Sliema win it at the death
Tarxien Rainbows 2
Danilo 20, 26
Sliema Wanderers 3
Ciantar 40; El Ghaouti 90; Barbetti 90+
A roller-coaster match conjured up a dramatic finale as Sliema Wanderers struck twice in the dying minutes to down Tarxien Rainbows 3-2 in an enjoyable game.
The match was a tale of fluctuating fortunes not only for the two teams but also for two foreign players, namely Tarxien’s Brazilian striker Danilo and Omar El Ghaouti, the stocky Sliema forward.
Danilo looked as though he was going to dominate the headlines after scoring twice in six first-half minutes to propel Tarxien into a two-goal lead but things went horribly wrong for the Brazilian after the change of ends.
After Sliema had narrowed the deficit late in the first half, Danilo earned his team a penalty early in the second period but miscued his effort. His disappointment was compounded 12 minutes from the end when the Brazilian was red-carded by referee Chris Lautier after getting a second caution for diving.
By this time, Sliema had seized the upperhand only to be frustrated by David Cassar, the Tarxien goalkeeper and the crossbar, before El Ghaouti, who was drafted into the starting XI at the eleventh hour as a replacement for Ivan Woods, equalised for the Blues.
Buttressed by their goal, the rampaging Sliema capped their spirited rally with a stoppage-time winner from debutant Paltemio Barbetti to give coach Alfonso Greco his first win and send Tarxien crashing to their second consecutive defeat.
Greco had deployed fellow Italian countryman Barbetti in front of Sliema’s four-man defence with El Ghaouti leading the forward line in a 4-1-3-2 formation.
Tarxien’s initial formation showed two changes, goalkeeper Cassar being preferred to Nicky Vella and new Brazilian signing Evaldo taking the place of James Shead.
Evaldo’s availability enabled coach Danilo Doncic to move Orosco Anonam into central midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The game was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff.
It was Sliema who made the stronger start. After five minutes, Alex Muscat advanced into the Tarxien box and swept past Carlo Mamo but his shot was too tame to trouble Cassar.
Sliema monopolised possession in the first 10 minutes but rarely stretched the Tarxien rearguard beyond routine work.
The erstwhile disjointed Rainbows began to find their rhythm as the game moved past the 15th minute mark. Their sudden improvement reaped instant dividends as, on 20 minutes, a flowing move saw Anonam switch the ball to Justin Grioli and the latter’s measured cross was headed in Danilo.
Galvanised by their opener, Tarxien capitalised on Sliema’s toils to make it 2-0. Luiz Romulo De Castro was the architect as his perfectly-flighted corner from the right drifted towards goal before Danilo nodded the ball past Henry Bonello.
Shortly afterwards, Bueno threatened to put Doncic’s team 3-0 up but fired over the bar.
After their promising start, Sliema faded badly with their midfield trio of Matias Muchardi, Pablo Gonzalez and Barbetti showing little understanding between them.
Yet, the Blues received a lifeline five minutes from half-time when El Ghaouti retrieved possession on the left and strode forward before supplying a perfect pass to Ciantar who finished with aplomb.
Tarxien had a glorious chance to restore their two-goal advantage as, five minutes into the second half, they were given a penalty after John Mintoff was adjudged to have hauled down Danilo inside the box. Danilo picked himself up to take the penalty but drove the ball wide.
Reprieved, Sliema upped their efforts in pursuit of an equaliser. Alex Muscat should have seen to that when Josef Mifsud nodded Gonzalez’s cross into the Malta wing-back’s path but his central grounder was blocked by Cassar.
The proceedings livened up as the two teams continued to push hard in search of a goal. Sliema came close to an equaliser midway into the second half but El Ghaouti’s volley shook the upright.
On 78 minutes, Sliema’s hopes received a boost when Danilo was expelled for a second booking.
Doncic promptly switched to 4-4-1 with Bueno taking on the role of lone striker.
Six minutes from time, Sliema thought they had levelled when Anonam’s short clearance from Muchardi’s shot landed at the feet of the Argentine-born winger who was unmarked. Muchardi hit the ball hard towards goal but Cassar denied him with a brave save.
Sliema gained a deserved equaliser thanks to El Ghaouti who beat Cassar with a rasping first-timer after being picked out by Muchardi.
Sliema went for broke now. They were thwarted by Cassar who repelled efforts by Barbetti and Ciantar but deep into stoppage time, the Blues struck the winner.
Barbetti capped an encouraging debut with a fine goal as his swerving effort from a wide position drifted away from the leaping Cassar and nestled into the far corner.
Tarxien Rainbows: D. Cassar-7, C. Mamo-5.5, Evaldo-5.5, A. Agius-6 (60 M. Caruana-4), Danilo, K. Pulo-5.5 (76 L. Galea), D.M. Bueno-6.5, O. Anonam-5, S. Bonnici-4, L.R. De Castro-5 (83 S. Sadowski), J. Grioli-7.5.
Sliema Wanderers: H. Bonello-4, J. Mintoff-5, J. Mifsud-6.5, B. Muscat-5, L. Martinelli-6, P. Barbetti-7, P. Gonzalez-4 (57 M. Scerri-6.5), M. Muchardi-6.5, A. Muscat-5.5 (71 A. Decesare-5), O. El Ghaouti-7, M. Ciantar-6.5
Referee Chris Lautier.
Yellow Cards De Castro; Barbetti; Mintoff; Danilo; Caruana; Decesare; B. Muscat; Grioli.
Red Cards Danilo (T) 78.
Bov Player Of The Match Justin Grioli (Tarxien Rainbows).
Zongo joins Mosta, Herrera in demand
Melita vs Rabat Ajax (today 6.30 p.m., National Stadium).
Rabat and Melita, the two newcomers, both endured a difficult start to life in the Premier League following defeats to Qormi and Birkirkara respectively. No doubt, today they will be harbouring hopes of picking up their first points of the season.
Silvio Vella, the Rabat coach, is concerned with the fitness of German midfielder Heiner Backhaus who picked up a knock during training. He will undergo a late fitness test before the 18-man list is announced.
Martin Gregory, the Melita coach, is keeping his fingers crossed he can recover experienced duo Michael Martin and Ramon Serra Camacho who missed the team’s opener through injury.
Qormi vs Hibernians (today 8.30 p.m., National Stadium).
Hibs will have to put behind them the off-field problems that hit them this week as they seek to beat Qormi for their second successive win.
The build-up for this match was marred by rumours over the future of defenders Edward Herrera and Jason Vandelannoite who are reportedly ready to quit the club.
Vandelannoitte has yet to agree a new deal with the Paolites while Herrera has handed in a transfer request with Birkirkara, Valletta and Mosta all linked with the Malta wing-back.
Nigerian striker John Nwoba returns from injury but Adrian Pulis is doubtful for Hibs with a back problem.
Qormi are set to give a debut to strikers Vincenzo Pisani, of Italy, and Argentine Sebastian Siritto while Gaetan Spiteri, another forward, is now available after suspension.
However, coach Stephen Azzopardi will have to do without Luke Sciberras who picked up a knee injury against Rabat.
Mosta vs Valletta (tomorrow 6.30 p.m., National Stadium).
Ousseni Zongo is expected to face his former team Valletta after the Burkina Faso winger agreed to join Mosta yesterday.
Zongo, who helped the Citizens to their 21st league title last season, was released by the Citizens in May but has now secured a return to Maltese football after penning a two-year deal with Mosta.
Steve D’Amato, the Blues coach, could also name midfielder Manuel Okkofour in his squad after the Nigerian’s registration was completed yesterday. Daniel Bogdanovic, however, is doubtful after picking up a knock in the 3-2 defeat to Hibernians on Monday.
Valletta will be wary of the threat posed by Mosta following the latter club’s impressive investment this summer as coach Mark Miller is hopeful his players will be more clinical in front of goal after struggling to break down a solid Tarxien side last week.
Michael Mifsud was nursing a hamstring injury this week but should recover in time.
Balzan FC vs Birkirkara (tomorrow 8.30 p.m., National Stadium).
A tight derby is in prospect as Birkirkara take on Balzan in the concluding match of this weekend’s programme.
Although these two teams harbour different goals for the new season, Balzan have shown time and again that they could turn out to be tricky opponents for the more-quoted sides.
Indeed, last week’s hard-fought 2-2 draw against Ħamrun Spartans showed that Balzan have lost none of the fight that epitomised their game last season.
Ivan Zammit, the Balzan coach, will again be forced to watch the match from the stands as he completes a three-match touchline ban.
Defender Renato Conceicao is also suspended while Renie Forace returns after shrugging a groin injury.
Birkirkara tabled a bid for Edward Herrera this week but they are still waiting response from Hibernians as the transfer market draws to a close next week.
Serbian defender Nikola Vukanac will again be serving suspension for Birkirkara but otherwise coach Paul Zammit has a full squad at his disposal as they look to keep up their promising start following Monday’s 4-0 win over Melita.