Last-gasp Fuster denies Melita
L. Micallef 14; Armaro Negrin 73, 82;
Rabat Ajax 3
Astrauskas 7, 19; Fuster 90;
A goal at the death by Manwel Moral Fuster denied Melita a first-ever victory in the BOV Premier League as the Rabat midfielder grabbed a dramatic equaliser to earn the Magpies a point yesterday.
It was a fitting finale to a dramatic match which saw the Magpies take control of proceedings when surging into a 2-1 first-half lead following a well-taken Nerijus Astrauskas double.
However, Melita looked a transformed side after the break as they threw everything at the Rabat defence and two goals from Hose Luis Armaro Negrin seemed to have put the Amateurs on their way.
But Fuster had other plans as the Austrian midfielder struck with virtually the last kick of the match much to the disappointment of the Melita clan.
Silvio Vella, the Rabat coach, was forced to leave out midfielder Heiner Backhaus who failed to recover from a knee injury.
In his absence, the returning Clive Brincat was drafted into the heart of defence with Chris Schembri pushed forward into a central midfield position.
Christian Muscat was preferred to start in defence ahead of Gaetano Gesualdi.
Melita also effected two changes from the team that slumped to a 4-0 defeat to Birkirkara last Monday as coach Martin Gregory opted for Kane Micallef to replace Michael Valenzia while Nicolo Baldacchino Orland dropped to the bench and made way for Simon Galea.
Rabat could not have hoped for a better start as they were already a goal to the good after only seven minutes. Yan Cauchi breezed past his marker on the left before sending a low cross into the path of Astrauskas who stabbed the ball past Melita goalkeeper Karl Zahra.
Stung by this setback, the Amateurs tried to hit back quickly. Armaro Negrin picked the unmarked Julian Galea who was denied by a timely tackle from Dylan Falzon.
The Magpies failed to take heed of that warning and Melita drew level on 14 minutes.
Julian Galea found himself in ample space inside the Rabat box but his fierce drive was blocked. From the loose ball, Luke Micallef fired home past Sean Mintoff.
It was clearly a ding-dong affair and five minutes later it was Rabat who regained the lead.
Ryan Micallef unleashed a powerful drive from some 25 metres out that rattled the upright and Astrauskas was on the right spot to hit the rebound inside an empty net.
The Amateurs came close to an equaliser when the hard-working Luke Micallef sent a dangerous cross-shot across the area but Julian Galea failed to connect.
Rabat keeper Mintoff then had to be on the alert to keep out Luke Micallef’s stinging drive before the Magpies cleared.
Micallef continued to pose problems to the Rabat defence and on 33 minutes the Melita winger was upended in the area by Muscat. However, from the penalty, Amaro Negrin saw his shot pushed away by Mintoff.
Spaniard Amaro Negrin was guilty of another glaring miss just before the break when he was put through by Luke Micallef but fired wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
The Amateurs adopted a more adventurous stance at the start of the second half and on 56 minutes Jovan Vukanic picked Julian Galea on the edge of the area. He was quick to release Armaro Negrin but the latter was denied by the alert Mintoff.
Rabat threatened on the hour when Ryan Micallef drifted a cross into the path of Cauchi who saw his header bounce off Zahra’s bar.
Melita were seeing more of the ball and their pressure paid off on 73 minutes when Luke Micallef released Armaro Negrin who slotted past Mintoff to make it two-all.
The equaliser hit the Magpies hard and they conceded again eight minutes from time. Substitute Michael Valenzia set a delightful throughball into the path of Armaro Negrin whose shot flew past Mintoff and into the net.
Melita looked confident and knew they were closing in on a useful victory but their hopes were dashed in time added on when Fuster lifted the roof of the net with a superb shot from outside the box for the two promoted teams to share the spoils in a thrilling match.
K. Zahra-5.5, K. Vella Petroni-6, G. Gribbon 5.5, R. Alhinho-5.5, J. Vukanic-6, L. Sammut-6.5 (89 N. Baldacchino Orland), S. Galea-5.5 (63 M. Valenzia-6.5), J. Galea-6, K. Micallef-6, L. Micallef-7.5, J. Armaro Negrin-6.5.
S. Mintoff-6, C. Schembri-5.5, I. Carapic-5, N. Astrauskas-6.5, A. Smeir-6 (83 J. Felice), M. Fuster-6.5, D. Falzon-6, C. Muscat-6, C. Brincat-6 (70 J. Caruana), R. Micallef-6 (79 D. Azzopardi), Y. Cauchi-6.5.
Referee: Trustan Farrugia Cann.
Yellow cards: Armaro Negrin, Fuster.
Missed penalty: Armaro Negrin (M) 33.
BOV Player of the match: Luke Micallef (Melita).