General Category

First wins for Msida and St George's

Published: Wed 21 Sep 2022, 21:51
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NATIONAL AMATEUR LEAGUE 2022/23
WEEKEND REVIEW

GROUP A
Ta’ Xbiex 0-4 Senglea Athletic
Last Sunday night, Edgar Degabriele’s Senglea Athletic registered their fourth consecutive win as they dominated Ta' Xbiex to inflict them a heavy 4-0 defeat. The league leaders were in control of the match from start to finish and managed to surge ahead on 20 minutes when Aidan Azzopardi received from the left and slotted home from close range. Eight minutes afterwards, Senglea made it 2-0 with a similar action as Timmy Thomas had the chance to put the ball into the empty net. On 37 minutes, Keith Vella received well from inside the box and his shot beat Ta' Xbiex goalkeeper Matthew Schembri.
In the second half, the rhythm of the match didn't change with Senglea having also the time to add another one just before the hour. This time it was young homegrown Syrian substitute Shaban Chikh Ali who found the net, rounding off a perfect afternoon for the high flyers from Cottonera.

Zabbar St Patrick 2-0 Qormi
Also St Patrick recorded their fourth win from four, beating Qormi 2-0 with Andre-Joe Cutajar and Shalon Diacono is great shape. The two kept on going throughout the match, giving the Qormi rear-guard a tough evening, Zabbar created a number of chances during the first half, but David Oliveira, Francesco Gusman and Andre-Joe Cutajar all missed target from ideal positions. Qormi initially shared the exchanges, but without coming close to Jonathan Grech’s goal. On 39 minutes, Zabbar took the lead thanks to a David Oliveira goal, who scored from the rebound after a Kenneth Aquilina chance was blocked by Miguel Falzon, the Qormi shot-stopper. On the stroke of half-time, Gusman brought down Alex Nilsson in the box with the referee awarding a penalty for Qormi. However, Nilsson’s spot kick was saved by Grech, with Qormi paying a heavy price as they could have gone with a 1-1 score into the dressing rooms. The second half was completely dominated by Zabbar and three minutes after the break, St Patrick doubled thanks to a close-range strike by Kenneth Aquilina. On 69 minutes, Cutajar deserved more with a first-timer which skimmed the post. Mark Miller’s team kept on creating chances non-stop and it was Cutajar again on 80 minutes who’s shot on the turn on the edge of the box missed target by an inch. With six minutes regular time left on the clock, Shalon Diacono could have added a third as well but somehow his close-range attempt was blocked by Falzon.

Mgarr United 1-1 Xghajra Tornados
Last Saturday evening, a stoppage time goal by Jurgen Grech gave Mgarr a point against a plucky Xghajra side, after the Tornados were leading from 61 minutes thanks to an unfortunate own goal. Before the break, Mgarr should have been a few goals up, coming close with goal scoring opportunities by Liam Portelli, Christian Saint Ebisindor, Matthew Attard and Grech, with Xghajra only replying with one clear chance by captain Aidan Gilford-Agius just before the half hour.
In the 57th minute, a free kick by Grech met John Micallef, but his header was saved by Lark Pino Falzon, the Xghajra custodian. Just after the hour mark, with Mgarr failing to score, Xghajra took the lead. There was some confusion in the penalty box after a Xghajra corner with Mgarr goalkeeper Jacob Chircop-St John somehow putting the ball into his own net. Mgarr threw now all on attack and six minutes into stoppage time, a Grech header beat Falzon, punishing some inadequate communication between the Xghajra defenders. However, looking at the whole match, a point was the least Mgarr deserved.

Pembroke Athleta 0-7 Kalkara United
As expected, Kalkara United had no difficulty pushing aside bottom side Pembroke Athleta. The latter played a disastrous opening half hour, in which Kalkara scored five goals. The Greens took the lead after two minutes when Dhonatan was left unmarked at the second post and tapped the ball in from a corner action. On eight minutes it was 2-0 for Kalkara with Julian Zammit heading over Pembroke custodian Brylan Tabone from a throw-in. Four minutes afterwards, Kurt Grech added Kalkara’s third with a grounder from close-range. The fourth goal was scored on 18 minutes when Fabrizio Zammit rounded off an inch perfect David Azzopardi cross from the left. Goal number five was scored from a penalty by Dhonatan on 27 minutes. On 41 minutes, Pembroke had their only goalscoring opportunity of the 1st half when Mario Bartolo had to stretch to turn attempt from Larkin Attard into a corner. On 44 minutes, Dhonatan’s thunderbolt hit the post. Pembroke improved after the break, with Weverton testing substitute goalkeeper Liam Attard with a close-range effort on 58 minutes. Moments later, a Peter-Pedro Axisa grounder was saved by Attard, who was kept busy during the first 15 minutes of the second half. However, Kalkara took their control back shortly after and on 66 minutes, Dylan Zarb’s long-distance shot had the better of Tabone to make it six for Kalkara. On 85 minutes, substitute Gilbert Martin added the seventh with a scorcher from the edge of the box.

Santa Venera Lightnings 1-0 Mellieha
Gordon Camilleri’s Santa Venera managed to win their second consecutive match, brushing aside Mellieha’s resistance at the Luxol Stadium last Saturday evening. The match could have gone either way but the Blues missed their chances with the Lightnings taking maximum advantage. Mellieha started on the offensive as Alexander Akl and Steve Farrugia had their shots blocked by Santa Venera goalkeeper Clyde Aquilina. After a goalless opening half, Santa Venera commenced the second half brightly and managed to surge ahead through Luke Taliana whose grounder surprised the Northerners keeper James Magro, which proved to be the only goal of the match. Despite the Northerners' continuous attacks, the Lightnings defended boldly to register another very important victory, which lifts them up to fifth place on the six point mark, equal with Kalkara. Mellieha, like Ta’ Xbiex and Pembroke, lost all their league matches so far.

GROUP B
Rabat Ajax 3-0 Siggiewi
Three goals in the first half handed Rabat Ajax a comfortable win over Siggiewi, remaining the only team in this section on maximum points. However, ironically, Siggiewi created the better chances in the opening stage, going close after three minutes when Tyrone Grech served Rene Duca whose attempt from the edge of the area ended wide. Siggiewi threatened once again five minutes later with a Lee Grech header off a cross by Johann Zarb and on 15 minutes, Tyrone Grech hit high from an ideal position following a cross from the right. However, Rabat took the lead on 17 minutes when Kane Micallef concluded a good move on the left by serving Matthew Farrugia whose rising shot gave goalkeeper Ryan Micallef no chance. Six minutes later, Kane Micallef received a cross from the right and with a diagonal shot, he beat the Siggiewi goalkeeper to double the score. On 33 minutes, Rabat scored the third goal when Micallef was brought down inside the area and Nobukatsu Tsuchiya converted the spot-kick. One minute from the end of the first half, the speedy Tsuchiya went close once again with an angled shot which was parried by the Siggiewi custodian.
Rabat were clearly in command after the break and nine minutes in the second half, Ryan Micallef performed a good save on a Farrugia freekick. Siggiewi replied with an angled shot by Ronaldo Begambre which was saved by Dean Sciberras on 58 minutes and in a swift counter attack a few seconds later on the other side, Micallef sent Tsuchiya through but the latter’s angled shot was turned into a corner. Begambre had a freekick saved by the Rabat goalkeeper on 66 minutes. In the final stages, the Magpies tried to extend the lead, going close on 78 minutes with an Ian Caruana diagonal shot ending just wide and seven minutes from time, Andre Debattista’s attempt from the edge of the area just missed the target.

Ghaxaq 1-0 Gharghur
Rennie Zahra’s Ghaxaq remain unbeaten this season after a hard-fought win over Gharghur, inflicting the first defeat on the team of coach Kevin Borg-Degiorgio, who opened their season with two consecutive draws. In the opening half, Gharghur were coming close to open the deadlock on 13 minutes through Jayden Aquilina, but his effort was saved with the feet of Leon Seisun. Ghaxaq replied with three opportunities, one by Rio Micallef and two through Dusan Petrovic, all saved by Andrew Zammit, who kept his team into the match.
Eleven minutes from the restart, Ghaxaq scored the one and only goal of the match thanks to Josef Dalli, after his volley from outside the box sailed straight into the top left corner, a great goal. In the 63rd minute, a pass by Aquilina to Erik Pietribiasi was saved by Seisun, with Aquilina not taking advantage from the rebound. Seven minutes later, Ryden Gatt went on to dribble the keeper after a careless approach, but failed to score after ending up in a tight angle. Five minutes into stoppage time, Ghaxaq could have added a second but substitute Dejan Buhagiar did not reward himself after a wonderful dribble with his finish ending wide.

Luqa St Andrew’s 0-2 Msida St Joseph
Neville Galea’s Msida collected their first win of the season by beating Luqa with two goals, which also meant the first defeat in the league for the original St Andrew’s. Apart from 41-year-old midfielder Kevin Sammut, who returned from a 10-year UEFA/FIFA ban, Msida also paraded ex-Valletta powerhouse Romeu Pericles Romao, who should be surely an important addition to an already balanced and talented side. Luqa should have taken the lead after 15 minutes in a goalmouth melee but somehow the ball was cleared by the Msida defence. It was Msida who took the lead on 16 minutes when Jamie Camilleri was put through with the ex-Mdina forward making no mistake to slot past Bartolo. On 37 minutes, Luqa came close with a shot by Andrei-Alexandru Vasinic but Clive Caruana was equal to the effort.
Luqa were almost constantly on the attack in the second half but failed to find a way to penetrate a solid Msida defence. On 74 minutes, Msida doubled courtesy of a brilliant goal by 17-year-old substitute Misael Tabone who whacked an angled shot past the hapless Bartolo. An important three points for Msida.

Kirkop United 1-4 St George’s
The Pioneers finally got off mark after two consecutive draws, two matches they should have won, with a handsome win over strugglers Kirkop. It was the match of Morientes Muscat, on loan from Fgura United, who recorded a hat-trick with two goals before the break and one after. After a quiet first half hour, St George’s took the lead through Muscat, who’s shot that sailed past Clayton Rapa. Three minutes later, the Saints doubled when the same Muscat was on hand to tap home from close range.
The Blues put the game to bed on 48 minutes with Muscat notching his hat trick after a fine solo effort. Quelin Micallef pulled one back for Kirkop with a fantastic strike on 62 minutes. The Saints restored their three goal advantage with another cracker from Rudy Cassar-Jeffries who shot in from an acute angle on 69 minutes to put the outcome of the match beyond doubt.

Mdina Knights 1-1 Dingli Swallows
This derby match ended in a fair draw, which lifted both teams from the zero-point mark, a welcome result for both. It is clear that both teams will not challenge for silverware this season, although Dingli paraded two new quality signings Ryan Zammit (ex-San Gwann) and ex-Mdina striker Cachel Vella, while they welcomed back Matthew Pace after three seasons with the Knights. The first 20 minutes were uneventful, but Dingli came close on 23 minutes when a lob by Luke Galea just missed the post defended by Wallace Galea. The rest of the half saw Mdina force a number of set pieces but nothing much came out of these.
At the start of the second half, Dingli went ahead with an excellently taken goal by Cachel Vella, who managed to release himself and steer a low shot past Galea into the corner. Just as Dingli were defending comfortably and even pressing for a second, Mdina equalised on 79 minutes when Nicholas Zahra managed to spring the offside trap and slide the ball past Adam Benjelloun.

Images copyright Joe Borg