Fine displays by Birzebbuga, Mtarfa and Attard
Last weekend saw the opening round of the 2021/22 Amateur Cup, with eight Preliminary Round games being played around the islands, three in Gozo and five in Malta. All Amateur League clubs in Malta are taking part is this season’s edition, as well five from a possible six 2nd Division clubs from Gozo, as only Qala Saints opted to stay out of this season’s competition.
Marsaskala 3 Xaghra United 0
Last Sunday at the Sirens Stadium, Marsaskala made sure of qualification in a low-key encounter with Gozitan 2nd Division side Xaghra United. The match lacked goalmouth action through the ninety minutes but overall, it was a deserved victory for Marsaskala. Credit goes to the Xaghra United defence however, led by centre-backs Savio Galea and Silvan Bonello, who neutralised many Marsaskala attacks thanks to their very effective off-side trap. Fabrizio Zammit opened Marsaskala's account in the 21st minute, slotting the ball home after a fluent attack. Marsaskala kept on dominating but without creating many chances to score, with Xaghra attacks being rare. Zammit finally doubled the score on 73 minutes and with four minutes left on the clock, Xaghra were awarded a penalty after a foul in the box by Marsaskala goalkeeper Mario Bartolo. However, Manuel Galea blasted his 11-meter attempt high over the crossbar. In the attack what followed, substitute Adrian Bonavia scored his side’s third goal, hitting home in style from the edge of the box.
Kirkop United 0 Attard 2
Sunday’s second match at the Sirens Stadium was a target for the in-form Attard side of coach Daniel Agius, who were however offered stiff opposition from Kirkop United, who dominated the second half but did not take the chances coming their way. The first half was a very balanced encounter with Attard having a slight upper hand, but without creating many goalscoring opportunities. Kirkop had a good chance to open the score midway the first half thanks to some good work by Lincoln Micallef on the left side, with the ball ending up on the edge of the box but Darren Darmanin missed target. It was Attard who opened the score three minutes before the break. The Kirkop defence failed to clear the ball and it was Nicholas Schembri who drove the ball home from close range. Kirkop saw definitely more of the ball in the second half. On 57 minutes, Lincoln Micallef hit the post after a fast Kirkop attack and on 78 minutes, a thunderbolt of Kirkop substitute Simone Lo Presti sailed inches over the crossbar. Four minutes later, a first-timer from Darmanin was blocked with difficulty by Attard custodian Luke Attard. With two minutes left on the clock, Matthew Borg brought Nigel Spiteri down in the box, with the referee pointing at the penalty spot. Schembri made no mistake to add his second of the afternoon, sending Attard into the 1st round of the Amateur Cup.
Zurrieq 2 Siggiewi 1
Last year’s finalists Zurrieq made it to the 1st round of the Amateur Cup as well with a late goal beating Siggiewi who already suffered their third defeat of the season. The latter came out fast from the kick off and managed to win a penalty in the third minute of the game, converted by veteran striker Jason Camilleri. After this early lead, Siggiewi started defending deep, trying to defend their lead instead of building on their advantage, with Zurrieq dictating procedures for the rest of the first half with some good football. Initially however, George Magri’s team failed to obtain the equaliser as they were lacking a precise final pass in their build up. The second half of the game was more of the same, with Siggiewi creating very few scoring chances. Zurrieq eventually did equalise with a goal just after the hour by Giovanni Galea, his first goal of the season. After the equaliser, Zurrieq kept piling up pressure but failed to find the crucial pass. However, in the dying minutes of the game, when the match destined to head for extra time, a long ball towards the box was met by Galea, who headed towards substitute Luca Bugeja who slotted the ball home past Siggiewi goalkeeper Leon Seisun, sending Zurrieq through.
Qormi 1 Ghaxaq 2
Ghaxaq booked their place in the 1st Round by beating Qormi by the odd goal in three. On 16 minutes, Ghaxaq captain Sakchai Pharam scored the first goal of this encounter, heading past Qormi goalkeeper Claude Carbonaro after an accurate cross. Ghaxaq doubled the score in the 28th minute, as Kenneth Ekezie's cross found Ryden Gatt who tapped it in past Carbonaro from close range. In the second half, Qormi tried to get back into the match and definitely increase the pressure on Ghaxaq by created more chances. The Yellows managed to score in the 68th minute, when Gilmour Sammut's lob ended up behind Ghaxaq goalkeeper Christian Schembri. This was however all they could do, with Ghaxaq progressing in this competition.
Birzebbuga St Peter’s 3 Mdina Knights 0
Birzebbuga St Peters made it to the last round of 16 of the National Amateur Cup as they saw off Mdina Knights 3-0 at the Luxol Stadium on Sunday. It was another frustrating afternoon for Mdina, who cannot get things going this season. After a goalless draw in the first 45 minutes, the St Peter’s pressed in the gas pedal and managed to open the score through an own goal, just after an hour play, by Jordan Debattista who slotted in his own net. The Blues were showing a more aggressive approach and it was no surprise that they found the second goal on 80 minutes thanks to Kurt Drakard whose grounder surprised Mdina Knights keeper Dwayne Camilleri. Birzebbuga sealed the issue four minutes later as Sam Kind's header found the back of the net to propel his team in the next round of this competition.
The matches in Gozo
Three Maltese teams had to travel by ferry to our sister island to face opposition from the Gozitan 2nd Division at the Kercem Arkafort Stadium, who all played their first game of the season. On early Saturday afternoon, Kalkara United were the first to qualify after beating Zebbug Rovers 0-3 without much problems. Edward Azzopardi’s team took an early 19th minute lead, thanks to a Julian Zammit goal. Despite dominating procedures, Kalkara’s second goal only arrived on 79 minutes with Jean-Claud Cesare doubling, before Jordan Vella added his side’s third and final goal two minutes after.
This match was followed by the Munxar Falcons versus Mtarfa encounter, with the latter beating the Gozitans with a similar 0-3 score. All three goals were scored in the space of fifteen minutes after the break. Gianluca Calabretta opened for Mtarfa on 50 minutes, followed by a second goal through Venezuelan playmaker and ex-Rabat Ajax livewire Nestor Canas in the 58th minute. Calabretta added Mtarfa’s third and his second of the afternoon on 65 minutes, to give his side a comfortable and convincing victory.
On Sunday at the same venue, Zabbar St Patrick beat St Lawrence Spurs 0-5, booking their place in the first round in style. There was no doubt who were the better side as St Patrick scored twice already in the first half to give the visitors a comfortable 0-2 lead at halftime. Scorers were Isaac Abela on 11 minutes and just after the half hour mark, Jean Pierre Mifsud-Triganza doubled for the Zabbar side. At the time of the second goal, both sides were already reduced to ten players as Philip Chircop of Zabbar clashed with Daniel Micallef of St Lawrence, with both players being sent off with two straight red cards. Two goals by captain Terence Agius (69th and 80th minute) put the outcome of the match beyond doubt, with Gabriel Bonavia even adding a fifth five minutes before full-time, much to the delight of the numerous Zabbar fans who crossed the channel to support their team.
Images copyright Stephen Gatt