Spirited Hotspurs sink Marsa
Pietà Hotspurs 2
With the relegation issue settled last week, Pietà Hotspurs and Marsa took to this encounter without any pressure and expectation.
The Hotspurs, who once again defied the odds and avoided relegation for yet another season, could afford to field a number of new faces in a bid to help them gain much needed first-team experience in the top flight.
Coach Carmel Busuttil gave the nod to Mark Vella to guard the Pietà goal as other newcomers such as Elton Camilleri, Sheldon Grech and Daniel Gatt were included in the starting formation. Bulgarian midfielder Svetlan Kondev missed out due to suspension.
Marsa, who lost their struggle with relegation after only one season in the top flight, were still in search of their first win of the campaign and when Warren Chircop notched an early goal, coach Edmond Lufi must have been hoping that his lads were finally about to end the eight-month jinx.
This was not to be Marsa's day, however, as the Hotspurs equalised on the stroke of time through the promising Quilin Refalo before going on to win the match with a Martin Deanov strike early in the second half.
This was Marsa's 17th defeat of the season since the league started back in August and they only managed to pick up five draws from 22 matches... a poor tally for a side hoping to retain its top-flight status.
It was Marsa who broke the stalemate on 12 minutes. Chircop displayed some slick ball control, surprising his marker, Rumen Galabov with a quick flick that had the better of Vella in the Pietà goal.
The Hotspurs' response was almost immediate as just past the 15 minute mark, Grech slid the ball towards Refalo whose shot missed the target.
Two minutes later, Domenic Mifsud dispossessed Kevin Scerri in midfield and pushed the ball into the path of Deanov. The Pietà striker worked his way inside the area but his low shot was saved by Spiteri.
Midway through the first half, Marsa were awarded a free-kick just outside the area. The quick thinking Victor Bellia swivelled the ball towards Scerri whose shot was blocked into a corner by Grech.
Ten minutes from half time, Pietà again came close to level matters. Spiteri failed to hold onto Deanov's thundering drive, the ball fell into the path of Carl Pulo who, however, failed to make contact with the ball and the chance went abegging.
Lufi's lads could have taken an important two-goal lead in the 40th minute. Bellia released Chircop with a measured pass but the Marsa forward was blocked by the Pietà goalkeeper who deviated the ball to a corner.
Marsa were soon ruing this missed chance as the Hotspurs levelled the score two minutes from half-time.
Spiteri failed to hold onto Deanov's shot and Pulo was quick to slide the ball towards Refalo who fired home the equaliser from close in.
The goal was a huge boost for the Hotspurs who took to the ground running at the start of the second half when they struck the match-winning second goal.
Deanov retrieved the ball outside the area and was allowed time and space to unleash a low shot that rocketed into the net.
Marsa were clearly rocked by this unexpected start to the second half and they hardly ventured inside the Hotspurs' penalty area again.
Substitute Gilbert Martin could have drawn them level on 68 minutes as he latched on to a good cross from deep inside the Marsa half but his crafty chip was repelled by Vella.
On the other end however, substitute Mark Herrera's shot was turned into a corner by Spiteri.
In time added on, Deanov could have sealed Pietà's win with a third goal. He drifted into the area from the left before rifling a powerful drive that cannoned off the post.
That little mattered, though, as in the end it was Pietà who were savouring the win.
Pietà: M. Vella-6.5, S. Grech-7 ('58 E. Bugeja-5.5), M. Deanov-7.5, Q. Refalo-7 ('46 E. Herrera-6), C. Pulo-6.5, E. Camilleri-6 ('78 E. Vella), C. Sammut-6, D. Camenzuli-6.5, D. Mifsud-6.5, D. Gatt-6, R. Galabov-6.
Marsa: R. Spiteri-6, E. Yantchev-6, D. Vella-6 ('61 G. Martin-5.5), C.J. Achokwu-5, G. Bencini-6, N. Fasinelli-6, J.P. Zammit-5.5, K. Scerri-6.5 ('79 K. Cassar), I. Umoru-4.5 ('72 D. Cucciardi), W. Chircop-7, V. Bellia-6.5.
Referee: Ian Miller.
Scorers: Chircop 12; Refalo 43; Deanov 47.
Yellow card: Zammit.
BoV player of the match: Martin Deanov (Pietà Hotspurs).