Kalkara leaders in Group A, full points for Marsaskala in Group B
Match Day 5 started on Friday night when leaders Kalkara prevailed on Xghajra Tornadoes in the derby of the south with the score 4-1. Kalkara started on a high as they surged ahead on seven minutes through Andriy Pisani who headed home a Jean Claude Cesare corner. The Greens maintained their consistency and managed to double the score on 16 minutes thanks to a Jordan Vella header. Xghajra started to venture forward and in one of their attacks, they managed to reduce the score through Erik Pietribiasi after a quick counter attack. Two minutes before half-time, Xghajra were reduced to ten as Clint Barbara was shown red card after violent conduct. In the second half, Kalkara continued to impress with Xghajra finding it difficult to contain their opponents. On 51 minutes they scored their third goal through Nathan Attard. Kalkara scored their fourth goal from a direct freekick by Cedric Zahra. On 86 minutes, Xghajra failed to take advantage of a penalty as substitute Shawn Vella saw keeper Brandon Debono neutralizing his shot from the 11-metre mark.
Gharghur and Attard shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw, a result which halted Attard’s march, as they had won all their league matches so far. The draw was enough for Gharghur to maintain their second place and prolong their surprising excellent start of the season. The team of Kevin Borg-Degiorgio had to work hard in the first half to keep Attard at bay, with Bledi Alla coming close while a bit later, Ikechukwu Igwemeke had a good goalscoring opportunity for Gharghur. Attard opened the score two minutes after the restart. Adrian Sammut was at the right spot to kick the ball behind Gharghur goalkeeper Andrew Zammit after a cross by Nicolai Sammut. The goal was hotly contested by Gharghur, claiming an off-side in the built-up, but the goal stood. Gharghur equalised on 78 minutes. Attard goalkeeper Luke Attard blocked captain Karl Azzopardi’s free-kick but in came Davide Mula, slotting the ball behind the Attard custodian. All in all, a deserved draw between two high flyers in Group A.
Birzebbuga St Peter’s got their second win of the season by beating Ghaxaq by a single goal, climbing to third spot in the ranking. Birzebbuga squandered the opportunity to jump into an early lead when Sam Kind saw his effort saved by Ghaxaq custodian Christian Schembri. However, the first half was a quiet one as both teams created very few goalscoring opportunities. As usual this season, Ghaxaq were defending deeply, with Birzebbuga doing most of the running. In the second half, Ghaxaq took more risks, creating some opportunities, mainly from set pieces. In the 52nd minute, veteran Rio Micallef saw his header from a corner action saved by Birzebbuga keeper Ristan Schembri. The only goal of the match was scored on 63 minutes. Birzebbuga were given a free kick on the right side, with Alan Tabone whipping the ball into the box and it was Josef Dalli who headed the ball into net. Substitute Miguel Ciappara had the chance to double his team’s lead on 70 minutes but his shot was blocked. In the dying embers of stoppage time Ghaxaq were reduced to 10 men when experienced captain Emmanuel Cutajar was sent off following a second yellow card a minute after he received his first one.
Last Saturday, Dingli Swallows proved to be a hard nut to crack for Msida St Joseph. The team of Neville Galea started on the attack and were coming close to open the score on several occasions during the first ten minutes. It was Justin Zammit who broke the deadlock on 11 minutes with a well taken left-footed volley from the edge of the box. Against the run of play, Dingli equalised, a great goal. Captain Dario Borg picked up a loose ball on the half of Msida, completely surprising James Borg, who got a hand on it but not enough to prevent the equaliser. Before the half-time whistle, Msida came close on three more occasions, twice via Matthias Vella and a Mark Camilleri opportunity, while Luke Galea could have scored for Dingli. After the break, on 51 minutes, Msida regained the lead. A free-kick from substitute Shamison Farrugia was met at the far corner by Camilleri, beating Micallef from close-range. Not much after, Zammit was very close to a third Msida goal but Micallef paraded well with a brilliant top corner save. On 77 minutes, Farrugia could have scored but, once more, Micallef came out and made another great save to keep his side in the match. In the 81st minute, Dingli were awarded a penalty when goalkeeper Borg brought down substitute Carlo Delia in the box. Dario Borg made no mistake to put his team next to Msida. In the dying minutes, Carlo Delia was shown a second yellow card, while Msida came close to score the winner via Camilleri and Alex Cauchi, the attempt of the latter was ruled out for off-side.
Ta’ Xbiex came from two goals down to earn a deserved draw against strugglers Siggiewi, who started the game well but faded away in the latter part of the match, conceding two penalties which could have been avoided. Alex Delia’s team took an early lead thanks to a wonderful personal solo effort from Ryan Muscat, who entered the box on the left side, beat two of his markers and goalkeeper Cliff Aquilina with an accurate grounder. Jurgen Sciriha hit the crossbar for Ta’ Xbiex on ten minutes and barely a minutes later, Darko Majkic did the same, nearly punishing off a defensive mistake by the Siggiewi rear-guard. On 21 minutes, Muscat scored his second of the match, doubling the score for his team, finishing off another fine attack. However, from that moment onwards, Ta’ Xbiex controlled the game. On 36 minutes, Renald Bugeja’s men were awarded a penalty after a foul from Andre Farrugia on Jean-Paul Abdilla. Sciriha made no mistake from the spot. During the complete length of the second half, Ta’ Xbiex kept on dominating. However, on 78 minutes, Jason Camilleri could have decided the match in favour of Siggiewi, rounding Aquilina in the box, but the veteran striker lost control of the ball, managed to pass to Owen Farrugia whose attempt was cleared from the goal line. On 83 minutes, Gabriel Buttigieg halted Abdilla’s run irregularly in the box, with the referee pointing at the spot. Sciriha kept his head cool, scoring a deserved equaliser. One minute later, Shaun Kind’s header just missed target for Ta’ Xbiex, who bagged another point in this season’s Amateur League and need to be complimented for their never-say-die attitude.
The match of the week was between the two teams with a maximum record in Group B, neighbours Zabbar St Patrick and Marsaskala. They met on Saturday evening at the Sirens Stadium, watched by a good crowd. The first half of this derby was characterized with a lot of wrong passing, with the St Patrick rear-guard looking nervous at times. Fabrizio Zammit opened the score for Marsaskala with a grounder from close range, served by Joseph Chetcuti. On 20 minutes, a header by Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, after a cross from Gianluca Zammit was saved by Marsaskala goalkeeper Daniel Attard. On 38 minutes, a 25-meters distance free-kick from Mifsud Triganza ended on the crossbar, with Attard beaten. Zabbar slowly took over the initiative and five minutes later, a close-range Francesco Gusman header just missed target. One minute after, a Zammit grounder was saved in style by Zabbar goalkeeper Jonathan Grech but on the stroke of half-time however, Mifsud Triganza headed home after a pass from the right wing by young Larson Borg. It was the first goal conceded by Marsaskala this season in all competitions. Not much action in the first fifteen minutes after the break. However, on 64 minutes, Carabott punished a hesitation in the Zabbar defence, scoring the winner for Marsaskala. This forced a reaction by Zabbar and barely a minute later, Miguel Ciantar missed a sitter for Bobby Gyorev’s men with an angled shot from the edge of the box. Although Zabbar continued to hold the initiative, Marsaskala survived the remaining part of the match without much trouble, to go top of the league with twelve points out of four games, a 100% record.
Zurrieq made no mistake against Kirkop United on Tuesday night, beating their neighbours by the odd goal in three, a very important three points in an entertaining match. George Magri's side broke the deadlock on 18 minutes with a header by Ivan Bojovic, one of the best players on the pitch, and doubled on the half hour mark with a goal from veteran Timmy Thomas, his 277th official career goal, finishing off after an excellent cross by Andre-Joe Cutajar from the right wing. In the second half, Kirkop made three changes and improved a lot, forcing Zurrieq in their own half for long stretches. Seven minutes before full-time, Italian substitute Simone Lo Presti deservedly reduced the gap, punishing an error from Zurrieq defence. In the dying minutes, Kirkop had a great opportunity to equalize but Lo Presti missed target from an ideal position. With this win, Zurrieq are on equal points with Marsaskala, but the latter have a game in hand, while Kirkop are still looking for their first win of the season.
The same score was recorded in the match Mtarfa against Qormi, the second league win for Mtarfa, overtaking Qormi in the standings, while Manuel Caruana’s men are now just three points behind Zabbar St Patrick. Ryan Sciberras opened the score on 39 minutes, with Alejandro Brincat doubling on the hour. Not much later, Max Borg-Bartolo was shown his second yellow card. Qormi pulled one back on 69 minutes thanks to a Ryan Gafa goal and desperately tried to score an equaliser but the Mtarfa defence managed to cope with the attacks coming their way until the very end.
Mdina Knights recorded their second consecutive win with a 2-0 win against Santa Venera Lightnings. It was an entertaining match with both teams showing great heart and desire to get the three points. Santa Venera started fast as in the 12th minute Glenn Bonnici had his volley tipped over the bar by the Mdina goalkeeper Wallace Galea. Mdina then had a series of chances, particularly from Lazar Doric in the 16th and 29th minute. Doric eventually did capitalise on a chance in the 35th minute after a long ball arrived towards the Serbian striker and finishing with a lob over the keeper, his first goal of the season for his new team. Six minutes later Mdina doubled their lead thanks to Daniel Saliba, who unleashed a powerful shot which gave young goalkeeper Bradley Scalpello no chance. After the break, Santa Venera looked better defensively and Mdina were definitely not as dominant as they were in the first half. On the hour, Santa Venera’s Jeremy Grixti almost reduced the deficit as he hit the post. In the 76th minute, Scalpello produced a great save from a Daniel Saliba attempt, preventing a third goal for Mdina.
Images copyright by Joe Borg (Kalkara Utd v Xghajra T) and Stephen Gatt (Ta' Xbiex v Siggiewi)