Sta Venera, Marsaskala made to fight hard to reach QF
AMATEUR CUP 1ST ROUND
Ghaxaq 0-3 Zurrieq
After eliminating Siggiewi in the Preliminary round last month, Zurrieq beat Ghaxaq on Sunday to progress to the quarter-finals. The Reds, traditional cup fighters, left it late to score the goals that mattered to shake off the resistance of a stubborn Ghaxaq side. All three goals were scored late in the second half although Zurrieq were in control of the game from the very beginning. George Magri’s side faced a defensive minded Ghaxaq side and finally broke the deadlock twelve minutes from time thanks to Andre Joe Cutajar, who again displayed great form. Veteran Timmy Thomas doubled the score on 84 minutes and two minutes later, Thomas sealed the victory with a fine header, beating goalkeeper Christian Schembri for a third time.
Zabbar St Patrick 3-1 Mtarfa
The ambitious Zabbar St Patrick, with newly appointed coach Fausto Craighero on the bench, moved aside Mtarfa’s challenge on Saturday in an entertaining match. Mtarfa came out aggressively from kick off, as they showed greater intent and they were certainly not intimidated by the opposition. However, on 16 minutes, a moment of lack of concentration from Mtarfa enabled Zabbar to go into the lead. Miguel Ciantar capitalised on the defensive mistake, squaring the ball to Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza who finished into a practically empty net. In the 26th minute Mtarfa’s Daniel Cremona saw his effort from outside the box go just wide. Four minutes after the break, Mtarfa’s Alejandro Brincat caught the keeper out of position but his shot went wide. In the 73rd minute, Zabbar managed to double their lead with a perfectly placed free kick from Terence Agius. Five minutes later, Mtarfa halved the deficit when substitute Najm Dia controlled the ball beautifully on his chest after a high cross from the right hand side and finished off the volley with his left foot. Unfortunately, Dia was sent off on 78 minutes with a second yellow, marring his positive substitute display. Gianluca Zammit restored Zabbar’s two goal advantage with an added time goal after a pass by Isaac Abela.
Msida St Joseph 1-3 Xghajra Tornados
Last year’s finalists Msida St Joseph were eliminated at the first hurdle by an in-form Xghajra Tornados team who impressed, especially in the first half, which they completely dominated. Neil Darmanin put Xghajra ahead on 16 minutes, rounding off a through pass by Aidan Gilford-Agius, beating the on storming James Borg with a grounder. Not much later, a free-kick by Glenn Brincat hit the crossbar while three minutes from the end of the first half, Erik Pietribiasi was fouled by Kurt Tanti in the box, with the referee pointing at the spot. The Italian striker himself doubled the score from the spot, beating Borg for a second time. Msida started on the attack after the break and seven minutes in the second half, Matthias Vella pulled one back for Msida after an opportunistic long distance shot which took a deflection of a Xghajra defender. With Msida pushing for an equaliser, another penalty was given to the Tornados, as Tanti halted a run by Brincat illegally in the box. This time Gaynor D’Amato stepped up to take the kick, making no mistake to seal the issue for Xghajra.
Marsaskala 2 Birzebbuga St Peter’s 2 (aet)
(Marsaskala winners after penalty kicks: 3-2)
Marsaskala continued their fine run this season but were surprisingly stretched to the limit by Birzebbuga, who forced out extra time and penalties thanks to a late rally in regular time. Marsaskala initially dominated proceedings and took the lead on 11 minutes when Adrian Carabott converted a penalty, given for a foul on the same player. On 37 minutes, Abubaker Bello Osagie missed a sitter with only Leighton Mifsud to beat. Six minutes after the restart, substitute Radnor Farrugia doubled from close range for Brian Vella’s team, mainly thanks to a forceful run by Julian Spiteri on the left wing. Five minutes later, Birzebbuga were awarded a penalty after Sam Kind hit the woodwork and Jean-Claude Cassar was illegally halted by Shawn Cesare in the box. Kind took the kick himself and made no mistake from the 11-meters mark. With Marsaskala leaning back, Birzebbuga equalised thanks to a close-range header of Joshua Farrugia on 78 minutes. Four minutes after, a Cassar effort, unmarked in the box, skimmed the upright. On 88 minutes a Nicky Zammit attempt for Marsaskala was fisted away by Mifsud. During extra time, both defences dominated with very little goalmouth action. In the decisive penalty shoot-out, goalkeepers Mario Bartolo (Marsaskala) and Mifsud stopped two penalties each. When Yessous Camilleri’s fifth penalty hit the post, Bello Osagie kicked the ball passed Mifsud in Marsaskala’s fifth turn, shooting his team into the quarter-finals of the competition.
Santa Venera Lightings 3-2 Gharb Rangers (aet)
The Lightnings had to work hard to beat Gozitan 2nd Division outfit Gharb Rangers, who staged a great come-back in the second half and forced extra time. Paul Falzon’s side survived an early scare on five minutes when Gharb’s Costa Rican forward Rodrigo Apestegui missing target from an ideal position. Two minutes later, Tyrone Grech opened the score for Sta Venera, beating the off-side trap and Gharb goalkeeper Omar Xuereb with a grounder. On 32 minutes, Apestegui could have equalised after a fine solo effort, rounding goalkeeper Bradley Scalpello but hit the post while slightly out of position. Two minutes later, Gharb defender Joseph Attard scored an unlucky own goal from a Fabio Attard cross-shot, completely surprising Xuereb. Straight after re-starts, Gabriel Debrincat scored for the visitors, beating the off-side trap and shooting lowly past Scalpello. On 55 minutes, a Malcolm Calleja shot, unmarked on the edge of the box, was turned into a corner by Xuereb. The same Calleja brought again the best out of Xuereb on 75 minutes with a top corner save. But two minutes later it was all square, when Steve Farrugia celebrated his comeback in football with a wonderful volley which gave Scalpello no chance. An Apestegui thunderbolt sailed inches over the crossbar for Gharb on 83 minutes. Two minutes into extra time, Xuereb came to the rescue again, saving an attempt by substitute Rodrick Theuma, who was left complete unmarked and should have done better. On 104 minutes, Gharb defender Nicolas Attard received his second yellow and his marching orders. In added time of the first half of extra time, Malcolm Calleja put Sta Venera ahead with an opportunistic goal, punishing a defensive mistake by Gharb. Calleja could have scored his second of the afternoon two minutes before the end of extra time but missed target with only Xuereb to beat.
Mellieha 3-1 Dingli Swallows
This clash was unfortunately marked with a serious injury for Mellieha substitute Simon Cutajar on 86 minutes, which led to a twenty minutes interruption with the score still 1-1, with extra time looming. On the bright side however, 19-year-old Miguel Camilleri was brought on by coach Brian Bartolo, scoring two stoppage time goals in on his senior debut to send his team into the quarter-finals. Mellieha took an early lead. A Jonathan Cutajar free-kick was initially fisted away by Darryl Vella but Andie Sammut buried home from the rebound. Barely one minute later, Luke Mifsud headed inches over the bar from close-in after a corner action. It was all Mellieha on attack in the first half and on 21 minutes, Beppe Galea Curmi missed a sitter from close-range after an inch perfect pass by Sammut. Dingli saw definitely more of the ball after the break and equalised on 77 minutes thanks to substitute Dario Borg, who’s grounder from the edge of the box had the better of Mellieha goalkeeper James Abela. On 81 minutes, a diving header of Simon Cutajar just missed target from a free-kick action. Deep into added time, after Cutajar’s injury break, substitute Camilleri made it a day to remember for him personally, scoring a brace in quick succession. In-between, Mellieha were reduced to ten as Luke Mallia received his second caution.
Kalkara United 3-3 Attard (aet)
(Kalkara United winners after penalty kicks: 4-1)
Edward Azzopardi’s Kalkara also made it through to the next round of the cup after a back-and-forth game against Attard, a thriller, eventually decided by penalties. The first half disappointed, with limited goalmouth action. However, three minutes before the break, Attard took the lead when Keith Fedele drilled the ball home after a Nigel Spiteri free-kick. Seven minutes after the re-start, Attard doubled their lead. A long ball towards Bledi Alla was finished off by the classy Albanian, who blasted the ball top corner. However, after their second goal, Attard reduced their intensity and Kalkara took the initiative. Om 71 minutes, Cedric Zahra reduced the deficit with a freekick which hit the post and went past goalkeeper Luke Attard. Lydon Cuschieri wasted two chances for Attard, but on the other side, Kalkara equalised in the 87th minute after another Zahra freekick was delivered into the box and finished off by Jordan Vella, sending the game into extra time. Kalkara completed the comeback on 104 minutes when the ball arrived to Matthew Vassallo, passing to Ayoub Ahmad, who skipped past a player and scored the 3-2 in brilliant style. In stoppage time of the second half of extra time, Attard’s Nicolai Sammut crossed the ball into the box, which was met with a header by substitute Luke Bugeja, who drew level on his Attard debut. This late equaliser mend the encounter needed to be decided with penalty kicks. Kalkara took these better, with Attard missing two penalties. The winning Kalkara penalty was scored Matthew Vassallo.
Ta’ Xbiex 1-0 Gharghur
Against all odds, Ta’ Xbiex beat Gharghur, with the latter keeping several regulars out of their starting line-up. Gharghur had the chance to open the score just before the break with Warren Azzopardi’s shot hitting the post. As the second half went underway, Ta’ Xbiex made a couple of changes which proved to be decisive. In the 54th minute, a direct free kick from Ta’ Xbiex substitute Jurgen Sciriha hit the post and were unlucky not to open the score. Renald Bugeja’s side scored the winner eight minutes from full-time from a counterattack by substitute Johann Grech. A fantastic result for sea-siders, who confirmed once more they are no push-overs this season.
Images copyright Stephen Gatt