Draw leaves strugglers hovering in danger zone
Spanish coach Salinas sees red on Melita debut
Darmanin 6, 78;
Galea 14; Negrin 44;
Floriana’s struggles in this season’s Premier League continued yesterday as the Greens needed a late equaliser from Ryan Darmanin to avoid an embarrassing defeat to newcomers Melita with the game finishing 2-2.
The Greens will surely have fancied their chances of registering their first win in six matches at the expense of their modest opponents and looked on course to reaching their goal when Darmanin put them ahead early on.
However, the Amateurs fought back gallantly to turn the match in their favour with a Julian Galea goal and another, albeit a controversial one, from Jose Luis Armaro Negrin.
That left the Greens on the verge of a humiliating defeat but Darmanin was on the right spot 12 minutes from time to even matters for his side.
Floriana could have grabbed a winner in time added-on as they had what looked like a legitimate claim for a penalty when Tyrone Farrugia’s header hit George Gribbon’s arm in the Melita box.
However, referee Alan Mario Sant deemed otherwise and the stalemate prevailed, leaving both teams at the lower end of the standings.
Melita had new coach Francisco ‘Patxi’ Salinas Fernandez making his debut after he replaced the departed Martin Gregory.
Salinas caught attention for the wrong reasons towards the end of the match as he was dismissed from the dug-out for protests.
The Spaniard applied some changes to the Amateurs’ formation as he went for 4-3-3 with Serbian wing-back Jovan Vukanic deployed in an advanced attacking position on the right flank alongside Negrin and central striker Galea.
Stephen Azzopardi, the Floriana coach, was boosted by the news that Darmanin was declared fit to start. The lanky striker was handed a role in the team’s forward line in a 4-2-3-1 module that also included new signing Igor Coronado who started on the right wing.
Floriana duo Kane Farrugia and Valdo Alhinho were suspended.
Darmanin soon made his presence felt as the gritty forward provided his side’s opener after six minutes. Sacha Borg sent a low cross into the Melita box and Darmanin was quick to score with an overhead kick.
However, that goal failed to derail the Amateurs. They fought back and gained an equaliser eight minutes later.
Vukanic released Negrin who tried to sidestep Floriana goalkeeper Tony Warner. The latter could only divert the ball into the path of Galea who placed the ball into an empty net.
Melita’s equaliser jolted Floriana as the latter found it hard to regain the initiative with the result that the Reds were now the masters on the pitch.
They almost stormed ahead on 32 minutes when Negrin dashed into the Floriana box from the right before picking out Nigel Rizzo whose shot whizzed past the upright.
Melita threatened again soon after. This time Negrin served Galea on the edge of the area and the latter was quick to release Luke Micallef whose shot from an angle was parried away for a corner by Warner.
Melita’s persistence paid off a minute from half-time when they went ahead.
Sierra Camacho sent a long pass towards Negrin who looked to have used his arm to push the ball beyond his marker before unleashing a powerful drive that gave Warner no chance.
On the restart, Azzopardi withdrew Joseph Borg and roped in Mark Spiteri as he looked to add more speed to his team’s forward line.
And Spiteri almost struck with his first touch when he received a short pass from Aman Verma but his dipping shot flew just wide.
Melita responded on 55 minutes when Rizzo’s cross found Sierra Camacho who nodded into the path of Gribbon but the defender fired over.
Floriana now started to pile up the pressure and on 71 minutes, Darmanin sent an excellent ball towards Coronado who, with only goalkeeper Matthew Sapiano to beat, saw his shot pushed away by the Melita no.1
Two minutes later, Thomas Paris tried his luck from the distance but his grounder ended wide of the Melita goal.
Thirteen minutes from time, Verma came agonisingly close to an equaliser when his free-kick was tipped over the bar by Sapiano. From the rebound, Darmanin failed to make contact with the ball before the Amateurs cleared.
However, the Greens’ efforts were rewarded a minute later when Clyde Borg headed towards Darmanin who beat Sapiano from close range.
In stoppage time, Floriana protested heavily with the match officials for a penalty as they contended that Farrugia’s goalbound header was stopped by Gribbon’s arm inside the box. However, the referee waved play on.
Amid the resultant mayhem, the referee ordered Salinas and Floriana president Justin Attard off the bench just before the final whistle.
T. Warner-6, D. Pisani-6, T. Farrugia-6.5, S. Borg-6, T. Paris-6, A. Verma-6, J. Borg-5 (46 M. Spiteri-6), I. Coronado-5.5, C. Borg-5, B. Farrugia-5, R. Darmanin-7.
M. Sapiano-6, G. Gribbon-6, I. Tufegdzic-7, M. Sierra Camacho-6.5, M. Borg-6, J. Vukanic-7.5, N. Rizzo-7 (87 M. Martin), J. Galea-6, L. Micallef (67 A. Terpougoff-6), J. Armaro Negrin-7, M. Valenzia-6.5 (75 A. Caruana Scicluna).
Referee: Alan Mario Sant.
Yellow cards: Negrin; S. Borg; Valenzia; Galea; Farrugia.
BOV player of the match: Jose Luis Armaro Negrin (Melita).