Abela in defence in an attempt to somehow stop the countless Mtarfa attacks. Mtarfa had a glorious chance to take the lead on 39 minutes when Alejandro Brincat sprang the offside trap but his shot was weak and easily blocked by Falzon. Xghajra registered a rare opportunity on 40 minutes but Larson Mallia blasted over from just inside the box. Two minutes later Mtarfa were ahead when a delightful backheel by Gianfranco Micallef found Brincat who made no mistake shooting past Falzon.
Mtarfa continued to torment the Tornados rear-guard after the break and had another good chance on 50 minutes when a good cross by Micallef reached Dasser Sammut who headed inches wide. The second goal arrived on the hour with another inch perfect cross by Brincat who found Josuel Spiteri who headed home with ease. Mtarfa sealed the three points two minutes later with Sammut finding the net with a fine chip over Falzon after running clear of the Xghajra defence. Mtarfa could have added a few more with several missed chances but in the end, it was a comfortable victory for George Magri’s side who consolidated their top spot in Group A with relative ease.
Siggiewi 1-4 Qrendi
In the early Sunday afternoon kick-off at the Luxol Stadium, Qrendi proved to have no difficulty overcoming the resistance offered by Siggiewi. Brandon Bray, most definitely one of the most remarkable players in the Amateur League this season, scored three of the four Qrendi goals, bringing his season totals in the league to 17, good for a third spot in the Top Scorers ranking.
Gotthard Conti’s team went ahead after just six minutes with a great shot by Bray that cannoned into the net. Siggiewi did not take things lying down however and had a couple of good chances with efforts by Arvey Cuero that ended up just wide and a good save from Christian Cassar on another Cuero attempt minutes later. Qrendi should have doubled on 25 minutes when Aud-Gustin James Obaje was in the clear but his effort was saved by Seisun. Qrendi managed to double on 40 minutes after a defensive slipup which was pounced upon by Bray for his second of the afternoon.
Qrendi continued to press Siggiewi into their own half with the third goal arriving on 52 minutes when Miguel Ciantar was presented with another tap in. Siggiewi managed a fine consolation goal with a piledriver by 17-year-old substitute John Paul Delia on 73 minutes. Seven minutes later, Bray notched up his hat trick with a fine grounder, wrapping up another productive afternoon for Qrendi, who look ready for the big clash with Mtarfa on Friday night.
Mellieha 3-2 Birzebbuga St Peter’s
Edward Azzopardi’s Birzebbuga had to swallow a bitter pill on Sunday afternoon, as Mellieha managed to come out victors with a fine odd goal in five win, halting St Peter's impressive five match unbeaten run. It was a good game to watch for the neutral spectator, a quality match which had all the necessary ingredients.
Birzebbuga hit the woodwork within their first attack through Leejoe Schembri, with Tony Curmi turning the rebound of Ryan Sammut into a corner. But Mellieha broke the deadlock through Luka Mijic on four minutes, a grounder from the edge of the area which slipped through Mario Bartolo’s hands. On 15 minutes, the pressure towards the Mellieha goal paid off when Birzebbuga equalised thanks to a close-range strike by Keith Muscat. Birzebbuga managed to take the lead on 33 minutes when Cedric Zahra tapped in a precise Nick Borg free-kick from close-range. Not much later on the other side, Jake Saliba missed a sitter, blasting high from an ideal angle.
Minutes after the re-start, Mijic failed to capitalize on another Bartolo mishap, incredibly kicking his attempt against the post with an empty net in front of him, with Vella-Vidal shooting he rebound wide over the bar. Bartolo corrected his mistake on 53 and 55 minutes, saving twice brilliantly from two Mijic scorchers. But on 58 minutes, Mijic rewarded Mellieha’s fine start of the second half with a perfectly executed strike, lobbing the ball handsomely over Bartolo from the right wing. On 74 minutes on the other side, Muscat incredibly missed a sitter after some fine work from Samuel Saldanha on the left wing and barely two minutes later, Curmi blocked a Saldanha attempt in style. Both sides prepared to settle for a draw when, with one-minute regular time left, Michael Camilleri produced an unstoppable run on the left flank which was rounded off by substitute Alexander Akl, much to the delight of the Mellieha clan. A very precious three points for Mellieha in this incredible tight struggle for salvation with just four points separating Rabat, the number four and nine, which are Santa Venera.
Santa Venera Lightnings 3-1 Rabat Ajax
After six consecutive winless matches, Santa Venera Lightnings returned to winning ways by collecting three most welcome points as they stunned Rabat Ajax 3-1 at the Sirens Stadium on Sunday afternoon. It was another setback for Rabat who, although fielding a depleted side, should win these kind of games to distance themselves from any trouble. Instead, the Magpies are now dragged into the relegation battle, fighting against a possible drop to the fourth tier of the Maltese football league pyramid next season.
Following a quiet start for the two teams, the Lightnings went close with a Connor Azzopardi freekick which was blocked by goalkeeper Dean Sciberras and a Charlo Buttigieg effort from the right was parried by the Rabat goalkeeper. The Magpies replied with a freekick by Aidan Azzopardi which was saved by goalkeeper Clyde Aquilina on 41 minutes but Santa Venera threatened once again with a low Sean Ellul effort which was saved by Sciberras. In added time, another freekick by Aidan Azzopardi was palmed out by the Santa Venera goalkeeper. Santa Venera opened the score six minutes in the second half courtesy of Jeremy Grixti whose fine rising shot beat Sciberras. Rabat replied with a good move by Clyde Bouvet who rounded a defender but the goalkeeper turned the ball into a corner. But a minute later, Rabat levelled matters when off an Aidan Azzopardi corner from the right, Kurt Muscat headed the ball home. Substitute Lawrence Chiedozie went close for Rabat with a freekick ending just wide on 79 minutes. However, a minute later, Santa Venera regained the lead when Richmond Hanson avoided a defender, beating Sciberras with an angled shot. The Magpies went all out in search of the equaliser but three minutes in added time, in a swift counter-attack, Hanson sealed the issue with a third goal as he slotted the ball past the Rabat goalkeeper.
Pembroke Athleta 2-0 Mdina Knights
The Sunday morning kick off at the Sirens Stadium was a low-key encounter between Pembroke and Mdina. The former bagged the here points in clinical fashion, without setting any houses on fire, an important victory however in their bid to keep their status. It was Mdina’s 12th consecutive defeat, who paraded towering centre-back Muhammed Shamseer, the first player from India in the Maltese leagues.
Both goals arrived in the first half. Weverton headed Pembroke ahead from a corner action after just five minutes play, with Mdina showing some man-marking issues in the six-yard box. On 34-minutes, Jordan Vella was brought down in the box by Mdina goalkeeper Aidan Farrugia. Weverton stepped up and slotted calmly home. Pembroke had several other opportunities to extent their lead, but missed target or found Farrugia on their way.
On the hour, things further complicated for Pembroke when Weverton had to leave the pitch injured, reducing their power up front. The Knights most definitely saw more of the ball after the break but the forward line proved rather toothless, resulting into a rather drab second half with very few goalmouth action. Another important win for Jeffrey Mifsud’s boys, who remain fully engaged in the race to remain a third tier club next season.
Kalkara United 0-1 Mqabba
In the late Luxol Stadium kick off on Sunday, Kalkara missed the opportunity to build further on their fantastic performance against Rabat, being beaten by a solitary Mqabba goal early in the second half. The transformed side of coach Paul Bugeja could have connected with a few teams higher in the ranking, but are now five points adrift of Santa Venera and seven from Mqabba, which means that, with eight matches to go, their relegation issues become more worrying by the week.
The match was rather uneventful, with both defences standing out. Mqabba had the first chance of the game after just four minutes with an excellent shot by Luke Meli that ended up just wide. Otherwise, the first half was a quiet affair without much goalmouth action.
Mqabba scored the winner at the start of the second half. Andres Tenorio picked up a loose ball from outside the box and smashed a wonderful shot into the top corner leaving Isaac Abela with no chance. Mqabba easily controlled the game after that with Kalkara rarely making any ventures forward. With Santa Venera and Siggiewi up next, Mqabba should be able to collect a few more points during the next weeks.
Qormi 5-2 St George’s
On Friday night, Qormi rose to the top of the group after repeating their 1st round 5-2 scoreline over St George’s with an excellent performance. The yellows are the team in the best possible shape at the moment in this section, displaying a destructive first half performance which was followed by a solid second one, with the Blues, at times, chasing shadows. It was a severe setback for St George’s, who are now seven points adrift of the league leaders.
On four minutes, an attempt from the edge of the area by Ricardinho skimmed the top of the crossbar. Three minutes later on the other side, Qormi goalkeeper Miguel Falzon did well to turn a close-range Neil Buttigieg attempt into a corner after a clever Timmy Thomas pass. On nine minutes, Thomas tested Falzon once more with an angled top corner shot which the Qormi custodian turner into a corner. Two minutes later on the other side, Qormi took the lead when a long-range Leon Theuma free-kick deceived several players, including goalkeeper Damian Borg. Shortly after Jake Bone missed a golden opportunity to double, Jayden Borg did much better, beating the off-side trap and the goalkeeper with a wonderful rising shot on 23 minutes. Qormi created chance after chance and ten minutes later, Iven Zammit crossed perfectly into the six-yard box with Gary Bugeja heading home Qormi’s third goal. Jayden Borg could have even added a fourth before half-time but his long-range lob missed target by a few centimetres.
Seven minutes after the re-start, 16-year-old wonderboy Jayden Borg scored the fourth goal, a magnificent volley, which found the net via the inside of the post. The Cottonera side looked down and out but on 67 minutes, Ivan Bojovic rose high to beat Falzon with a fine header, bringing back some hope for a Pioneers’ comeback. With a minute regular time left on the clock, substitute Erson Schembri brought back the deficit to two, blasting home resolutely from the edge of the box. But deep into stoppage time, 40-year-old veteran Shawn Cutajar produced an unstoppable scorcher to score Qormi fifth, rounding up a fantastic night for the Qormi faithful.
Mgarr United 0-0 Gharghur
In the late Friday night kick off at the Centenary Stadium, Gharghur played an excellent tactical game to hold Mgarr United to a goalless draw. It was an interesting affair with Gharghur playing neat and organised football throughout the match. They deserved at least a point from this contest, or perhaps even more, with Mgarr being rather unimpressive.
Although both sides had their chances during the first 45 minutes, Gharghur frustrated the Northerners, having their fair share of ball possession and coming close to break the deadlock on at least two occasions. The first big opportunity of the game was however for Mgarr through Jamie Lee Micallef, who should have put his side ahead on 20 minutes with only Gharghur goalkeeper Andrew Zammit to beat. Just after the half hour mark on the other side, Warren Azzopardi should have done better being sent in the clear but the Gharghur midfielder could not conclude. Not much later, Zammit interfered well on a Christian Saint Ebisindor close-range attempt. Moments after Samuel Agius missed a close-range header for Gharghur, Mgarr’s Julian Camilleri’s was sent through on the left flank by Ryan Camilleri but his effort was turned into a corner by Zammit. Just before the interval, Nicholas Formosa blasted incredibly high from an ideal angle after another dangerous setpiece for Gharghur.
With Mgarr desperately looking for an opener, Gharghur remained dangerous on the counter-attack with Mihaly Gidaly’s angled shot being saved in style by Mgarr goalkeeper Jacob Chircop St John close to the hour. In the attack on the other side that followed, Julian Camilleri’s cross-shot from the left hit the woodwork. Towards the end of the match and with Mgarr running out of ideas, Gharghur took over the initiative with Mgarr rarely dangerous with plenty of established players facing an off-day. Chircop St John came to the rescue, parading a Mihaly grounder on the stroke of full-time and moments later, fisting away an Isaac Chircop scorcher. Substitute Miguel Simiana could have even snatched a winner deep into stoppage time with only the Mgarr goalkeeper to beat but he curled his attempt wide. A few days after this match, Mgarr coach Jason Camenzuli was relieved from his duties.
Ta’ Xbiex 1-4 Marsaskala
On Saturday afternoon at the Mosta Ground, Marsaskala registered a relatively easy 4-1 victory over bottom side Ta’ Xbiex. This was the fifth consecutive defeat for Ta’ Xbiex, who have only managed to garner six points so far this season, of which three were won ‘on the table’ after a protest against Vittoriosa Stars at the very beginning of the league. Marsaskala were decidedly the better team and deserved to take home the three points, whereas Ta’ Xbiex struggled, especially defensively.
Ta’ Xbiex most definitely started well, as it took Marsaskala 36 minutes to break the deadlock thanks to a good run by Adrian Bonavia, followed by a central cross towards Isaac Abela, who tapped the ball home.
They doubled their lead on 63 minutes with a splendid initiative by Japanese speedster Nobukatsu Tsuchiya, who fled the opposing defence before slotting the ball at the back of the net. Ta’ Xbiex managed to pull one back, and momentarily opened up the match on 84 minutes. Clayton Mifsud tried his luck first, but his shot was blocked by the goalkeeper. From the rebound, Luke Mallia found the back of the net with a powerful grounder. With Mario Fenech’s team in search for an equaliser, Marsaskala scored two goals in the span of six minutes to close the matter. Their third goal arrived on 88 minutes. It was an excellent combination between substitute James Oghenekewaro and Abela, with the latter finding himself unmarked to slot the ball home after a precise pass from the Nigerian. In the third minute of injury time, Oghenekewaro added his own name to the scoresheet when he wrong-footed Ta’ Xbiex’s defence and put the ball home.
Dingli Swallows 1-2 San Gwann
With Mgarr losing points and looking vulnerable, spirits at San Gwann were sky high as the outcome in this section is now an open book with the first seven teams within eight points distance of each other, a race which promises to be an exciting one. On Saturday afternoon, the team of Xavier Saliba were expected to easily get the better of Dingli Swallows after their double figure thrashing of Ta’ Xbiex last weekend.
But it was Dingli who took a surprise lead after just nine minutes when a screamer by Mohamed Kara from just outside the box caught Miguel Montfort unawares. San Gwann created at least three good chances in the opening 15 minutes, but Dingli debutant goalkeeper Luke Vassallo covered himself in glory with some great saves. San Gwann had another good chance on 35 minutes but Vassallo again saved off a low shot by Kurt Zammit. Dingli could have even doubled three minutes before the break but Julien Iwueke’s shot slammed against the post.
San Gwann began the second half strongly with the lively Szymon Plocica forcing another fine save off Vassallo. The saints were unlucky on 65 minutes when Plocica found Abouaisha who saw his point-blank shot brilliantly blocked by Vassallo. San Gwann finally equalized on 72 minutes with a fine individual goal by Plocica who curled the ball past the Dingli goalkeeper. The Saints scored the winner on 81 minutes when a fine cross by Plocica found Mattia Zarb who headed imperiously past Vassallo. There were further opportunities to improve the score for San Gwann but in the end they held on for another vital three points.
Kirkop United 0-2 Vittoriosa Stars
Vittoriosa continued their impressive run, registering their fourth consecutive victory with a 2-0 win over Kirkop. The score could easily have been much bigger considering the shots on target produced by Dennis Apap’s XI, which would have come as no surprise considering they won their last two matches 7-0 and 10-1. Kirkop’s defence however did an excellent job at keeping the score to a minimum with debutant goalkeeper Clive Caruana having an excellent showing between the posts.
The best chances of score in the first half came Vittoriosa’s way. Their first shot on target arrived after about twenty minutes, when Liam Ciantar’s first-timer from the edge of the box was well saved by the goalkeeper in two attempts. Caruana was called into action again ten minutes later, when he managed to save a Nigel Spiteri header on a cross by Ogunnupe right off the line. They were at it again after 34 minutes of play when Spiteri’s effort from a considerable distance skimmed the upright.
Seven minutes after lemon time, Vittoriosa’s efforts were finally rewarded with a splendid Aaron Sammut shot from outside the box, which was impossible for Caruana to block. They could have doubled on 62 minutes, when substitute Andrei Spiteri managed a good run through Kirkop’s defence and crossed central towards Ogunnupe, but goalkeeper Caruana was quick enough to intercept the ball right before Vittoriosa’s attacker could slot the ball home. The team from Cottonera had to wait until stoppage time to seal the three points thanks to splendid header from substitute Shaban Chikh Ali. Vittoriosa now meet leaders Qormi in their next match on Sunday in what promises to be a pulsating clash.
Images copyright by Walter Sargent