Kalkara, Gharghur and Zabbar lead the way
Gharghur, Attard and Kalkara United are off to a perfect start in the Amateur League Group A last weekend, while the same can be said about Zabbar St Patrick in Group B, despite being pushed to the limit by Kirkop United.
On Friday night, Għargħur maintained their perfect record as they obtained their second consecutive win after seeing off Msida St Joseph 3-0. The victory was never in discussion for Kevin Borg Degiorgio’s troops as they started aggressively from the very start. For Msida this was a disappointing defeat as they now lie in the bottom part of the table with only one point. Għargħur went ahead in the last seconds of the first half as Ikechukwu Igwemeke slotted home to beat Msida keeper James Borg. In the second half, the Northerners kept their pace and found two more goals from Owen Magro on 54 minutes and Warren Azzopardi six minutes from the end.
Attard also collected their second win, beating Dingli Swallows 3-0 with all the goals arriving in the first 32 minutes. They came close after twelve minutes when Nicholas Schembri forged into the box with a low shot that ended up just wide. Six minutes later Attard took the lead when Bledi Alla slammed a low shot into the net from close range. The Reds made it 2-0 on the half hour mark when Nigel Spiteri slammed home with another easy finish. Alla scored his second and Attard’s third just three minutes later. Dingli almost grabbed a goal back on 68 minutes when a piledriver by Giuseppe Versace was brilliantly tipped over by Luke Attard. Attard controlled the match with ease and ended up easy winners for a second consecutive victory.
Kalkara United deservedly beat Ta’ Xbiex 2-0 in a clash between two teams who both won their opening matches. After a ca opening period, Kalkara took the lead with the first real chance of the match on 17 minutes. Ex-Mosta player Jordan Vella, who entered as a sub just minutes before, ran into the box after picking up a loose ball and slammed a powerful finish past Cliff Aquilina. Not much later, Ta’ Xbiex striker Christian Frendo had to be carried off with what looked to be a nasty injury on his arm. On the half hour mark, Jordan Vella scored his second with a fine shot from inside the box to put the Greens in total control. Ta’ Xbiex started the second half brightly and were unlucky not to pull one back on 68 minutes with a shot by Mauro Busuttil that slammed against the crossbar. Two minutes before full-time, Kalkara should have made it three but Jordan Vella’s shot slammed against the post.
Birzebbuga recorded their first win of the season with a fine 3-0 win over Siggiewi. Initially, Siggiewi tried to play with building up attacks from the back, while Birzebbuga were mostly dangerous on the counter-attack. The Blues of coach Paul Camilleri opened the score on 38 minutes when Alan Tabone’s corner was met by Yessous Camilleri who struck the ball into the top left corner with a towering header. Five minutes later Birzebbuga doubled, thanks again to centre-back Camilleri with another header, after a precise Tabone free-kick. The second half saw a series of chances for Birzebbuga before they made sure of the win in the 73rd minute with a goal by Larken Friggieri, who finished powerfully into the top left corner after a Siggiewi defensive error.
The match between Xghajra Tornadoes and Ghaxaq FC turned out to be a very balanced encounter, with both teams settling for a point each. Initially, the match failed to live up to expectation, only until Ghaxaq scored in the 70th minute the match came to life. Phiram Sakchai, in excellent shape last Sunday, provided an excellent through ball towards Ian Calleja, who dribbled his way into the box and finished calmly into the bottom left corner. This instigated Xgħajra to approach the game more aggressively. In the 74th minute they came close to equalising but Neil Darmanin’s shot from the right side of the box was saved well by the Għaxaq goalkeeper Christian Schembri. In the 79th minute, Xgħajra scored a well-deserved equaliser thanks to an excellent solo effort by Aidan Agius Gilford, who skipped past two players before finishing into the bottom right.
Promotion favourites Zabbar made it two wins on the bounce when they beat last season’s playoff final runners up Kirkop 2-1. In the first half, Zabbar made good use of their chances and opened the score in the 23rd minute when Gianluca Zammit beat the Kirkop defenders in the air, meeting Miguel Ciantar’s cross with a fine header into the bottom right corner. In the 28th minute, after a good build up, Zabbar had another fine attempt at goal by Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, who’s shot from outside the box was turned into a corner by Kirkop goalkeeper Matthew Xerxen. Six minutes later however, Gianluca Zammit doubled the score for his team when a ricochet off Kirkop’s Darren Darmanin came to his feet and beat the keeper at his near post with a powerful left footed shot from just outside the area. Kirkop played an excellent second half and started aggressively, managing to half the deficit in the 48th minute when Simone Lo Presti headed in after a corner action. In the 52nd minute, Lo Presti had another goal scoring opportunity from the right side of the box towards the near post which went just wide. In the 80th and the 85th minute Kirkop had another two chances to equalize, one of these chances being a direct freekick. However, both scoring opportunities were neutralised by goalkeeper Jonathan Grech, saving the day for Zabbar.
In what could have been the match of the week, Marsaskala left Zurrieq no chance, beating the Reds 3-0, a deserved win for the side of Brian Vella. It was the first outing of the season for the Orange formation, who look to be a clear promotion challenger this season. After a slow first half hour, the first real chance arrived on 38 minutes when a free kick by Zurrieq’s Kurt Darmanin sailed inches over the crossbar. Minutes later a cross shot by Giovanni Galea was well parried by goalie Daniel Attard for a corner. It was however Marsaskala who took the lead, slightly against the run of play, when Fabrizio Zammit collected a ball just outside the box and let fly with a low shot that easily beat Zurrieq custodian Carmelo Caruana. The Southseasiders made it two on 50 minutes with another counterattack. Substitute Nicky Zammit picked up the ball just outside the box, advanced and beat Caruana with a low diagonal shot, leaving Zurrieq shell-shocked. The third came five minutes later courtesy of Adrian Carabott with another fine low shot as Zurrieq collapsed at the back. And after a flurry of substitutions, Marsaskala could have made it four on 70 minutes when a point-blank header by Adrian Bonavia was brilliantly saved by Caruana.
Mellieha came from two nil down to beat Santa Venera by the odd goal in five in the most entertaining clash of the weekend. Santa Venera started well and opened the score after just two minutes. Zack Camilleri put in a low cross towards the penalty spot which was finished by a tap in from close range by Liam Hudson. A series of missed chances followed from Santa Venera as Camilleri failed to double his team’s lead on several occasions. However, Santa Venera eventually got their second goal in the 42nd minute from a penalty when Mellieha’s Isaac Sammut fouled Camilleri in the box. The same Camilleri converted from the spot, despite goalkeeper James Abela getting hand on the penalty. On the stroke of half time, Mellieha pulled one back by Paul Ellul, reducing the deficit after a corner action. In the second half, Mellieha came out on the front foot when during the first 15 minutes they had a two chances to obtain to equalise from Wayne Chetcuti and a Timothy Muscat header. In the 68th minute Mellieha deservedly equalised with a powerful penalty down the middle from Jonathan Cutajar. The spotkick was given after a reckless challenge from Santa Venera’s Jeremy Grixti, who was booked for the challenge. In the 77th minute, Mellieħa’s Timothy Muscat hit the crossbar from a rebound. In the dying moments of the game, when a draw seem to be the fairest of outcomes, Chetcuti managed to score the all important goal, to complete the comeback, Mellieha’s first three points of the season.
Qormi edged Mdina Knights 1-0, another well-contested encounter with Qormi dominating possession but with the Knights being dangerous on the counter attack. After a modest and goalless draw in the first 45 minutes, the second half was a more entertaining affair with both teams giving their all to get a victory. The young Qormi team scored the winner on 78 minutes as Leon Theuma slotted home after a good move from Thomas Grima. The Yellow/Blacks had the chance to double the score but captain Carmelo Farrugia shot high from the 11-metre mark. A fine win by Qormi, but another match with a disappointing outcome for Mdina, who strengthened their team considerably last summer but without the desired effect so far.