General Category

One hundred percent record for Naxxar, Pembroke, balance in Group B

Tue 19 Oct 2021, 12:48

Group A

George Vella’s Naxxar Lions look to be the team to beat this season in this group, registering their fourth successive win, beating a gallant San Gwann side, even though playing the whole second half with ten men. This was arguably one of the best so far in this season’s challenge league between two sides who produced some very good football in an entertaining match. Ironically the sending off of Steve Meilak just before half time, had the reverse effect on San Gwann. In fact, after having a slight edge in the first half, San Gwann were completely dominated in the second half and Naxxar fully deserved their victory. For the Lions, central defender Dimitri Kassekar was outstanding never missing a tackle. Up front, Edson Farias and Gilberto Carrara were unstoppable at times putting the San Gwann defence at sixes and sevens. The goal that mattered came inside the second minute of the second half when Gilberto Carrara was floored inside the area with the same player converting from the spot. Unfortunately, tempers flared in stoppage time when San Gwann were also reduced to ten when substitute Benjamin Hili was sent off. It is interesting to note that Omar Borg, the Lions’ 40-year-old custodian, has not been beaten as yet this season.

Apart from Naxxar, also Pembroke have won all their league matches so far, registering their third successive victory, beating Rabat Ajax by two second half goals. Without producing one of their best performances, the team of coach Jacques Scerri were still good enough to beat the Magpies in a low-profile match. Pembroke enjoyed the lion's share of the exchanges in the first half but goal scoring opportunities were lacking. Six minutes into the second half Pembroke broke the deadlock when Jurgen Suda passed towards James Brincat who fired home. On 57 minutes Rabat goalkeeper Vella made a great save off Suda and twenty minutes later Rabat had their chance when a Petar Kanzurov shot smashed against the crossbar. In the fifth minute of stoppage time Pembroke sealed the issue when Erikys da Silva scored after a fine solo run.

Jean Carlos Cloth Goncalves was Zejtun’s hero last Saturday, scoring a hat trick in his side’s victory over Marsaxlokk. Apart from the goals scored, Jean Carlos was a constant headache to the Marsaxlokk defence. It was a deserved victory for Zejtun who are aiming at a quick return to the top flight. The first half was characterised by three penalties. The first one on 22 minutes in favour of Marsaxlokk when Salim Cisse was tackled inside the area and Terence Vella made no mistake from the spot. But eight minutes later, Zejtun drew level when Claudio Murici was floored by Frederick Tabone, the Marsaxlokk custodian and Jean Carlos converted in style. Four minutes from the break from a corner action, Jesmar Degabriele was pushed by Cisse for the third penalty of the day, and again Jean Carlos made no mistake from the penalty spot. On 57 minutes Zejtun sealed the issue with the third goal when Samba Tounkara gave an inch perfect pass towards Jean Carlos, who could not miss from close range.

Melita beat St George’s 2-0 last Sunday, which was already the fourth successive defeat for the Pioneers. The first half was a balanced affair which lacked goalmouth action, with neither side creating any shots on target. Melita took the lead six minutes into the second half thanks to Matteo Desira-Buttigieg after an excellent run from Noel Omondi, who played his first match of the season after coming back from suspension. Julian Galea, playing his 100th second level game, doubled the score on the hour. A deserved win for the Amateurs, who have now moved into fourth position in the ranking.

Lija Athletic finally registered their first win of the season after demolishing Vittoriosa 4-0 in a one-sided affair. The Stars failed to create a decent scoring opportunity in the whole 90 minutes and their defence left much to be desired. Joe Galea’s team immediately surged forward and opened the score on four minutes when Pedrinho scored a gem of a goal direct from a freekick. Pedrinho was very inspired and unlucky too, hitting the crossbar five minutes later and eventually limped off in the second half and had to be substituted. On 37 minutes Lija doubled the score when ex-Marsa striker Lydon Micallef got his first goal this season with a close-range header. On the hour Lija sealed the issue with a third goal when Lydon Micallef was floored inside the area and Roberio converted the penalty in style. Japanese substitute Tomoya Shimamura added to Vittoriosa’s misery scoring the fourth one with an angled drive with twelve minutes to go.


Group B

Group B of the Challenge League looks to be fairly more balanced, with Fgura obtaining top spot after a hard-earned draw with promoted side Luqa St Andrew’s. The first half of this match was characterized by a series of goalscoring attempts from both sides. Fgura were clearly in control of the match but failed to open the score. Immediately after the break, Luqa piled the pressure and broke the deadlock one minute into the second half, thanks to young 19-year-old Joshua Micallef, his second league goal already of the season. Fgura saved a point eight minutes from time thanks to Colombian substitute Donys Quintero. In the last few seconds of the game, Kevin Vella’s side had the chance to grab all three points but the attempt was saved in style by Luqa goalkeeper Pablo Villar, who kept his team in the match last Sunday more than once.

Zebbug registered their first win of the season beating Swieqi 3-0, who suffered their first defeat of the season. Zebbug fully deserved their victory after dominating the first hour of the game, with Swieqi come back strongly in the final part of the game, but Zebbug custodian Jamie Azzopardi saved everything that came his way to keep his goal intact. On 26 minutes Zebbug took the lead when Yannis Tonna scored a good goal with a shot from the edge of the area. Five minutes later Zebbug doubled the score with a swift move between Miguel Perez Jimenez and Tonna, who served Stanimir Miloskovic and the Serb made no mistake from close range. On 57 minutes, Zebbug put their minds at rest when Perez was floored by Neil Borg inside the area, and from the resultant penalty, defender Gaetano Gesualdi converted in style with the ball finishing in the top corner of the net. The last part of the game was a different story with Swieqi creating several scoring opportunities, but the Zebbug goalkeeper was outstanding to keep his opponents at bay.

Last Friday night, Tarxien and St Andrews battled it out in an entertaining 2-2 draw, a result which is of little use to both sides. However, it was a fair result in this keenly contested affair, packed with goal-mouth actions. The strong wind that swept across Ta’ Qali did not help matters, but credit to both sides who still provided a great game. Tarxien were with the wind behind their backs in the first half and had more of the ball and took the lead on 22 minutes with a great goal scored by Darren Falzon direct from a freekick. Ten minutes later, St Andrews were awarded a penalty when Kei Sano was pulled inside the box and from the penalty spot, veteran Joseph Farrugia made no mistake. On 43 minutes Tarxien were unlucky when a Ricardinho header finished against the crossbar, and in the fourth minute of added time the Saints took a surprise lead with a Luis Andre header. Seven minutes into the second half Tarxien were back on level terms with a powerful Wellington header completely beating Miguel Montfort. The game continued to be an open contest with the Saints hitting the crossbar through Santiago Martinez, but the score remained unchanged till the end.

Senglea registered their first win of the season beating Qrendi by the odd goal in five in an exciting match that burst into life in the second half. The first half was uneventful with Qrendi seemingly in full control after taking a fifteen-minute lead thanks to a good header from Dasser Sammut. But things changed dramatically, especially for Qrendi in the second half. Inside the first minute from the resumption, there was a handling infringement from Gary Bugeja and from the resultant penalty, Larson Mallia made no mistake. But on 64 minutes Qrendi were back in front when Sammut, with another great header, found the back of the net for his second goal of the match and already his fifth of the season. But Qrendi’s joy was short-lived as on 73 minutes, Senglea again drew level when from a Daniel Claridge freekick, Keith Vella nodded down towards Mattia Zarb who fired low into the net. Barely a minute later, Senglea completely turned the tide in their favour when Colombian livewire Andres Tenorio scored a great goal with a grounder from the edge of the area.

After Senglea’s and Zebbug’s first win of the season it was Marsa’s turn to record their first victory, beating newly promoted side Mgarr United with two second half goals. It was a most welcome result for Potenza’s team, but result apart, the general impression is that Marsa are still far away from their best. In fact, although they were the better team on the day, they never set houses on fire and Mgarr could have easily obtained a point with more attention at the back. For Mgarr, it must have been a hard game as on Sunday morning, the sudden death was announced of 42-year-old Daniel Schembri, a Mgarr player between 2004 and 2015. Some of the players in the Mgarr line-up have played with him in the lower Divisions. The goals that mattered came in the second half with the opener on 65 minutes when the Mgarr custodian failed to grasp a harmless but powerful long range shot and Ryan Darmanin was on hand to hammer the ball home. Eleven minutes from time Mgarr’s hopes faded away completely when substitute Riki Kakinuma was floored in the area by Matthew Attard and Amadou Samb made no mistake from the penalty spot.

All images copyright by Stephen Gatt