Pulo sparks Rainbows into life
Tarxien Rainbows 1
Tarxien Rainbows have trimmed the gap on fellow-in-distress leaders Qormi to just three points after recording their first victory in the Relegation Pool at the expense of struggling Mqabba yesterday.
With the score still goalless with 12 minutes to go, it looked as though both teams were set to leave the Tedesco Stadium with a point each.
But Tarxien’s unrelenting pressure finally produced the deserved dividends in the 79th minute and piled more misery on Clive Mizzi’s side whose limp display saw them crashing to their fourth consecutive defeat.
Tarxien’s late form has been patchy as Mqabba’s with two consecutive draws and a victory followed by two defeats but they stung pride and never looked happy to settle for a point as Mqabba appeared the happiest soaking up the pressure
Substitute Karl Pulo with virtually his first touch of the ball prodded in his side’s winner with a composed finishing.
Mizzi was able to field his strongest back four after Mauro Bonnici and Mark Anthony Psaila returned from suspension while nd Julian Briffa overcame a knee injury.
Goalkeeper Kris Calleja was also drafted back into the starting formation. Briffa was handed a role at left-back, Ryan Sammut switched to right back as Branislav Timotic partnered Bonnici in the heart of defence.
Daniel Mariano Bueno returned to the Tarxien starting line-up for the first time since the end of November filling the main striker role, just in front of four midfielders with Carlo Mamo playing the sweeping role in the middle.
Inside the first two minutes, Kris Calleja’s double block denied Mayasi and Luiz Romulo de Castro after the Rainbows had worked a slick passing move across their opponents’ penalty area.
Tarxien had the ball in the Mqabba net after 28 minutes but Bueno’s header was ruled out for offside.
Once again, Calleja came to Mqabba’s rescue, saving with his feet from Jimmy Mayasi and the effect of this miss appeared to puncture Tarxien’s self-belief.
Having received a third warning, Mqabba took control of the game when Mazzitelli got in front of Mamo to steer the ball into the side-netting on the half hour mark.
On 41 minutes, David Azzopardi saw his menacing shot ably punched into a corner by Tarxien goalkeeper Nicky Vella.
Tarxien’s confidence had clearly been boosted by their first-half performance and they started the second period much more positively.
The Rainbows had a fine opportunity to break the stalemate on 51 minutes when Bueno’s brilliance zipped open the Mqabba defence as he deposited the ball towards the unmarked Mayasi. When the Dutch striker found himself face to face with Calleja, skewed his shot wide.
On the hour mark, Mqabba’s tight defence was unlocked by a neat three-man move, De Castro pinged the ball in the space into which Mayasi intelligently run, before delivering an inviting ball into the box but Bueno shot straight at Calleja.
Three minutes later, Ricardo broke free on the right-hand flank, worked his way to the Mqabba box and crossed for De Castro whose firm volley crashed against the bar.
Patrick Curmi moved to strengthen his attack introducing Adrian Carabott and Karl Pulo for Mayasi and Tanti respectively.
On 73 minutes, Timotic superbly cleared off the line to deny De Castro from a free-kick.
The Rainbows finally grabbed the lead 11 minutes from time when Pulo burst into the area from the left wing to meet Ricardo’s delivery and fired a precise shot that beat Kris Calleja to his right and went in despite Bonnici’s desperate attempt to clear.
Tarxien Rainbows: N. Vella-6, S. Sadowski-6, C. Mamo-6, Ricardo-7, J. Mayasi-6.5 (65 A. Carabott-6), D.M. Bueno-7, M. Tanti-6.5 (77 K. Pulo-5), L. De Castro-8, O. Anonam-7.5, R. Mintoff-6, J. Grioli-6.
Mqabba: K. Calleja-6, R. Sammut-5, B. Timotic-6, M. Potezica-6, D. Azzopardi-5.5 (77 C. Micallef), C. Calleja-5, B. Mamic-4.5, T. Mazzitelli-5, J. Briffa-6, J.P. Muscat-5 (51 D. Fenech-5), M. Bonnici-6.
Referee: Mario Apap.
Yellow cards: R. Sammut, de Castro, Potezica, J. Briffa, Bonnici
BOV player of the match: Luiz Romulo de Castro (Tarxien Rainbows).