BOV Challenge League Review
The second matchday in the BOV Challenges Leagues provided a number of exciting games, with Naxxar, Zejtun and Pembroke on full points in Group A and Pieta’ Hotspurs in Group B. Mgarr United’s first match at this level was celebrated with a hard-earned win over Senglea Athletic, a historic match and result for the Northerners.
Naxxar Lions notched their second successive win beating St George’s by a solitary goal scored early in the second half. It was a gift goal from the Saints’ goalkeeper Andre Spiteri, who fumbled a harmless looking cross, and substitute Edson Farias scored with an overhead kick. Spiteri made amends with some daring saves in the final moments of the match as Naxxar dominated the final stages in an otherwise balanced affair. St George’s were even the better team till Naxxar snatched the winner, but the Saints failed to capitalise on some very good scoring opportunities. However, the Pioneers showed considerable improvement from their opening commitment against San Gwann. After suffering the goal St George’s had a very good opportunity to equalise but Yuta Nomura’s shot destined for the back of the net was cleared off the goal line by Ryan Gilmour Cassar. Naxxar should have closed the match in the final moments but the posts, the crossbar and some brilliant saves by Spiteri denied the Lions a second goal.
Neighbours Pembroke Athleta and Melita met on Sunday night in a fairly balanced derby match, with Pembroke being the most efficient team. The team of Jacques Scerri were awarded a penalty on 11 minutes when Julian Abela allegedly halted Erikys da Silva’s run illegally. Jurgen Suda made no mistake from the penalty spot. It was 2-0 three minutes later when Stefan Jankovic’s header had the better of Melita goalkeeper Ryan Caruana after an inch perfect James Brincat from the left. On 40 minutes, Pembroke scored their third, with Brincat punishing a defensive mistake, easily beating Caruana from close range. Melita’s best period was at the start of the second half and on 56 minutes, Melita deservedly pulled one back with Camilo Navarro slotting the ball home after Pembroke failed to clear the ball in their own box. The Amateurs tried hard to score a second, but the Pembroke defence managed to deal with everything which came their way. Deep into added time, Weverton added Pembroke’s fourth, putting the final result beyond doubt.
Zejtun also registered their second consecutive league win beating newly promoted Rabat Ajax by two goals to nil with both goals scored in the first half. Orosco Anonam’s team dominated the whole ninety minutes even though they eased a bit in the second half, but Rabat rarely ventured forward as Zejtun confirmed their superiority as they are aiming for a quick return amongst the elite. Zejtun immediately made their intentions clear surging forward from the initial whistle going near after three minutes with a Jean Carlos shot just missing the upright. On 27 minutes, Zejtun broke the deadlock with a Christian Degabriele header off a Clyde Borg cross. The Corinthians pushed for more going close again with a Sgaria Farias effort and just before the break they won a penalty when Jean Carlos was brought down by the Rabat custodian and from the resultant penalty, the same player sealed the issue.
San Gwann and Lija shared four goals in an exciting match with all the drama coming in the second half. Both sides played some good football confirming their potential as teams to be reckoned with for the rest of the season. The first half was very balanced with few scoring opportunities. Andrea Zammit was the most dangerous having two attempts after stunning runs both well saved by Lija goalkeeper Luke Bonnici. Five minutes into the second half Lija forged ahead with a Robeiro header from a corner action. This goal sparked the game as San Gwann now pushed forward with Lija always on the lookout for a counter break. On 71 minutes San Gwann obtained the equaliser with a great header from Dutch import Sjaak Kuyper, giving Bonnici no chance to save. San Gwann were now bubbling in attack as Lija suffered at the back and on 84 minutes San Gwann took the lead when a Kuyper shot hit substitute Dale Mifsud before finishing past Bonnici. But Lija staged a great comeback as they put everything in attack in the remaining minutes and were rewarded on 90 minutes when substitute Lian Xuereb did all the damage on the left before passing towards Robeiro who could not miss from close range.
Mqabba reacted well after their opening upset against Naxxar, beating Vittoriosa Stars deservedly by the odd goal in three. Substitute Leonard Farrugia put Goran Adamovic’s team in the driving seat with a goal in added time of the first half, a well-placed header from a corner action. The Stars reacted and equalised fourteen minutes before the final whistle with a wonderful left footer from the edge of the box by Hugo Rosa Santa Cruz, who also entered the fray as a substitute. Vittoriosa’s joy was short-lived as barely a minute later however, captain Ryan Spiteri put Mqabba in front once more, punishing a defensive mistake by the Vittoriosa rear-guard.
As Qrendi did not play this weekend, Pieta are the only team in Group B on full points after two match days, beating St Andrews in an entertaining match. The Saints were fresh from their good showing against Marsa, but found a hard nut to crack against a highly motivated Pieta side. Pieta fully deserved their victory as they were the better team on the day, taking an early lead after only three minutes when they won a penalty for a handling infringement. The penalty was scored by Yuto Morita. On 35 minutes, Pieta doubled the score with a great goal from James Scicluna who had another impressive display for Pieta. Just before the break veteran captain Joseph Farrugia pulled one back for the Saints. On the resumption, as expected St Andrews pushed for the equaliser but Pieta sealed it on 73 minutes when young substitute Brooklyn Borg scored with a good header from an ideal position. The saints definitely surrendered seven minutes later when centre-back Migue; D’Alessandro was shown a straight red card for stopping irregularly an obvious scoring opportunity.
No goals between Swieqi United and Tarxien Rainbows in a match between two teams aiming high this season. Both teams were fresh from victories in their opening match, but both had to settle for a point in the end of this balanced affair. Both sides tried their best, but play was mainly in midfield and scoring chances were scarce. Tarxien had the edge in the first half, but Swieqi played slightly better in the second half but the result was a fair one. The best chance of the match came Tarxien’s way half way through the first half when Thiago Nonato nipped in to pounce on a Swieqi defensive error but his precise lob finished against the upright. Worth mentioning is the return of Swieqi’s Roderick Taliana, just after an hour play, who made his come-back after being side-lined for more then a year with an injury.
Fgura grabbed the first points and first victory of the season, easily beating Zebbug Rangers by three clear goals. It was a fully deserved victory for Fgura who dominated for long stretches with Ewertton very effective with his runs, but rather aggressive too, committing some unnecessary fouls. The game never reached high standards with Zebbug rarely effective in front of goal. On the other hand, Fgura produced some very good moves that caught the Zebbug defence off guard. Fgura took the lead on the half hour when from a corner action, Charlles Gandini managed to hit home with the Zebbug defence failing to clear. Seven minutes later a Zebbug attempt with a Yanis Tonna first timer just sailing over the bar. On 38 minutes an Ewertton effort was cleared off the goal line by a Zebbug defender and sixty second later Fgura doubled the score when Prudente crossed from the right towards Dylan Caruana who shot home with a precise grounder. Fgura put the game to bed eight minutes into the second half with a brilliant counter break conducted by Gabriel Borg who dribbled past the goalkeeper and passed towards Prudente who had little difficulty in finishing in an empty net.
Mgarr had a brilliant debut in this category beating Senglea Athletic with a last gasp penalty. It was however a deserved victory for the side led by Patrick Curmi. For Senglea this was the second successive defeat as the ex-premier side are heading for a difficult season. On 17 minutes, James Pisani saved Senglea with a brilliant save off Santiago, with the same player unlucky on the half hour with his shot hitting the upright. When the match looked set for a scoreless draw, Mgarr won the match when substitute James Oghenekewaro was floored inside the area and from the resultant penalty substitute Gordon Saliba made no mistake.
Vicenzo Potenza’s Marsa struggled for a second time in a row, with another 1-1 draw to show against newcomers Luqa St Andrew’s. The original St Andrew’s took the lead late in the first half thanks to fast Nigerian striker Lucky Nwaogu, after being served by Kieran Degiorgio. It took Marsa until half-way the second half to equalise, thanks to a penalty converted by Amadou Samb, given after a handling infringement. Marsa certainly did not deserve to lose the match, but were held back by a determined Luqa side, who played with many promising youngsters.