Rainbows go fifth after stunning the Wanderers
Sliema Wanderers 1
Gatt Baldacchino 20;
Tarxien Rainbows 2
Anonam 16; Tanti 52;
Tarxien Rainbows took another major step towards Champion-ship Pool football when they had the better of Sliema Wanderers by the odd goal in three to leapfrog them to fifth place in the standings.
It was a merited victory for Clive Mizzi’s men who showed perfect tactical organisation for most of the match, hurting their opponents through quick attacking raids inspired by the impressive trio of Daniel Mariano Bueno, Andrezinho and Mark Tanti.
Tarxien bagged three priceless points that lifted them to the 21-point mark, one ahead of the Wanderers who have Balzan breathing behind their necks in seventh place as the race for top-six berths continued to intensify.
Mizzi was boosted by the return to fitness of striker Danilo who returned to the starting formation at the expense of Karl Pulo.
With Luiz Romulo de Castro serving a one-match ban, Roderick Bajada was given the nod to run the Rainbows’ midfield against his former club.
Sliema’s Alfonso Greco was forced to make three changes yesterday.
Glenn Zammit started in goal in the absence of goalkeeper Henry Bonello, who was serving a one-match ban.
Beppe Muscat replaced the suspended Andrew Decesare while striker Ivan Woods declared himself fit to start in the absence of Mark Scerri who was also serving suspension.
The occasion had special significance for referee Alan Mario Sant. In fact, he was officiating his 100th match in the top flight.
It was Sliema who bossed play in the opening stages but despite their territorial dominance they rarely threatened David Cassar’s goal.
Instead, it was the Rainbows who struck in their first serious raid at the Wanderers goal.
The clock marked 16 minutes when from a Tanti corner, Orosco Anonam’s diving header came off the upright but ricocheted off Zammit and into the net.
However, the Rainbows’ lead only lasted four minutes as Sliema fought back to equalise.
The goal came from another corner, Miguel Ciantar’s cross was half-cleared by Evaldo with the ball falling into the path of Clifford Gatt Baldacchino who rolled his shot into the net.
Referee Sant then drew the ire of the Sliema clan when Ryan Sammut’s clearance hit the official with the ball finishing into the path of the unmarked Paltemio Barbetti who was clean through. Sant hurt his ankle in the action, however, and he decided to take no risks and stop play.
He eventually resumed his duties but the Blues were clearly unhappy to have been denied from a clear-cut scoring opportunity.
The match lost much of its entertaining fare after that episode as both teams struggled to build on the early momentum and the only other attempt at goal until half-time was Evaldo’s central free-kick that flew wide.
The Rainbows enjoyed the better start to the second half and on 52 minutes they regained the lead thanks mainly to the individual brilliance of Bueno.
He embarked on a strong run and despite the close marking of Ciantar he did well to direct the ball towards the unmarked Tanti who placed the ball past Zammit.
Tarxien could have struck again soon after when from a Bueno corner, Evaldo saw his effort taking a last-minute deflection off a Sliema player and over the bar.
Sliema threatened a minute later when Luigi Ruggiero burst inside the Tarxien area but his shot never troubled the keeper.
On the hour, Mizzi replaced skipper Anonam with Manuel Caruana as Greco, clearly unhappy with his team’s performance, withdrew the tiring Woods and roped in Marlon Briffa.
However, it was Tarxien who could have wrapped up the points when Danilo raced past his marker before delivering an in-viting centre towards the un-marked Tanti who incredibly fired wide in front of a gaping goal.
The pressured now started to grow on the Wanderers. They were showing very little cohesion in their forward play, opting to send in a series of high balls inside their opponents’ area but with scant success as the Rainbows stood firm.
A minute from time Sliema wingback Alex Muscat created space from himself just outside the area but his rising shot flew just over the bar.
The Wanderers were unlucky not to grab a late equaliser though when Ruggiero unleashed a powerful volley from outside the area that came off the bar with Cassar beaten.
The Rainbows breathed a heavy sigh of relief... victory was theirs but Ruggiero’s effort almost denied them a second stunning result in succession following the one-all draw with Valletta in their previous match.
G. Zammit-6, A. Muscat-6.5, A. Barbetti-5.5, J. Mintoff-5.5, L. Ruggiero-6.5, C. Gatt Baldacchino-6, I. Woods-6 (72 M. Briffa), M. Muchardi-5 (77 A. Faccini), M. Ciantar-6, B. Muscat-5 (55 J. Mifsud-5), S. Biancardi-5.5.
D. Cassar-6.5, Evaldo-6.5, J. Grioli-6, R. Bajada-6.5, Danilo-6.5 (87 K. Pulo), Andrezinho-6.5, R. Sammut-6, M. Tanti-7.5 (73 D. Fenech), D.M. Bueno-7, O. Anonam-6 (60 M. Caruana-6), S. Bonnici-6.
Referee: Alan Mario Sant.
Yellow cards: Barbetti, Evaldo, Andrezinho, Sammut.
BOV Player of the match: Mark Tanti (Tarxien Rainbows).