Tetchy encounter ends all square
Frendo 45; Camilleri 50;
Vittoriosa Stars 2
Ewurum 14; Edison 74;
Qormi and Vittoriosa Stars were clearly intent on gleaning maximum points from this encounter to improve their top-six bid.
Neither side managed to achieve their declared objective as a fractious match ended two-all but Qormi will have been happier with the point as, for the second successive week, they finished a game with 10 men.
A slow-burning match erupted in the second half, precisely after Qormi had struck their second goal to go 2-1 up. Their rising optimism abated when, in a cagey spell marked by a series of flare-ups, yellow cards and some lenient decisions by referee Fiodor Zammit, South Korean Kang Hojung was sent off for a second booking.
Hojung’s dismissal breathed life into Vittoriosa but for all their pressure, the Stars could not add to Edison’s 74th minute header as the reshaped Qormi dug in to salvage a point and leave their opponents bottom of the league.
Leighton Grech regained his place in Vittoriosa’s starting XI after suspension kept him out of the 3-2 defeat to Valletta last week.
Abubakar Bello Osagie, Jason Vandelannoite and Kosta Bjedov were laid low by injuries for Qormi. With flank defender Jonathan Bondin suspended, coach Stephen Azzopardi effected three changes from the team that went down 2-1 to Ħamrun as Roderick Sammut, Ben Camilleri and Michael Borg Olivier were handed starting berths.
The recalled Camilleri was the central forward in Qormi’s 4-3-3 formation while Vittoriosa had Anthony Ewurum and Edison leading their attack.
Vittoriosa took just over 13 minutes to break the stalemate. Edison laid the groundwork as his deft footwork threw Borg Oliver and Stefan Giglio off balance. The Brazilian surged into the box before pulling the ball back for Ewurum who swivelled before hitting a shot that took a deflection off Joseph Farrugua on its way into the net.
The early arrival of Vittoriosa’s breakthrough was a setback for the slow-starting Qormi.
Grech ran into the Qormi box but he sent his drive wide of the near post. Vittoriosa midfielder Carlos Campagnoli’s afternoon was cut short by injury after 24 minutes. His place was taken by Jonathan Xerri.
A goal down, Qormi were expected to up their tempo but this failed to materialise as Azzopardi’s men looked jaded.
Just when it looked as though Vittoriosa had done enough to protect their one-goal lead, Qormi pulled level on the cusp of half-time. Farrugia’s pass from midfield caught the Vittoriosa defence unawares and Cleaven Frendo dashed into the box before lobbing the ball over Agius.
The Reds will have felt aggrieved about the manner of Qormi’s equaliser as seconds earlier, Edison had arguably suffered two fouls in quick succession but the referee thought otherwise.
Buoyed by their equaliser, Qormi began the second half in bright fashion. The rejuvenated Frendo passed to Matthew Bartolo who cut in from the right and curled a shot that whistled past the far post.
Hardly a minute passed and Qormi went 2-1 up when another perfect Farrugia pass dropped to Camilleri who ran through and beat Agius.
Tension gripped the two sets of players as the second half progressed. Hojung was booked after he nearly came to blows with Edison in a tussle for possession. Close to the hour mark, there was another altercation, this time involving Sharlon Pace and Frendo.
A minute past the hour, Qormi were reduced to 10 men after Hojung’s time-wasting antics earned him a second caution.
Vittoriosa threatened to dish out instant punishment on their opponents when Xerri dispossessed Chetcuti and released Jorge Silva who brushed off Borg Olivier but his drive crashed against the post.
After introducing George Mallia and Steve Agius, Qormi coach Azzopardi swapped players’ positions to boost his team’s defensive resistance. But, Vittoriosa continued to pile up the pressure. Xerri’s drive was blocked by Giglio but with 16 minutes remaining, the Stars drew level.
Grech sent in an inviting ball from the left and Edison rose well to plant his header into the bottom-left corner of the net.
Qormi appealed for a penalty when, 10 minutes from time, Mallia’s header appeared to come off the rising Xerri but the referee saw nothing wrong.
In the dying moments, Vittoriosa almost snatched a winner when Jorge Silva strode forward on the right and delivered a low cross but Edison’s point-blank flick rolled inches wide of the far post.
Deep into stoppage time, Jorge Silva again tormented Qormi with another menacing grounder from the right that fizzed across the face of goal and beyond the sliding Edison.
M. Farrugia-5, S. Giglio-7, R. Sammut-5 (63 G. Mallia-5), M. Bartolo-6.5, K. Fenech-6.5, J. Chetcuti-6, J. Farrugia-7, B. Camilleri-6 (90 G. Buttigieg), C. Frendo-6.5 (68 S. Agius-5), K. Hojung, M. Borg Olivier-5.5.
S. Agius-5, K. Sammut-5, S. Pace-5, J. Chetcuti-5, C. Campagnoli (24 J. Xerri-5.5), Edison-8, D. Cachia-5 (83 C. Micallef), Jorge Silva-6.5, A. Ewurum-6.5, S. Wellman-5. L. Grech-6.5.
Referee: Fiodor Zammit.
Yellow cards: Chetcuti; Hojung; Pace; Grech.
Red card: Hojung (Q) 61.
BOV player of the match: Edison (Vittoriosa Stars).